Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Spotlight: Honolulu, HI

Honolulu, HI

Honolulu’s world-renowned beaches and top tourist destination title may make up a large percentage of the local economy, but entrepreneurship is a growing piece of the pie.

Honolulu, HI is the state’s capital and the most-populous city as well as the westernmost and southernmost US city. Nicknamed the “Crossroads of the Pacific,” the city is perhaps best known as a tourist destination. Though tourism does make up a large percentage of the local economy, entrepreneurship is a growing piece of the pie.

In 2018, WalletHub ranked Honolulu as the 125th-best large city to start a business, though it was 18th overall in the “Access to Resources” category. Honolulu also appeared on another pair of WalletHub rankings: 121st on the 2018 list of the best cities for Hispanic entrepreneurs and 86th on the rankings of the best metropolitan areas for STEM professionals in 2019.

Based on these rankings, FundingSage has reviewed the resources that make up Honolulu’s entrepreneurial ecosystem:

Entrepreneurial Meetups:

The Entrepreneur’s Network provides Hawaii-based entrepreneurs of all levels the chance to meet with one another.

Oahu Online Business is a group that supports entrepreneurs who create and operate online small businesses.

By hosting regular meetings, the Real Estate Investors & Entrepreneurs of Hawaii networking group supports the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the Honolulu area.


Regular Entrepreneurial Events:

East Meets West is an annual conference held in Hawaii that brings together entrepreneurs from Asia, the island itself and North America.

The Chamber of Commerce Hawaii hosts regular events supporting their members and the business environment as a whole.

The Honolulu Minority Business Development Agency hosts a number of business-related events, including the annual Hawaii Small Business Forum.

The Hawaii Venture Capital Association hosts monthly events supporting entrepreneurs and investors as well as an awards gala for Entrepreneur of the Year and Deal of the Year.

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Startup Competitions:

Chaminade University of Honolulu’s Hogan Entrepreneurs Program hosts a competition for non-profit entrepreneurs every other year.

The Pacific Asian Center for Entrepreneurship hosts the UH Business Plan Competition. The contest offers a top prize of $10,000 to students and faculty at any University of Hawaii campus.


Co-working Spaces:

BoxJelly is a co-working space in Honolulu that offers a wide variety of membership plans to best meet the needs and schedules of its clients.

Located in Honolulu’s Chinatown, Hawaii Office Centers is a collaborative workspace with co-working options and traditional office spaces.

In addition to traditional co-working space, Impact Hub Honolulu offers private offices and event space for rent, with regular community events scheduled.

Just down the road from Honolulu in Kailua, Treehouse Coworking is a space that offers traditional co-working, private desks, and executive suites.



The University of Hawaii’s iLab is a resource for students to get hands-on experience with innovation and entrepreneurship through access to tools and materials.

Just down the road from Honolulu in Kapolei is a makerspace that offers several membership levels with varying perks and hosts regular events.

Members of the Oahu Makerspace pay a monthly fee to receive access to a variety of tools and equipment as well as classes and workshops.



HTDC is a government-run program that supports the development of technology and entrepreneurship in Honolulu and Hawaii as a whole.

The Moonshot Incubator is a program that aims to transform the American education system by supporting and promoting students with ideas to help their communities.

The Pacific Gateway Center is a Honolulu-based organization that runs a number of community support programs, including a kitchen incubator and agriculture incubator.

XLR8HI is non-traditional accelerator group that supports entrepreneurship and innovation around the state.



Blue Startups is a full-time 13-week accelerator program that provides promising technology companies with funding and mentorship to help them grow and find success.

With locations in Honolulu and Palo Alto, CA, the Elemental Excelerator works with 15-20 startups in energy, water, food & agriculture and mobility per year.

Located in the Kaka’ako neighborhood of Honolulu, Hi’lei Aloha is an accelerator program that works with and supports Native Hawaiian entrepreneurs and small businesses.

Ranked as a top-30 accelerator by Forbes in 2017, XLR8UH works with University of Hawaii students, faculty, staff and alumni by providing investment and mentorship.



Chaminade University of Honolulu’s Hogan Entrepreneurs Program runs a variety of events to support students interested in entrepreneurship.

Though it doesn’t offer any specific entrepreneurship programs, Hawaii Pacific University does have a management program and an entrepreneur club.

Honolulu’s Kapi’olani Community College offers a nine-credit certificate of competence in entrepreneurship.

In addition to an undergraduate major and graduate certificate in entrepreneurship, the University of Hawaii has the Pacific Asian Center for Entrepreneurship.


Angel Groups/VCs:

Based in Honolulu, Hawaii Angels invests in seed-stage startups with proprietary technologies from both around the island and the mainland.

Headquartered in California, but with an office in Honolulu, SCV invests in startups in Silicon Valley and Hawaii.

The creators of XLR8UH also run this venture capital firm that invests in Hawaii-based startups.


Entrepreneurial Newsletter Coverage:

The magazine also offers its patrons to receive emails 2x a day containing summaries of the biggest and most important news.

Though the Honolulu Star-Advertiser includes local business news in its general newsletters.

Pacific Business News is a business journal focusing on Honolulu and Hawaii and sends the biggest headlines directly to your inbox.


Are you familiar with entrepreneurial ecosystem infrastructure in Honolulu not included in the article above?  If so, let us know via a comment below, and we will add it to the article. 

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Quinn Pilkey

Quinn is a journalism major at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He also serves as a freelance author for Hashtag Basketball where he writes about the NBA's Charlotte Hornets and at FundingSage where he researches and writes about entrepreneurial ecosystems.