Board of Directors
Meli James - President
Meli James is a founding partner of Mana Up, a Hawai'i-based initiative built to grow "Made in Hawaii" products globally, in partnership with Kamehameha Schools, American Savings Bank, HTDC, Ulupono Initiative, and Castle & Cooke. They are hosting an accelerator program starting in January. This 12-week program includes workshops, mentorship, and access to sales channels.
Previously, she served as the Head of New Ventures at Sultan Ventures, a boutique venture firm focused on early-stage startups and investments. She also served as the Program Director and Entrepreneur in Residence at XLR8UH, a first of its kind Proof of Concept Center & Venture Accelerator – founded via partnership between the University of Hawaii & Sultan Ventures. XLR8UH has been recognized as one of nation’s most elite accelerators by the U.S Small Business Association (SBA). XLR8UH is one of the first public university investment programs in the nation, revolutionizing the way innovation is commercialized at universities.
Meli is also the Founder of HonNewTech, a quarterly startup pitch event.
She is a serial entrepreneur with leading experience in mobile apps, web-based products and community building. Born and raised in Honolulu, Meli lived in Silicon Valley for over 10 years, where she co-founded and contributed to numerous start-ups in the Bay Area and Honolulu, including Nirvino – #1 ranked wine app, an Apple Platform Top 100 App, & Top Ten Lifestyles App.
Meli 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 2015 she was recognized by Hawaii Business Magazine as one of its 20 to Watch for the Next 20.
She is an alumna of and Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) at Cornell University and Punahou School.
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.
HVCA TeamSandy 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.
Mia Harrie - HVCA Lead Intern
Mia Harrie is a project manager at Mana Up. Born in China and raised in Oregon, Harrie graduated in May 2017 with a BBA in International Business and Finance from the University of Hawaii. While in college, she served two years as the President of the Hawaii Student Entrepreneurs Club (HSE) at UH, a club dedicated to helping students learn how to start and grow their own businesses. She is also on the founding team of a new startup called FLTR Glasses.