Monday afternoon, Christian Holljes opened up his talk at the NCSU Entrepreneurs Fall Lecture series by asking “who is the fastest runner in the world?” While the audience struggles to think about past Olympic competitors, Holljes answers “we don’t know, we never met him because he never ran”. He shares this attitude when thinking about it in the context of potential inventors and entrepreneurs. Many people do not see themselves as having the ability to create, whether it is due to lack of resources, education, or simply feeling that they don’t have the right to enter into such a field of experimentation. What if we all have an innate gift that allows us to innovate and design new products or concepts? It is Holljes’ vision that we can cultivate and nurture this gift so that everyone can be fired up about creating the future.

Originally from Baltimore, Christian Holljes came to North Carolina when he was accepted to Duke University on a wrestling scholarship. While at Duke he triple majored in biomechanics, mechanical engineering, and fine arts. He then continued his education at NC State University where he earned a master’s degree in industrial design.

A few years later, he relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area where he found much success. Holljes worked with Apple for seven years and was part of the original QuickTime team. When he left the company he took his knowledge and experience with integrating software and applied it to a new company he helped co-found, Cadmus Interactive. From here he was hired to work for Machina, Inc. where he invented and licensed high -tech consumer products. He later moved on to work with a R&D team for Radica Electronic Games.

Perhaps some of Christian Holljes’ greatest achievements came after he launched his own company, Newgent Inc. in 2000. He partnered with Katsuya Nakagawa of SSD Co. Limited , which allowed him to work with electronic gaming systems such as Nintendo. At Monday’s event Holljes talked with the audience a little more in depth about the Smart Cycle. In 2008 the Smart Cycle was named Educational Toy of the Year and Innovative Toy of the Year by the Toy Industry Association, and Holljes and his company were named Inventor of the Year by Mattel.

The prestigious awards and titles didn’t come without a fight. When he originally presented the design to Fisher-Price, he was turned down. Not long after, he found himself in a patent battle with the company. A few years later they came to an agreement and the toy became a best-seller. When Holljes had concluded, a student asked him “how did you know not to give up on the Smart Cycle?” His response was something all young entrepreneurs need to hear: listen. “They didn’t say it was a bad idea, they just didn’t have a place for it” Holljes said, “Listen to why they say no, it isn’t always because it sucks. That’s how you know when you can come back and not to quit.”

Christian Holljes wants to spread the message that human beings are inherently inventors. He displayed a slide that read “Inventors are humans, being”. “We are in a natural state when we are inventing” he says. If you have an idea you should go for it and don’t let fear or a missing resource hold you back. He took a few moments to explain the importance of drawing, “it is the key to inventing and creativity”. A drawing could be the fastest way to the mind’s eye and how to more efficiently sell an idea. So what if you don’t think you can draw a stick figure or a quick sketch? Well, he says that NC State has a class to teach those basics, so there really isn’t much of an excuse.

Today, Holljes is working with a company  he recently co-founded called Wavvox Technology; it focuses on the applied use of audio steganography. However, he is proud to have rejoined his alma mater at NC State. Last year he came to the school as a Chancellor’s Faculty Excellence Program cluster hire in Innovation and Design, and as a professor in the College of Design with a partnership with the Poole College of Management. His experience and enthusiasm cannot go unnoticed, and will surely be a great addition to NC State and the triangle.

His final words at the Lecture Series were something like this “NC State needs me. Duke needs me. Duke needs you. Chapel Hill needs you. The triangle needs you.” He calls us to allow the universities to lift each other up. We can boo each other on the football field or the basketball court, but there are bigger places competing with us in terms of entrepreneurship and innovation such as San Francisco, Austin, or Boston. It’s time that we start sharing his belief ” We have to think bigger than Duke, UNC , and NC State.”