Inventor of the Week Archive
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Visual Voice(TM) telephony software
Krisztina Holly has turned an interest in engineering and an aptitude for marketing and entrepreneurship into an exceptionally diverse and rewarding career. Recently taking on the role of executive director of MIT's Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation , Holly plans to share her knowledge of technology, product development, entrepreneurship and the corporate world with those preparing to enter these fields.
Holly grew up in southern California where her early interest in science was inspired by her father, a physicist. She was a budding entrepreneur by age 16 when she began charging friends a dollar each way to drive them to school in her parents' station wagon. She graduated from MIT with a degree in mechanical engineering in 1989. As an undergraduate, she worked with a team in MIT's Media Lab to develop the world's first computer-generated, full-color reflection hologram.
In 1992, Holly earned her master's degree in mechanical engineering from MIT. During her graduate studies, she co-designed and built a head-eye vision robot and developed a robotic weld-seam-tracking program for the space shuttle main engine. In 1991, she co-wrote a business plan that won MIT's $10,000-now $50,000-Entrepreneurial Competition. The following year, Holly, along with Michael Cassidy and John Barrus, invented and patented "The Stylus," a system that enabled a user to scan bar codes to order items such as groceries, before the Web became popular. The Stylus would then feed the information to the seller via a touch-tone phone.
To market The Stylus, the team founded Stylus Innovation. But their most successful product was yet to come. At Stylus, Holly teamed up with Cassidy and Chris Brookins to create Visual Voice, the first Windows-based computer telephony development tool. This product allowed users to create complex telephony systems, with features such as call answering, voice-mail, and fax transmission. The system was inexpensive enough for companies of all sizes to afford, and it revolutionized the telephony industry. Holly served as vice-president of Stylus until it was bought by Artisoft in 1996 for $13 million.
From 1996 to 1999, Holly worked for River Run Media where she helped produce documentary videos and television programs related to science, math and business. In 1999, she moved to Direct Hit Technologies, a start-up Internet search engine company, as part of the small marketing team that grew the new Web site to a million hits per day within four months. Ask Jeeves acquired Direct Hit in 2000 for $500 million. Holly stayed on at the company to help transform Jeeves Solutions from a services organization into an enterprise software company. She also helped launch two other software products.
In her latest career move, Holly will be running the School of Engineering-based Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation, which supports faculty and students through providing funding, symposia, advice and other resources. The Center recently awarded its first round of grants totaling approximately $1.25 million, funding projects ranging from biotechnology to information technology.
Holly co-authored the book "Visual Basic Telephony" and she has also created teaching materials for the international Junior Solar Sprint competition, and a number of magazine articles. She was a judge in MIT's annual $50K Business Plan Competition for six years and has served on the board of several non-profit organizations, including the MIT Enterprise Forum. She is also a skilled mountain biker and backcountry skier, as well as an accomplished recreational trail advocate. Formerly President of the New England Mountain Bike Association, she helped grow the group from a small club to the largest regional mountain bike advocacy organization in the world.
In recognition of her work with the sport, she has been inducted into the New England Mountain Bike trail of fame. She has also been honored with the Shimano Action Figure award and the Heidi Davis Award. Krisztina Holly has turned an interest in engineering and an aptitude for marketing and entrepreneurship into an exceptionally diverse and rewarding career. Recently taking on the role of executive director of MIT's Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation (which launches on October 15th, 2002), Holly plans to share her knowledge of technology, product development, entrepreneurship and the corporate world with those preparing to enter those fields.