GPYouth Featured Leader: Michael Keoni DeFranco

Kimihira Miyake
November 28, 2016

As you learn, spread that knowledge and help those around you. You never know which piece of advice could trigger a breakthrough for another.

This month, Global Peace Youth is proud to introduce Featured Leader Michael Keoni DeFranco. Keoni received his bachelors in Inernational Politics from Wesleyan University where he concentrated on Nation Building. Now the CEO of Lua Technologies, a software company he founded, Keoni is also a dedicated Hawaiian cultural practitioner who is active in the NGO Committee on the Rights of Indigenous People and Hokule’a WorldWide Voyage. He is also a board member of Halawai and New York’s chapter of Landon School.

Michael Keoni DeFranco waiting for the arrival of the Hokulea in Manhattan with friends.

Keoni explains his innovative passion to merge technology and spirituality by lending his office to Hawaiian language classes as well as helping organize events for cultural song and dance as a way to “cultivate an endangered dialect and build lasting relationships.” Keoni hopes to expand the vision of shared culture on a global level, starting with the launch of a digital mentorship program in a children’s homeless shelter on the island of Maui. “I feel lucky to have spent time with so many great moral and innovative leaders over the last few years,” shared Keoni, “and I am trying to begin building a foundation to grow and inspire others over time… specifically to help nurture the technology community in Hawaii and make the skills more readily available so that in five to ten years, technology becomes our leading industry.”

When asked to share more about the influences in his life, Keoni praised one of his early mentors, Strauss Zelnick, who was one of the first business leaders to listen to the concept of his company, Lua, in 2010. Although now a successful entrepreneur, Strauss faced failure early in his career. Keoni embraced Strauss’ outlook saying, “He shares those past experiences now as a way of inspiring those around him to keep trying. He taught a moral pathway of business; you should do well to all those you work with because it’s the right way and it’s a small world. I believe that it is vital to start a company with a positive intention to help those around you. If you do so, you will surround yourself with likeminded individuals who share your passion. These are important business lessons to learn early.”

Keoni also mentioned Pua Case, a powerful leader and advocate for indigenous land rights for people native to Hawaii. Keoni further explain, “She helped coin the phrase ‘Kapu Aloha,’ which means ‘standing with sacred love.’ She taught patience, respect, perseverance and love as the key pillars to success for anything you feel strongly about, that those around you may not agree with; you must treat those that disagree with you with open arms… Moral and innovative role models are important for our society to move forward in a positive direction. The more these teachings and lessons are passed down, the more leaders there will be out there teaching this way and the better our world will be.”

Keoni left us with his final piece of advice for others aspiring to be moral and innovative leaders, saying, “Go out and meet as many people as you can. Talk to others, learn their stories and use that inspiration to take your own path. There is a Hawaiian word, ‘pono,’ which translates to ‘that which is righteous.’ Live a pono life and treat those around you well. As you learn, spread that knowledge and help those around you. You never know which piece of advice could trigger a breakthrough for another. Lead by example, set your goals with an intention and follow through on your vision.”

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