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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Tech idea has potential

Hawai'i's experience with high-tech industries has been a story of successes and failures. Indeed, that's the pattern for the highly dynamic high-tech industry anywhere.

One challenge for local high-tech and biotech firms has been locating adequate venture capital to advance their ideas from the start-up phase.

A new $200 million Hawai'i Innovation Fund now making its way through the Legislature is meant to address that issue. The state-backed fund would offer venture capital that might keep more companies and jobs here at home.

The idea has merit, but:

First, this must work as a revolving fund. The state's experience in taking an equity stake in start-ups has been mixed, at best.

And the venture fund must be professionally managed.

Finally, the state must not repeat its experience with a previous high-tech tax credit plan that offers little transparency on what companies benefit from the law and what kind of jobs they are creating.

If taxpayers are asked to foot the bill for this new fund, they have a right to know precisely what they are buying.