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High Tech Vanguard Erases
Distance, Doldrum Barriers

By Robert Kay

Every weekday morning at the luxuriant hour of 10 am Cheri Nakamura, the marketing director of Prospect Asset Management, a Hawaii Kai-based money management firm, arises so that she can be at her office at noon.

Once ensconced at her desk she flips on the switch of her "Bloomberg", a proprietary computer system that provides 24-hour real time news, data, and financial markets analysis. The hours may seem a little strange to most Hawaii workers but Cheri is on Tokyo time. She's glued to her Bloomberg most of the day (which ends at around 8:30 PM) to follow the Japanese markets.

Cheri is a prime example of the new digital work force that is beginning to emerge as Hawaii becomes part of the global marketplace. This new trend is what Punahou grad Dan Case, CEO of the San Francisco investment bank Hambrecht & Quist, referred as the growth of "stealth commerce" in Hawaii. Stealth commerce as defined by Case involves individuals or companies doing business from the Aloha State over the Internet.

You don't generally read about these companies in the papers. These firms often have little or no corporate presence or identity and in many ways are off the economic radar screen. In a sense they could operate anywhere but they choose to be here. Typical examples of these businesses include money managers like the above-mentioned Prospect Asset Management, public relations or marketing firms, computer technology companies, or "hired-gun" consultants that include technical writers, computer programmers, graphic artists or anyone who can do business with a laptop and a modem.

We believe these companies can and will become an increasingly important component of Hawaii's future economy. There are generally companies that could not have existed in the Aloha State prior to the growth of the Internet and related technologies.

Hawaii's Tech Pioneers

Adtech is a home grown technology company based in all of places-Kaimuki. Founded by three UH professors in 1967 this 130 employee firm produces state of the art Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) test systems and data link simulators. The technology is used by major telephone carriers and switch manufacutures such as Spring and GTE--. Adtech's technology is reportedly first rate and they compete toe to toe with Fortune 500 companies such as Hewlett Packard.

If Adtech had to survive on the local market this plucky company would have died long ago. However, typical of companies on the digital vanguard, Adtech actively markets its gear on the mainland and around the globe so it is insulated from the local economy. Thanks to explosive growth of the Internet there is a burgeoning market for Adtech's goods. Although Hawaii does present a problem when it comes to finding qualified personnel, the state's physical isolation is not an issue when it comes to marketing.

The Internet provides an inexpensive way for the company to get the word out. Another plus is the state's excellent air connections which allows speedy mainland delivery of its high end instruments which range in size from a VCR to a microwave oven.

Kaimuki: Hotbed for high tech

SecureView Systems is a Kaimuki-based company specializing in digital video surveillance technology for home and commercial use. It was founded in 1999 by Bill Coney, a kamaaina who has run technology companies locally for 15 years and Don Mueller, a former advertising executive. The company has developed a sophisticated video conferencing-like system that allows viewers to monitor a site via the Internet anywhere in the world. SecureView Systems plans to expand its operations in Hawaii by building a central monitoring system that would enable the company to provide security and surveillance services to clients throughout the state and the nation.

SecureView Systems' Internet-based technology allows it to stay based here in Hawaii. Company CEO Don Mueller said that all the company principals had been in the Aloha State most of their lives and wanted to stay here. "It's purely a lifestyle decision," said Mueller. "With the Internet, creative people can call live anywhere in the world so there's no reason why we can't remain in Hawaii and flourish."

Ideal for global scope

Cheri Nakamura, the marketing director at Prospect Asset Management couldn't agree more. Her money management company must track the Japanese equity market while at the same time staying in touch with mainland clients, brokerage houses and financial analysts. Thus, being in Hawaii-halfway between Japan and the East Coast of the United States makes a lot of sense. However, it would be impossible to follow the markets and stay in touch with colleagues without the sophisticated telecommunications technology now available locally.

We believe more companies on the digital vanguard such as Prospect Asset Management, Compuvision and Adtech will plant themselves on our shores, hire locals and create a larger impact on our economy. This is already happening beneath our noses and we must encourage the growth of this sector.

By making our state more business and technology-company friendly we can grow a new economy. It's inevitable but we must work to make this change occur faster.

Pacific Business News - Friday February 12, 1999

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