Expert-in-Residence Chris Halliwell Sees Big Value in Small Companies

Deep Dive
January 15, 2019 By Grace Wood

Chris Halliwell knows business. Her history as a consultant for companies like IBM and Cisco prepared her for everything from electronics to biotechnology. She helps overcome innovation go-to-market strategies for both large and small companies, and has been able to leverage that experience – as well as 25 years of teaching executive education at the California Institute of Technology. She is part of UCI Applied Innovation’s Experts-in-Residence (EiR) program, a network of approximately 300 business leaders who volunteer their time to mentor UCI-affiliated startups.

“There are so many variables in a startup and so much information being thrown at you … to be able to put a team in a room and give them a way to think about all of that and understand what their priorities should be is just very enjoyable,” Halliwell said.

Halliwell came to UCI Applied Innovation two years ago and has mentored UCI startups, has led workshops and has an active role in the Tech Surge competition and the Wayfinder admissions process. One of the recent startups she has worked with is FirstStep Diagnostics, a UCI startup that developed a way to detect autism in early stages of human development. FirstStep won the 2018 Tech Surge track (sponsored by Applied Innovation) in the Paul Merage School of Business’ New Venture Competition and placed second in the New Venture Competition’s Life Sciences category. As the team’s EiR, Halliwell encouraged them to focus on the value of their product rather than their competitors.

Hayley Young, assistant director, New Venture Group, originally matched Halliwell with FirstStep.

“It was a combination of the promise of the technology and the strength of the team,” said Young. “I thought that would be a good complement for the skill set and experience that she brought.”

Halliwell enjoys working closely with startup companies, but she also offers advice to any startup who needs it – even if they’ve only met once or twice. Halliwell says that all startups can be flexible in their business models and can skillfully decide how their innovation diffuses into the marketplace – which involves selecting the right first customer.

“Typically, if you choose your first customer correctly, that single customer can make up the vast majority of your growth and your revenue,” Halliwell said.

Halliwell is available by appointment through email.

*Photo: Jackie Kao

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