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Mbloom's $10 Million Hawaii Tech Fund Begins to Take Shape

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Mbloom, the Maui-based incubator and investment fund, announced the closing of their $10 million investment fund back in December, but little has been heard from them since. To get an update, I recently spoke with Arben Kryeziu who, along with Nick Bicanic, are the founders and driving force behind mbloom.

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"Our whole mission over the past many months was to close the fund," Kryeziu explained. "Now we're working on our first few deals. We've also been working on the next stage of our incubator and will eventually take applications. And, we're moving beyond Maui to establish a presence in Honolulu."

Coming From Tech

Kryeziu, born and raised in Germany and a resident of Hawaii since 2001, has a strong tech background and brings years of startup creation and leadership to Hawaii's incubator/accelerator and investment ecosystem. In addition to mbloom, he lists three founder roles and three CTO roles on his LinkedIn profile. That background gives him a perspective on startups that's rare in Hawaii: He's actually been a tech entrepreneur.

"We're startup guys, not VC guys," said Kryeziu. "We've been through multiple cycles of fundraising as startup guys, so we believe we can be objective, bring talent in when we need to, and help build the Hawaii startup ecosystem. We want to be able to join in with entrepreneurs and create conversations around scaling or infrastructure, rather than just being a source of capital."

And their tech backgrounds will also guide their investing.

"Our focus will be in tech, since we understand it," continued Kryeziu. "We've already been approached with deals in other areas -- and they've been intriguing -- but if we want to move on one of them, we'll find experts in Hawaii or elsewhere to get perspective. But, for the most part, tech is our focus."

That experience in building tech companies will, Kryeziu says, drive mbloom as they eventually look for investees. And, their commitment to Hawaii is part of their strategy as well.

"Ideally," Kryeziu added, "the startups will have some sort of Hawaii connection. But mbloom's core mission is to have a successful fund, so a return on investment is the most important consideration."

He also added that they are looking long-term, meaning that they want to be successful with where they investment in this first round, and then bring more money into Hawaii with subsequent funds.

Another Tech Accelerator?

You might be thinking about overlap, since Hawaii is small and we already have a tech accelerator in Blue Startups (not to mention mbloom's own tech incubator), but Kryeziu is looking to add to, not duplicate, Hawaii's startup efforts.

"We're very involved with Blue Startups. We love them and they're great partners and great friends," added Kryeziu. "We'll also be hosting the Mai Tai event on Maui again this coming May. And, we want to have a presence in Honolulu with the ROC-Real Office Center (a work and event space provider out of Southern California that plans to open an office in Honolulu this year). We've already committed to having people there, but it won't be an accelerator. We'll leave that to Blue Startups, who is doing great."

Viability is Key

So what if you're interested in getting your hands on some of this $10 million of public and private dollars? Kryeziu gave some indication of what they're looking for in a potential investee.

"We're primarily looking at opportunities that have high potential of return of investment, but , in general, we'll be investing in seed and series A rounds," explained Kryeziu. "With an investment, we'll want to bring in the right advisors and directors and provide more than just money. We want to help startups build traction, figure out their customer acquisition strategy, and be involved with helping their business grow."

Kryeziu added that their typical investment will range in value from $50,000 to $250,000, and that they expect to make five to ten investments in 2014.