USC Stevens Institute Names MIT’s Krisztina Holly Executive Director

March 8, 2006

Krisztina Holly, formerly executive director of the Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a veteran of successful technology start-ups, has been named executive director of the USC Mark and Mary Stevens Institute for Technology Entrepreneurship and Commercialization.
Holly joined the university March 1 and reports to USC Provost C. L. Max Nikias. Last week, Nikias and senior vice president for administration Todd R. Dickey announced a new university-wide role for the USC Stevens Institute on behalf of USC President Steven B. Sample.
“Research universities in the 21st century not only will be judged by the quality of their research and the quality of their students, but also by how successful they are in transferring technological innovation into the marketplace in order to meet societal needs,” Nikias said. “The USC Stevens Institute will be the central resource for USC’s campuses and research programs with respect to start-up creation, intellectual property licensing, faculty intellectual property development and venture capital outreach.”
The USC Stevens Institute is expected to grow to a staff of approximately 25 within two years. Technology transfer experts in the USC Gould School of Law, the Alfred Mann Institute for Biomedical Engineering and the Greif Entrepreneurial Center at the USC Marshall School of Business also will work closely with the USC Stevens Institute.
“Krisztina has an impeccable entrepreneurial pedigree along with extensive experience operating in a university environment, where she worked with multiple academic disciplines to bring research to life,” Nikias noted. “We have tremendous confidence that she will find USC to be a rich source of innovations across all USC laboratories, including the Viterbi School of Engineering, the USC School of Cinema-Television, the Keck School of Medicine, the USC College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, the School of Dentistry, etc.”
Holly will reach out to the venture capital and angel investor communities locally and across the country. She will also work to involve entrepreneurs at earlier stages of the technology transfer process to leverage their expertise and connections.
“Very few universities have USC’s breadth of potential, and a superior technology transfer program would benefit more than just USC,” Holly said. “I feel it will impact society as a whole and Los Angeles and Southern California in particular. This is an opportunity to really raise the region’s visibility as a hotbed of innovation.”
Holly, who holds master’s and bachelor’s degrees in mechanical engineering from MIT, was the founding executive director of MIT’s Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation, which was established in 2002 with a gift from the co-founder of Sycamore Networks. Under her leadership, the center has been a highly successful and visible program, supporting MIT faculty and students engaged in technology transfer through grants, symposia, mentoring and other means.
Of the 47 projects funded by the center, nine have spun out and raised $40 million in capital to date, and many others are taking steps toward establishing companies. The center’s grant program is expected to reach a total of $15 million in funded projects by 2010.
Holly’s career as an innovator began early with engineering projects in the areas of holography, robotics, optics, control and mechanical design. As a graduate student, Holly and two teammates invented and patented “The Stylus,” a pre-Web electronic shopping tool, and wrote a business plan for it that won MIT’s campus-wide entrepreneurial competition. Artisoft bought Stylus Innovation in 1996 for $13 million.
Holly has been involved in other start-ups too, including DirectHit, an Internet search engine that was acquired by Ask Jeeves in 2000. Additionally, she has served many not-for-profit roles as a board member of MIT Enterprise Forum, a judge for the MIT $50K Entrepreneurship Competition and a board member of the International Mountain Biking Association.
The USC Stevens Institute was created with a naming gift from USC alumnus and trustee Mark A. Stevens, a partner at the legendary Sequoia Capital venture capital firm, and his wife, Mary.
“I think one of the key changes for universities in the 21st century is going to be interdisciplinary study – being able to cross-pollinate, cross-fertilize ideas from different parts of a university campus,” Stevens said. “The genesis for companies like Cisco, Yahoo! and Google came from university campuses,” Stevens noted. “It’s a trend that must continue if America is going to have a competitive economy in the 21st century.”


Carl Marziali, USC, 213-740-4751
Tracy Williams, Casey Sayre & Williams, 310-396-2400