our team

Experienced operators focused on growth strategies.


Melialani james, cofounder

Meli James is cofounder of Mana Up. James is also currently the president of the Hawaii Venture Capital Association (HVCA). Previously, James has been the head of new ventures at Sultan Ventures, as well as program director of XLR8UH. Born and raised in Honolulu, Meli lived in Silicon Valley for over ten years; there, she co-founded and contributed to numerous startups, including Nirvino—a number-one-ranked wine app, an Apple Platform Top 100 app, and a Top Ten Lifestyles app (during its time). James is a graduate of Punahou School and Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration.

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brittany heyd, cofounder

Brittany Heyd is cofounder of Mana Up. She is also General Counsel at Union, a software company based in Washington, DC. Before Mana Up, Brittany was cofounder and Managing Director at 1776 and worked on economic policy at the Obama White House. Heyd holds a Juris Doctor / Masters of Public Policy from Georgetown University and a Bachelor’s of Arts from the University of San Diego.


NOHILI THOMPSON, project manager

Nohili Thompson is a project manager at Mana Up. Born in Honolulu and raised in Waimea on Hawai’i Island, Nohili graduated in May 2018 from Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration with a BS in Hospitality Management and a concentration in Service Marketing. In college, she served as the President of the School of Hotel Administration’s Hotelie Entrepreneurs Club, an organization which aimed to serve as an outlet for students to experiment with and express business ideas.


NOELANI ARISTA, Cultural Adviser

Noelani Arista is an award-winning Hawaiian historian based at the University of Hawaiʻi as an Associate Professor. Noe’s research interests include Hawaiian governance and law, Hawaiian intellectual history, Historiography of Hawaiʻi, Colonialism and missionization, Native language archives and translation. Noe’s dissertation, “Histories of Unequal Measure: Euro-American Encounters With Hawaiian Governance and Law, 1796-1827,” won the Society of American Historians Allan Nevins Prize, for the best dissertation written on an American Subject in 2014. This dissertation developed into her upcoming book “The Kingdom and the Republic: Sovereign Hawai'i and the Early United States” to be released in December 2018.

Noe advises companies on how to respectfully integrate Hawaiian culture into their brands, offers translation services, and leads research projects that feature Hawaiian language and culture in 21st century technologies such as AI, gaming, and digital mediums.