Board of Directors

 


Meli James
President

 

Meli James is president of the Hawaii Venture Capital Association, an organization that seeks to foster entrepreneurial development through education, networking, and access to capital.

 

Additionally, she is a cofounder at Mana Up, a Hawai'i-based initiative designed to build the state’s next generation of CEOs in the retail and food product industry. Mana Up hosts a 12-week accelerator program offered biannually to enable Hawaiʻi product entrepreneurs to scale their businesses.

 

Previously, Meli brought her Silicon Valley startup experience to Hawaii accelerators Blue Startups and the University of Hawaii Venture Accelerator. 

 

In 2007, James founded her first company, Nirvino a #1 ranked wine app, an Apple Platform Top 100 App, and Top Ten Lifestyles App.

 

James is a founding member of the Startup Paradise initiative helping to build a thriving startup community that nurtures collaboration and innovation in Hawaii. She is committed to establishing resources to grow talent and high-growth ideas.

 

In 2016, she was recognized by Entrepreneur Magazine as one of five Women to Watch. In 2017, she was recognized again by Entrepreneur Magazine as one of eight Women Leaders Who Are Disrupting Entrepreneurship.

 

James is a graduate of and Entrepreneur in Residence at Cornell University.


 

   
Donavan Kealoha
Board Member

 

Donavan is a Director at Startup Capital Ventures and serves on the board of portfolio company AreaMetrics, Hobnob, and board observer at Breinify.

Prior to joining Startup Capital, Donavan co-founded Adama Materials, a venture-capital backed materials science company and Asio Corporation, a software development consulting firm.

Donavan is also co-founder of the Purple Maiʻa Foundation, a 501(c)(3) focused on empowering high opportunity youth in underserved Hawaiʻi communities that possess rich cultural heritages by providing indigenized technology education.  Donavan is a licensed attorney and holds a BA, and JD/MBA from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.

 

     

Bill Spencer
Former President

  

Bill led the Hawaii Venture Capital Association from 1999 – 2013 and is a co-founder of the aquaculture venture, Hawaii Oceanic Technology, Inc.  

 


Chenoa Farnsworth
Board Member

 

Chenoa has more than 15 years experience in business strategy and private equity investing. Farnsworth is the managing director of Blue Startups and the Hawaii Angels, Hawaii’s only angel capital investment network. In 2006, she co-founded Kolohala Ventures, a Hawai’i-based venture capital firm that has invested $50 million into Hawai’i-based technology start-ups. 

 

     
Rob Robinson
Board Member

 

Founder of Hawaii’s angel investor network, the Hawaii Angels. Co-author of Angel Investing: Matching Startup Funds with Startup Companies. Award-winning author on business negotiation and conflict management, has over 20 years of experience in coaching companies in valuation and other negotiations.

 

Peter Rowan
Board Member

 

Peter Rowan is the Executive Director, Pacific Asian Center for Entrepreneurship and a Senior Lecturer at the Shidler College of Business at UH Manoa. He was Corporate Vice President, New Ventures at Coinstar from 2001-2010. During his tenure, the company grew from $150 million to $1.3 billion in revenue, entered new lines of business and introduced innovative growth initiatives like its DVD kiosks, money transfer, and e-payment programs. At Coinstar, Peter led more than 20 acquisitions, investments and divestitures, including its investment in Redbox. Peter has taught entrepreneurship and new venture strategy since 2005. He is active in the entrepreneurial community as an advisor, mentor and investor. He has a BA in Russian History from Cornell University, an MA in International Policy Studies and an MBA from Middlebury Institute of International Studies.

 

HVCA Team 

Nalani Kaku
Administrative Manager
 

Nalani Kaku is the Administrative Manager for the Hawaii Venture Capital Association. After growing up in Honolulu, Nalani graduated from the University of Hawai‘i - West O'ahu with a B.A. in Business Marketing and a certificate in East Asian Studies. While pursuing her degree, she worked at Choco le‘a, a local gourmet chocolate company, as an administrative and marketing assistant. She then became an International Relations & Programs Coordinator for the University of Hawai‘i-West O‘ahu, where she planned and coordinated English language and culture programs for over 400 students. She is now pursuing her Masterʻs in Second Language Studies at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa.