Krisztina ‘Z’ Holly - entrepreneur & talent amplifier on identifying and championing innovators - Choose the Hard Way

What is the link between heavy metal and heavy innovation? How far-out is too far? How do you go from idea to market at scale? Let’s find out. You read the CV’s of some people and you think, is this a human being? Could one person really do this much in one life? My guest today is Krisztina Z Holly. She is one of those people and I can confirm that while she has done an inhuman amount of cool things, she is indeed a human being. Z is a legendary innovator, entrepreneur, advisor and talent amplifier. She launched and curated the first-ever TEDx event, founded innovation centers at MIT and USC and started up multiple companies. She was the entrepreneur in residence for the city of Los Angeles under Mayor Garcetti and she’s been an advisor to the World Economic Forum and the Obama administration. Z says her superpower is identifying and amplifying hidden talent and has advised and nurtured dozens of entrepreneurs. When she isn’t innovating, advising and changing the world through technology, Z is shredding on her mountain bike, skydiving, scuba diving, backcountry skiing and generally living life like a Mountain Dew commercial. If all you know about tech in LA is Silicon Beach, this episode is going to blow your mind. Find Z on Twitter and Instagram @krisztinaholly and at If you dig this episode, please pass it on to a friend, hit subscribe and rate the show. This show is about more than me, my guests and an idea. It’s about the community that you all have created around it, and I love to hear from you. Drop me a line at or @hardwaypod on Twitter or Insta. Sign up for The Hard Way newsletter and get cool stuff worth knowing + updates on new episodes.More about Z:Z was Vice Provost for Innovation at USC and Founding Executive Director of MIT's Deshpande Center and USC's Stevens Institute of Innovation, investing >$5M in early stage ideas, launching 39 venture-backed startups from university research, expanding Boston and LA startup ecosystems and raising $7M for 3 pre-seed funds. Z has deep technical roots and operating experience as co-founder or key member of Stylus Innovation (acq by Artisoft), Direct Hit (acq by Ask Jeeves) and Jeeves Solutions (acq by Kanisa). She worked for the Space Shuttle Main Engine advanced manufacturing team and MIT Media Lab. She helps Fortune 500 CTOs identify tech trends as a TTI/Vanguard advisor. Z’s unique network spans industries and continents. Several pioneering programs she sparked continue to scale, 40,000+ events and two decades later. As EIR for LA Mayor Garcetti, Z launched a non-profit supporting local manufacturing. She’s been advisor and board member to two dozen organizations globally, including the Obama Administration and World Economic Forum. Storytelling is core to Z’s impact. She’s host of The Art of Manufacturing podcast and a Forbes contributor. She's coached hundreds of speakers (>14M views) and helped produce documentary series for NSF, HBR, Smithsonian. Her work appears in BusinessWeek, Economist,, strategy+business, HuffPo, Big Think, Science Progress, NASA Ask. Z has a BS and MS in mechanical engineering from MIT. A member of YPO and Tau Beta Pi engineering honor society, licensed skydiver and SCUBA instructor, backcountry skier, adventure traveler, former quartermaster of the Black Rock City airport, Z lives in her hometown of Los Angeles.
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