Two UH accelerators recognized among the nationís elite by the SBA for second straight year

XLR8UH and Maui Food Innovation Center to each receive $50,000 award

University of Hawaiʻi
Vassilis L. Syrmos , (808) 956-5006
Vice President for Research and Innovation, Office of VP for Research and Innovation
Eric R. Matsunaga , (808) 956-5588
Director, Research and Administrative Operations, Office of VP for Research and Innovation
Posted: Nov 16, 2016

Maui Accelerator Programís first cohort
Maui Accelerator Programís first cohort

The University of Hawaiʻi announced that two of its accelerator programs, XLR8UH and the UH Maui College Maui Food Innovation Center (MFIC) at UH Maui College, were recipients of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) 2016 Growth Accelerator Competition awards. This marks the second straight year that both programs received the prestigious award and a $50,000 cash prize.

XLR8UH and MFIC are two of the 85 winners selected across 37 states and the District of Columbia who will collectively receive a total of $4.25 million to boost the economic impact of accelerators. The purpose of the SBA’s annual competition is to draw attention and funding to parts of the country where there are gaps in the entrepreneurial ecosystem, including those not readily supported by the private sector.

“We are again pleased that XLR8UH and MFIC were recognized nationally by the SBA,” said UH Vice President for Research and Innovation Vassilis L. Syrmos. “As we continue to build our innovation ecosystem through the aggressive commercialization of our research, this award is a validation of our efforts to help diversify the state’s economy.”

XLR8UH is one of the first public university investment programs in the nation, revolutionizing the way innovation and research is commercialized. To date, 19 companies have been developed through the program, generating more than $1 million in revenue and $8 million funding.

“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, co-founder and managing partner of XLR8UH and Sultan Ventures.

“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,” Sultan added.

Incubator for future food industry leaders

Through its Maui Food Industry X-Celerator Program, MFIC provides an incubator program to support businesses in the form of training, community resources and access to a certified commercial kitchen at UH Maui College. To date, the program has received 47 applications and graduated 24 businesses in two cohorts—of which 90 percent are women entrepreneurs.

“We are thrilled to receive SBA national recognition and continued validation of UH Maui College and our Maui Food Innovation Center programs for a second consecutive year,” said Chris Speere, site coordinator for the Maui Food Innovation Center. “The funding award speaks to the effort of our graduates, business, government, food industry leaders and community partners that help us build a successful and winning program.”

As competition winners, both XLR8UH and MFIC will report metrics such as jobs created, funds raised and startups launched. This will allow SBA to continue building upon its database of accelerators and their impact and to develop long-term relationships with the startups and constituents in these innovative and entrepreneurial communities.

“The creation of great, living wage jobs in Hawaiʻi through the establishment of a vibrant innovation sector is the goal of the Hawaiʻi Innovation Initiative,” said UH President David Lassner. “National recognition like this illustrates the validity of our programs and the direction of our efforts to create at $1 billion innovation, research, education and training enterprise here in the islands.”

In the official announcement, SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet said: “SBA created the Growth Accelerator Fund Competition in 2014 as a way to make new connections and strengthen existing bonds within America’s small business support network, bringing entrepreneurs and innovators together and connecting them with local and national resources that support small business job creation and growth. These awards deliver on a longstanding commitment at SBA to strengthen and modernize these support systems especially in parts of the country where access to capital has been a major barrier to starting a business. This year’s winners show that our efforts are bearing fruit and further cementing our nation’s most pioneering accelerators, incubators and innovation hubs as major players driving America’s technology startup ecosystem.”

About XLR8UH

XLR8UH is the University of Hawai‘i's award winning startup accelerator. The program, a public-private partnership between University of Hawai‘i (UH) and Sultan Ventures, educates, mentors, and invests in UH startups and entrepreneurs. XLR8UH’s goal is to create economic prosperity through the science, technology, innovation and entrepreneurship that is formed at UH, converting our state’s regional strength of groundbreaking research into new businesses and jobs. For more information, visit

About the Maui Food Innovation Center

The Maui Food Innovation Center (MFIC) provides business and technological expertise to food and agricultural entrepreneurs throughout the State of Hawaiʻi. A program of University of Hawaiʻi Maui College, MFIC helps farmers and food manufacturers increase profitability through the development of new value-added food products, reduces our dependence on imports, and contributes to the sustainability of island-based agriculture.

About the Hawai`i Innovation Initiative

The University of Hawai‘i is working in partnership with the private sector and government to build a thriving innovation, research, education and training enterprise in Hawai‘i that will develop a third major economic sector for the state, create high-quality living-wage jobs, and address the challenges and opportunities faced by Hawai`i and the world.

About UH Research

Research conducted by the University of Hawai‘i (UH) impacts the quality of life in the islands and around the world. As the state’s major research university, and because of Hawai‘i’s tremendous geographic diversity, UH plays a prominent role in the state’s economic growth and development through its diverse and world-renowned research programs in astronomy, earth and ocean sciences, medicine and tropical agriculture.

About Sultan Ventures

Sultan Ventures (SV) is a boutique venture firm focusing on early-stage startups and investments. As a startup catalyst, SV provides pivotal resources via its powerful network of experts and investors. SV works closely with innovative startups, providing the hands-on expertise and access to capital needed to accelerate growth, as well as with investors, performing the diligence necessary to make strategic investment decisions.