Companies & Industries

Hoku's Shindo Reaches for the Stars


Dustin Shindo is working hard to turn his company, Hoku Scientific, into an alternative-energy powerhouse

Dustin Shindo expects to travel 350,000 miles this year. For the Chief Executive of Hoku Scientific (HOKU) in Kapolei, Hawaii, the shortest possible round-trip by air is the 5,000 miles to San Francisco. The alternative-energy company Shindo heads has moved in similar leaps and bounds since he helped launch it in March, 2001.

Hoku listed on the Nasdaq in August, 2005, selling 3.5 million shares at $6 a share. In fiscal 2006, the company reported a net income of $1.3 million, up from a net loss of $728,000 in fiscal 2005, on 90% higher revenue. However, the stock price has fallen more than 50% from its initial public offering, to $2.85 in afternoon trading Dec. 15.

Formerly known as Pacific Energy Group, Hoku concentrates on making products for hydrogen-powered fuel cells. The company's name means "star" or "guiding light" in Hawaiian. More recently, Hoku has also started developing modules and materials for the solar-power market. In addition, the company has strategic relationships with the U.S. Navy, Nissan (NSANY), and Sanyo (SANYY).

Accomplished Innovator

When Shindo, 33, co-founded Hoku with Chief Technology Officer Karl Taft, it wasn't his first experience starting a company. Shindo, who earned an MBA at the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business Administration, founded travel-industry software provider Activitymax in 1999. Four years earlier, he had started Hawaiian microbrewery Mehana Brewing.

Shindo says his passion and the strength of his team are the reasons he was able to become a CEO at such an early age. "I have a lot of great people around me," he says. "That was a big difference. The second thing is I'm just incredibly passionate, and that ends up resulting in working incredibly long hours and caring a lot about the results of this company. Every CEO needs that."

How long are the hours? Shindo puts in 90 to 100 hours a week, which he says not only diminishes his free time but also affects his circadian rhythms due to all the travel involved. When possible, he sets aside Sundays to spend with his wife, Jamie. "I don't have any real hobbies other than trying to exercise as much as possible," he says.

The Three Ps

To young entrepreneurs who would someday like to be in his shoes, Shindo suggests "the three P's": passion, performance, and persistence. "You have to have more passion than anyone else, because as CEO, you're the cheerleader," he says. "You're the director. You have no one to complain to. The second 'P' is performance: Ultimately you have to be able to get the job done. The third 'P' is persistence, and that's what a lot of younger people lack. They're good at one thing, but rarely do people stick with it through the hard times."

When it comes to his future goals, Shindo speaks like a CEO of any age. "My biggest focus is always in building long-term shareholder value," he says, calling this "particularly important in energy technology, which is an extremely volatile industry." Either way, he'll have miles to go before he sleeps.

Click here to see the list of 40-and-under CEOs of publicly traded U.S. companies.

Hogan is a reporter for BusinessWeek.com in New York.

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