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Startups to Watch

Updated: Mar 4, 2023

Meet the entrepreneurs behind 11 companies that are poised for a big year.

By Christina O'Connor - Senior Digital Editor
Originally published on Pacific Business News on January 20, 2023


While Hawaii may not pull the same level of national attention for its startup ecosystem that other places do, there’s no shortage of innovation happening across industries throughout the Islands. This roundup for Pacific Business News’ second annual Startups to Watch is proof of that.

To compile this list, PBN considered recommendations from local incubator and accelerator programs, the recent growth and accomplishments of each business, and their plans for the year ahead.

Here, meet 11 companies that are poised for big things in 2023.


Colby Takeda, co-founder and CEO of Pear Suite

Pear Suite

Colby Takeda spent more than a decade working with seniors as an administrator of assisted living facilities and recreation programs, so when the pandemic hit, it was natural that he stepped in to support socially isolated older adults.

He partnered with Dr. Christy Nishita of the University of Hawaii Center on Aging to connect students with seniors for weekly phone or video chats where the intergenerational pairs would discuss hobbies, their families, and more. Through the program, Takeda was later contracted by the state Department of Health to conduct outreach about Covid-19 vaccinations to older populations.

“While on these calls, we heard about other hardships that families were facing, from food insecurity and an inability to pay bills to sedentary lifestyles and loneliness,” he said. “The growing challenges forced our team to broaden our scope of work, providing care navigation services for all the social determinants of health.”

That work evolved into Pear Suite, a technology company that now licenses its software platform to more than two dozen organizations. As Takeda explained it, Pear Suite enables “users — community health workers, non-licensed healthcare staff, and volunteers — to become care navigators and address the health-related social needs.”

“With our platform, more organizations can provide culturally and linguistically appropriate outreach, track goals and outcome measures, and better understand the needs of their population,” he said.

“Since launching in March of 2021, we’ve been able to train over 50 care navigators and impact over 20,000 lives, many of whom we’re continuing to support with ongoing navigation and wellness check-ins. We’re continuing to help residents get vaccinated, but also helping them enroll in Medicaid benefits and food stamp programs, assisting with the affordable connectivity program registration, and addressing other health and social service needs with referrals and education.”

Starting out, the company received funding from various Pacific Asian Center for Entrepreneurship programs at the University of Hawaii Shidler College of Business, where Takeda earned an MBA. At the end of last year, Pear Suite secured $2.5 million from investors.

Currently, Takeda said the company is “laser focused on listening to our customers, iterating constantly, and providing the best product experience possible.” He said the company aims to reach 300,000 people this year.

“Now, more than ever before, there is a need and desire to address health inequities by improving the social determinants of health. Pear Suite is ready to empower more care navigators with our technology to become healthcare heroes!”

Originally published in Pacific Business News

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