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Our Story

 A look at the goals and achievements that brought us here

The backstory

Our Visions & Achievements

Like most successful endeavors, XLR8HI wasn’t an inevitability.

Rather, this community is the outgrowth of a series of efforts dating back to the start of this century. Omar Sultan and Tarik Sultan have long been attuned to the challenges Hawai’i innovators and entrepreneurs face; they began identifying and filling gaps in this sector starting in the 2000s.

Together with colleague Kate Matayoshi, the Sultan brothers constantly scan the economic landscape for opportunities to enable small businesses and empower talented individuals seeking ways to manifest their skillsets locally rather than move to the Mainland.

This timeline reflects our past successes. We invite you to subscribe to our newsletter to be among the first to know what’s next.

XLR8 Founded
XLR8HI was initially envisioned as a hub for local founders looking to take their ideas and businesses to the next level. Separate from their existing venture capital firm Sultan Ventures, Omar Sultan and Tarik Sultan, together with Kate Matayoshi, created XLR8HI to provide education and resources for the first-time small business owner.
Hawai’i VC Summit
Sultan Ventures along with the Hawai’i Strategic Development Corp. hosted the 2013 Hawai’i VC Summit and Startup Paradise Demo Day. Hundreds of entrepreneurs, investors, and companies gathered for the full-day event.

The event included crowdfunding workshops, a “Startup Paradise” panel discussion, lunch with keynote speaker Don Dodge of Google Ventures Advisor, financing case studies, and pitches by companies participating in the Elemental Excelerator (then Energy Excelerator) and Blue Startups programs.
XLR8UH
While completing the University of Hawai’i’s MBA program, the Sultan brothers identified a gap in the campus’ innovation ecosystem. While the UH Foundation had a seed-stage fund to invest in products and technologies already part of a business strategy, XLR8HI realized that plenty of researchers, scientists and technologists at UH were developing technologies deserving of financial investment and business mentorship - but were disconnected from those resources. Additionally, researchers lacked knowledge and best practices of starting a commercial venture.

XLR8UH was created to serve as that bridge and resource. It grounded the investment-ready work of researchers, students and alumni in a solid business foundation, thus turning these technologies and ideas into "real businesses.”

It was Hawai’i’s first proof-of-concept commercialization center.

Both Omar Sultan and Tarik Sultan were named 2014 Hawai’i Venture Capital Association’s (HVCA) Investors of the Year.
Grant Awarded
Just one year after the XLR8UH launched, it was awarded a $500,000 U.S. Department of Commerce Regional Innovation Strategies i6 challenge grant, managed by the Economic Development Administration's Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Additionally, the Small Business Association (SBA) Growth Accelerator Fund Competition recognized XLR8UH as one of the nation's top accelerators in 2015.

“This national recognition of our accelerator program by SBA, at just over a year old, confirms our belief in the abundance of opportunities that exist at the University of Hawaiʻi in all disciplines, particularly those that emphasize Hawaiʻi’s strengths in energy, astronomy, marine and life sciences,” said Omar Sultan.
XLR8UH
XLR8UH was a recipient of the U.S. SBA 2016 Growth Accelerator Competition Awards, marking it the second consecutive year of receiving the $50,000 cash prize.

“It is a huge honor for us to be among the 2016 top accelerators. Winning a second time in a row speaks to the strength of Startup Paradise and the commitment to Hawaiʻi’s entrepreneurs,” said Tarik Sultan.

“There is a great camaraderie in Hawaiʻi among the entrepreneurial community and what we’re all working to achieve. The $200,000 coming into our state from SBA will support the continued growth of our startup community and accelerators holistically,” Tarik Sultan adds.
XLR8UH Makes the List
XLR8UH was Hawai’i’s only accelerator program to make the Seed Accelerator Rankings Project SARP’s 2017 list of top 30 accelerators in the nation. For more information about the SARP rankings check out this article by Kaunana, the Research Publication of the University of Hawai’i at Manoa.

“It’s an honor to be recognized alongside other pioneering accelerator programs, most of which are located in traditional startup hotspots,” said Omar Sultan. “Being named a top 30 accelerator in the country—which puts us in the same company as the well-known programs of Y Combinator, Techstars, 500 Startups and Mucker Lab—is a reflection of the caliber of the University of Hawaiʻi’s talent and innovation.”
Tarik and Omar
The Small Business Administration recognized Tarik Sultan and Omar Sultan as the State of Hawai’i’s top Advocates for Innovation in May 2019, a true honor.

Click here to read the joke Omar told when the duo accepted the award. https://www.hawaiibusiness.com/small-business-awards-2019/2/?fbclid=IwAR1_vkBo1HuWkNFxbZcQz8GtKFT_Iq5MEjzIG5fUKS6_nlMaWn8db-O0y4k#state-innovation)

In June, 2019 Tarik Sultan was recognized by Pacific Business News as one of the Top Forty Under 40 Extraordinary Business Leaders in Hawai’i.

Get Money: Seeing so many startups struggle to connect to the capital necessary to propel their business forward, XLR8HI launched a series of workshops to help demystify the funding process. Interactive workshops on angel investors, crowdfunding, bank loans, grants and more were discussed in this popular series starting in the middle of 2019.

Seeking to cultivate a community of entrepreneurs to last generations, the XLR8HI team decided to invest in Hawai’i’s youth and the future of innovation. It launched the XLR8Youth program in Summer 2019. The camp gave kids four weeks to build up their big ideas and collaborate with other wild young thinkers.

XLR8HI also hosted the McDonald’s Education Workshop to give college-bound students and their parents an insight into future high-value skillsets, STEM curricula, and opportunities toward work in innovative careers.
Katarina P. Matayoshi
In March, XLR8HI colleague Katarina P. Matayoshi was recognized as a Pacific Business News honoree for Women Who Mean Business 2020. Check out this article to learn more: https://www.bizjournals.com/pacific/news/2020/03/06/women-who-mean-business-2020-introduction-and.html.

Realizing that Hawai’i entrepreneurs needed their knowledge and industry insight to achieve their X - whatever it may be - Omar and Tarik launched PreX. The free, 4-week virtual course gives local business owners feedback on their business model, helps them learn to pitch and plan for the near future. They launched this program together with Hawai’i Technology Development Coordination with backing from Sultan Ventures.

For so many years, the Sultan brothers saw Hawai’i startup owners forced to travel thousands of miles to the West Coast for the chance to pitch their business and get access to funding. Not ideal. So they applied to the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s Capital Challenge… And won!

Winning the EDA grant allowed them to launch the XLR8 Seed Fund. It is Hawai’i’s only seed fund, with a focus on early-stage companies. XLR8HI is massively committed to seeing small businesses establish themselves at home, diversifying the local economy.