I've tried to stay out of this fray, but having received a number of inquiries, and having seen some friends affected by the collateral damage, I'm going to briefly comment on the situation.
I want mbloom to succeed. They have substantial capital to deploy in Hawaii, and I want that capital to empower local entreprenuers.
I believe the people at HSDC are true believers and want to do right by our community. They may have made mistakes, but I've spent time with them, and I've never heard them talk about anything other than empowering this community.
That being said, I find the attacks on community members who have inquired about mbloom's deployment of tax dollars distasteful.
There has been a lot of noise around this, but the issue is really quite simple. In a PBN article published on July 10, Jason Ubay wrote: "Kryeziu said mbloom decided to invest in the two startups because they were familiar with their work, having identified them as seed portfolio companies when mbloom was seeking investors." He then quoted Arben, "We also know the exit strategy for those companies, so we are very confident that it will be a success."
Given that "those companies" were founded by Arben and his partner, this sounds like deliberate misdirection from a company with $5MM of public money. I'm not saying that was the intent, but it is clearly the appearance. That is the issue. The community is right to inquire. Those who have implied this is a witch hunt are in error. I don't condone any ad hominem attacks on Arben, but community members absolutely have the right to dig deeper.
The town hall meeting was a step in the right direction.
I suspect this maelstrom is the confluence of bad advice, being disconnected from the wider community, not reaching out to the right people, and inexperience with PR. I'm taking a wait and see approach. Either mbloom will spawn successful companies that employ people in Hawaii or they won't. That is the only test that matters.
Luke Tucker provided good advice in his response to Evan Nagle's inquiry, "Did @arben and @nickybee's @mbloom answers suffice? Do you support the flikdate/ozolio investments?"
Luke: "Invest in community relationships -Be transparent -Hire a PR firm -Be humble"