Talk boosts high-tech hopes
By John Duchemin
Advertiser Staff Writer
Hawai'i has a decent chance of developing a vibrant, sustainable technology industry if the state can build a decent supporting structure of investors, according to a New York venture capitalist.
Most of the appropriate ingredients are already here for a burst of high-technology business growth, said Elliot Fishman, senior vice president and head of New York investments for venture firm Advantage Capital Partners, a $380 million fund that specializes in investments in lesser-known technology regions.
"I'm not saying you need to create a brand new structure, but just to crystallize what's already there," Fishman said yesterday at the Plaza Club in a speech to a new group called Pacific Business Forum.
Fishman's statements largely echoed concepts that have become conventional wisdom for Hawai'i technology backers.
The state's physical and intellectual assets including the University of Hawai'i, the Mauna Kea telescopes and the Maui supercomputer give the Hawai'i technology scene a launching pad, Fishman said. Meanwhile, the tremendous amount of wealth from tourism is an investment base that, if tapped, could support innovation, he said.
Also, a group of technology business tax credits passed this year by the Hawai'i Legislature is a clear attraction, said Fishman, who noted that his firm invests "exclusively" in the half-dozen states where similar credits exist.
He likened Hawai'i to the New York City of 10 years ago, before the city developed a thriving information technology community known as Silicon Alley.
Over the years, New York built a network of entrepreneurs, attracted billions of dollars of venture and public equity investments to high-tech companies, and added more than 10,000 jobs to the local economy. Venture investing in New York surpassed Silicon Valley in the first quarter of this year, a clear sign the community has matured, Fishman said.
Fishman holds an MBA from Wharton and a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Duke University. He has worked at National Semiconductor and Doubleclick Inc., an Internet advertising company that he helped take to a public offering in February 1998.
Fishman spoke at the debut breakfast meeting of Pacific Business Forum, a group founded by entrepreneur Lisa LaBonte, a former New York resident.