> 11, 2009 > Profile in Innovation: Alicia Castillo Holley

Ben Casnocha
Profile in Innovation: Alicia Castillo Holley


08 2011
 
Alicia Castillo Holley smiling and holding up books (Courtesy Alicia Castillo Holley)
Alicia Castillo Holley

Innovators with complementary skills can make things happen. Ben Casnocha is author of My Start-Up Life: What a (Very) Young CEO Learned on His Journey Through Silicon Valley. This article appears in the November issue of eJournal USA, “Roots of Innovation.”

 

“If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go with others,” says an African proverb. If there’s one thing many innovators have in common, it’s that they teamed with others in order to achieve their dreams. Innovators seek help of all kinds: emotional, financial, and intellectual. They turn to partners, investors, and mentors to ask questions such as: What’s the best way to make this product work? How can I raise money to further develop my idea? How do I balance my family needs with my research or entrepreneurship?

They turn to people like Alicia Castillo Holley. Born in Venezuela, Castillo Holley has spent her life co-founding nine companies and consulting with information technology and biotech companies in Latin America. As a consultant, she offers mentorship, early financing, and connections.

One early client, Directory Systems, demanded Castillo Holley’s full range of innovation-advisory skills. Directory Systems was a company that matched companies holding an excess supply of mining parts and materials with companies in need of such materials. Real-time inventory tracking made this a valuable matchmaking service in the mining parts industry.

The idea was solid, but a good idea is not enough. The innovator needs a plan to execute it successfully. Directory Systems hired Castillo Holley to put in place a strategy, hire lawyers in Chile to expand the Latin America operation, and build a local prototype of the matchmaking product. She did all that and, eventually, Directory Systems was bought by a large American medical company.

“I estimate that my involvement saved the company [Directory Systems] two to four years of work and around half a million dollars,” Castillo Holley says.

Castillo Holley succeeded because she complemented the founders’ skill sets. They were passionate about the mining industry and supply chain databases. She was passionate about making certain business processes more efficient and brought to bear specific Latin America expertise the founders lacked.

To make an innovation work, oftentimes you have to recruit the help of outsiders whose experiences and passions complement your own. Castillo Holley says that when she works with innovators, she first tries to identify what they are passionate about. She encourages innovators to focus on those passions and then surround themselves with people who can help with everything else.