This is part of a series of articles written about Envision Hawaii, Honolulu’s monthly First Tuesday gathering that showcases the coolest, greenest goings-on in the emerald of the Pacific. Ecopreneurist is proud to be the official media sponsor of Envision Hawaii….see previous Envision Hawaii articles and speakers here.
Donovan Kealoha, a technology entrepreneur whose startup spun out of the University of Hawaii and received venture capital funding, was this month’s speaker at the Envision Hawaii monthly social entrepreneur speaker series. Kealoha talked about the dichotomy of the two organizations he’s been a leader of. The venture backed firm, he said, got roped into the venture capitalists, who then cared about nothing but money. The nonprofit, Lanaians for Responsible Growth, helps give a voice to the people of Lanai when trying to evaluate their options for development.
Kealoha said not to underestimate opportunities. His main principles in leadership are respect, humility, and yearning. He said respect is especially key. You never know when you meet someone how your relationship will unfold over time. So, he said, respect everyone. When you offer respect, you get respect, and you help build people up to fulfill more of their potential.
Adama, Kealoha’s technology firm that worked on building better composite materials, served to help Kealoha give back. He helped build Lanaians for Responsible Growth, a nonprofit that aimed to help the island of Lanai’s residents to have a voice for how their island developed. They did “thousands of man hours” talking to Lanai residents as well as the stakeholders elsewhere. Ironically, one of the most controversial projects under proposed development on Lanai is what is known as “Big Wind”, a 200+ MW wind farm on Lanai, complete with undersea cables, that would ultimately power Oahu, where most of the state’s residents live.
Renewable energy in Hawaii is a fast growing industry, but the Big Wind project came with a lot of baggage. Essentially, Big Wind would really benefit Oahu, but the wind turbines would be located NIOBY…not in Oahu’s backyard. They would be on another island (which just happens to have great wind potential), and undersea cables would have to be laid across several miles of coral reef. Lanaians for Responsible Growth is helping to bridge the gap between the residents of Lanai who weren’t getting much, if any, benefit from the project, and the residents of Oahu, who use 90% diesel fuel currently to power their electrical needs, and desperately need clean, reliable energy with pricing that won’t be tied to rising global oil prices. Respect, again, is key.
As for advice for social entrepreneurs, Kealoha said one of the main keys was to find the right partners, and by that, he means someone who is aligned with your values. When going gets tough, the values you share with your partner can help smooth over some of the more minor day-to-day details. He also said something I really agree with: Charge. When you see a social entrepreneurship opportunity, when the resources are in place, and when you can lead with your values, jump in with both feet and really charge at it.