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Editor’s Note:Civil Beat interviewed Dan Leuck at noon on Tuesday. Watch the recorded video below.
Transparency in government – it’s something Civil Beat has believed in since day one.
With the use of modern technology, the goal for complete transparency is becoming more of a reality everyday. What’s even more of a reality is how much technology already affects us in our daily lives. From the workplace to our schools and even our homes, technology has made it possible for us to connect faster to more people and more things.
But how do we continue to be innovative and competitive here on the islands?
That’s what Dan Leuck from Honolulu-based software and interactive agency Ikayzo will be talking to us about at noon on Tuesday, Aug. 30.
We’ll be streaming the interview live from the Civil Beat newsroom right here on this page – so make sure to bookmark it and spend your lunch with us.
If you have thoughts you’d like to share or questions you’d like me to ask, please post them below in the comments section.
UPDATE: The video below is a recording of a live interview held at Civil Beat’s headquarters.
Meet Dan Leuck
If you’re talking about technology in Hawaii, it’s difficult to escape Dan Leuck’s name. Dan is the CEO of the local software and interactive agency Ikayzo. He also founded the local technology community TechHui.com..
Dan works locally with the University of Hawaii, the state, the city of Honolulu, Kuehnle AgroSystems, GreenCar, Pukoa, Referentia and Revolusun.
Dan has previously served as Sr. Vice President of Research and Development for Tokyo-based ValueCommerce, which is Asia’s largest online marketing company. He also has extensive experience managing teams of more than 200 developers in five countries and has served on numerous advisory boards and panels for companies such as Macromedia and Sun Microsystems.
His other customers include Sony, Bank of America, Nomura Securities and Guggenheim.
Here are the initial questions we thought people might have for Dan.
1) How would you describe the current state of technology and innovation in Hawaii?
It’s been a roller-coaster over the past few years. The demise of Act 221 made it harder for companies funded under the 221 model to receive the follow-on rounds they needed to stay alive. Many of the contracting vehicles that allowed Hawaii dual use (commercial / military) technology companies to receive sizable federal projects have been drying up. This has caused dual use companies, which comprise a large portion of our state’s tech industry, to downsize while scrambling to become more commercial facing. Some of this could be good in the long run because companies that can successfully work in commercial and government spaces are more stable, but I personally know dozens of talented engineers who have left the state over the past two years due to the current contraction. A mass exodus of talent makes recovery difficult.
There are some bright spots such as renewable energy where innovative companies like algae biofuel company KuehnleAgro Systems are growing. Hawaii obviously has some unique benefits in the renewable space. There are also some new sources of capital. The Hawaii Strategic Development Corporation recently received $13M in federal funds to invest in Hawaii companies.
2) How does Honolulu compare to other cities of similar size?
It depends on the metric but historically we fare reasonably well. We have large defense contractors that are required to sub a percentage of their work to local companies. This, along with the federal Small Business Innovation Research program and similar contracting vehicles, have given rise to a number of interesting local companies such as Referentia, Oceanit, etc. In Hawaii the state also does partial matching of SBIR awards which further incentivize Hawaii companies to take advantage of these program. We have an SBIR / STTR group on TechHui where you can learn more about the program.
Hawaii also benefits from being a place where people want to live. This attracts some great creative and technical talent from around the world. Some of them create their own small businesses and others work remotely because they are good enough that their companies can’t say “no” when they ask to work remotely from Hawaii.
3) Sonny Bhagowalia was just hired to be Hawaii’s new Chief Information Officer. What are your thoughts on how Hawaii government can incorporate technology to be more effective?
There are some very basic things that need fixing such as state-wide universally applied standards for data security and backup. Once the core infrastructure and processes are addressed the state could save a huge amount of money by ditching the mess of aging heterogeneous computer and network infrastructure they maintain and using cloud services from Google, Amazon and Salesforce.com. Because of economies of scale these large cloud and SaaS providers can provide core infrastructure such as email, scheduling, document management, etc. for a fraction of the cost and with better security than the state could ever achieve on its own.
With the money saved and most of the hardware out of the way the state could concentrate on optimizing processes, providing better data security, getting rid of paper and providing new services to Hawaii residents and visitors. Due to our geography its particularly important that we be able to handle all business with the state government online, quickly and easily. The state would benefit from adopting some of the C&C of Honolulu’s initiatives in areas such as engaging citizens via social media and encouraging resident programmers to create useful apps with publicly available data. In fairness Honolulu benefits from having a very capable CIO while the state didn’t have any CIO until a few months ago. I look forward to seeing Sonny in action.
Broadband is another area where we need to improve. The governor is making an announcement about our state’s new broadband strategy as I write this.
4) How well are Hawaii universities preparing students to excel in technology careers?
In short, although their are some excellent hard working profs at UH and the other schools, as a whole they aren’t producing enough top tier computer science and engineering majors to facilitate a viable tech innovation ecosystem. Recent years notwithstanding (the failed start-ups and shrinking dual use companies briefly flooded the market), most of my career in Hawaii I’ve had a very hard time finding people who can pass our interviews, and I hear the same from my peers across the industry. I’m talking about engineers who are competitive by global standards. Thats what we need. We produce some, but not enough.
Its no secret why tech innovation ecosystems in places like Silicon Valley sprang up. Silicon Valley exists largely because of Stanford.
5) What is the biggest thing the state could do to encourage more innovation in Hawaii?
We talk about this quite a bit on TechHui. Most of the discussion revolves around improving STEM education, making Hawaii tax friendly to businesses and streamlining permitting. A lot of good things come out of the aforementioned SBIR and STTR small business research programs. We should continue to provide state matching for these federal research awards to encourage more Hawaii companies and corporate / education partnerships to play in the high-tech research space.
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