Board of Directors
Meli James - President
Meli James 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 Hawai'i product entrepreneurs to scale their businesses.
Previously, James was the head of new ventures at Sultan Ventures and the program director of XLR8UH, the University of Hawai'i’s (UH’s) nationally recognized venture accelerator focused on mentoring and investing in UH-affiliated innovations.
Born and raised in Honolulu, James lived in Silicon Valley for more than 10 years, where she co-founded and contributed to numerous start-ups in the Bay Area and Honolulu, including Nirvino, which was a #1 ranked wine app, an Apple Platform Top 100 App, & Top Ten Lifestyles App during its time.
James is a founding member of the Startup Paradise initiative helping to build a thriving entrepreneurial community that nurtures collaboration and innovation in Hawai'i. She is committed to establishing resources to grow local talent and opportunity.
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 (EIR) at Cornell University.
Tarik Sultan - Treasurer
Tarik is a Founding Partner at Sultan Ventures, a boutique venture firm focusing on early-stage startups and the 2014 Hawaii Venture Capital Association’s (HVCA) Investor of the Year. Additionally he is the Founder and Managing Partner of XLR8UH, the University of Hawaii’s (UH’s) proof-of-concept commercialization center focused on mentoring and investing in UH affiliated innovations and IP; Chair of Startup Hawaii, the regional chapter of Up Global (formerly Startup America); and Treasurer of the HVCA, a non-profit which seeks to foster entrepreneurial development through networking, education, and access to venture capital. Tarik has worked with, advised, and led several startups, most recently as Interim CFO of Ibis Networks, a venture backed cleantech startup focused on reducing energy consumption. Tarik holds a BS from Tulane University with a focus on Neuroscience and Cognitive Studies and an MBA from the Shidler College of Business.
Stewart Pressman - Secretary
Stewart is a partner in the Honolulu law firm of McCorriston Miller Mukai MacKinnon LLP, practicing in the corporate department and concentrating in the areas of mergers and acquisitions, venture capital transactions, private equity fund organization, securities law, and general corporate and business organization matters.
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 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.
Sandy Shiraki - Administrator
Sandy Shiraki has been working with the Hawai’i Venture Capital Association (HVCA) as the Business Administrator since February 2015. Over the past 26 years, Ms. Shiraki has worked in the private and public sector with startups and well established corporations, delivering administrative managerial, paralegal, accounting and banking services with such firms as Entrepreneurs Foundation of Hawai’i, Masaki School of Music, ClearFuels Technology, Inc., Sennet Capital LLC, CACI International Inc., Starn O’Toole Marcus & Fisher, The Pacific Law Group, The New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel and American Savings Bank.