Isle Tech Companies on the Move:
By Rob Kay and Jeff Bloom
There is no question that last
years wildly successful IPO of Digital Island has helped sparked an interest in the
local fledging technology industry. Though
there are dozens of Hawaii upstarts that may not be on the verge of a public offering, it
doesnt mean they arent carving out interesting niches. From time to time we like to focus in on a few of
the more promising ones.
Tucked away, literally in a corner of Manoa Innovation Center, is Guide.Net (www.guide.net) a 12-person Internet company that develops
online database applications for military and commercial clients. Founded in 1995 by Dr. Rich Halverson, a former
UH Computer Sciences professor, the company provides Web-hosting, database support and
e-commerce solutions for a variety of clients in the Aloha State.
The companys biggest customer is the United States Navy, which has contracted out
with Guide.Net to develop software agents that retrieve real time weather forecasting data
from the Internet. In addition to this, the Guide.Net has also created a unique niche
with major Hawaii advertising agencies by acting as an outsourcing operation. Heres the way it works: If an ad
agency is working on a web site for a major client they need more security and other
features than a typical ISP can offer. Guide.Net
steps in by offering high-end hosting and special database applications. Rich Halverson
explained that clients, such as Castle Resorts and Hotels (www.castleresorts.com), need customized solutions
on a case by case basis.
The value added that we provide, said the former UH Prof is taking
lessons that weve learned from the military and porting it over to the commercial
side to build better, more reliable applications.
Halverson said that working for the military, which demands robust features
and high security, means civilian customers will benefit from the technology transfer.
that has had some publicity is a company called Pacific Internet Exchange (www.pixc.com) that provides advanced data switching and
co-location services in Hawaii. Cloaked in secrecy for over a year, the company was
founded by Lambert Onuma, a former director of business development and research at
Digital Equipment Corporation and Bobby Chi, an engineer with Oracle and Unisys.
To date, Pacific Internet Exchange has garnered $12 million in seed money and expects to
raise another $50 million before the year is over. Their first site, a 10,000-square-foot space near
Honolulu International Airport, has just become operational.
Why did PIXC choose Hawaii to set up shop? According
to locally born Lambert Onuma, We could have set up this business in Silicon Valley,
but because our first market is Asia, the travel burden on our employees would have been
too extensive. Plus, we wanted the quality of
life we could only find here in Hawaii."
Their technology, known as neutral Internet exchanges, allows regional,
nationwide and global networks to interconnect with each other. According to Chi the
result is faster and reliable access to the Internet, increased network speeds and added
significant bandwidth capacity. The upshot is
that performance is enhanced while bandwidth costs are lowered for local Internet
What were addressing, said Bobby Chi, is the incredibly congested state
of todays public Internet which is kind of like the H-1 at commute time. This is
especially the case outside of North America. He
said it was his companys mission to ameliorate this problem by building exchange
facilities at key geographic points around the Pacific Rim.
Potential customers include Internet service providers, telephone companies
and Internet content providers. The company plans to launch another eleven facilities over
the next year. This includes locales such as
Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and elsewhere. According to a recent press release
from PIXC, the staff is anticipated to grow from 20 employees in Hawaii to 50 and
eventually to 150 worldwide.
According to Bobby Chi, PIXC can help put Hawaii on the map by leveraging the
Aloha States mid-Pacific location and its sophisticated telecommunications
infrastructure. Currently, said Chi, Hawaii
doesnt have a presence on the Internet. With
PIXCs technology he stated that Hawaii could become a real center for Internet
business. By streamlining and directing data
flows, Internet traffic can be easily offloaded into Hawaii from Asia. Likewise, Mainland
Internet traffic can be also offloaded into the Aloha State. What this does, said Chi, is
allow Internet content providers to be closer to customer. If PIXCs promise holds true Hawaii, the
dream of Hawaii becoming a meeting ground for East/West e-commerce could become a reality.