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What’s it like to start a company from the ground up? Alumnus Tim Holt shares his start-up experiences

Friday, October 23 2015 12:00am

From Ohio University to Silicon Valley, alumnus Tim Holt spreads Business Bobcat pride

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2052671Alumni: Tim Holt

Current role: Vice President, Worldwide Commercial Operations, ZELTIQ® Aesthetics, Inc.

Home base: San Mateo, California


College of Business alumnus Tim Holt was the thirtieth employee at ZELTIQ, a medical technology company in the Silicon Valley. “It was me, department of one,” he said.

Six years later, the publicly traded company has 500 employees around the world. As for Holt, his department of one grew to 75. He now manages all of them, who work in six business units across three offices in California, Virginia, and London.

“My function is really to oversee the commercial internal operational aspects,” explained Holt. “That includes logistics and operations, marketing, sales, and support functions.”

He went on to explain that the majority of his job involves focusing on strategy and future development. “We’re growing so fast that it’s difficult to focus on where we are today; we have to keep looking ahead to scale and manage growth,” he said. “We’re constantly asking ourselves where we’re going next.”

How did ZELTIQ become so successful? They gave people what they wanted – a noninvasive medical device to eliminate unwanted fat. “Patients are always looking for a safer, less invasive alternative to liposuction, another procedure on the market to rid the body of unwanted fat,” explained Holt. 

Because of such rapid growth, the company is no longer considered a start-up; it’s now categorized as a high-growth company.  Working for a more established company is new for Holt. “It’s been a learning experience,” he said. “There was a time when I looked at a more mature company and thought I wouldn’t ever want to work for one. But I’m really enjoying it – it’s hard not to.”

Holt previously was a co-founder of Game Child Interactive, Inc., which he views as his “practical experience after his MBA.” The business was successful for a while, but ultimately failed. 

“Though the business wasn’t sustainable, succeeding and failing was a great experience,” he said. “I gained a lot of transferable skills that future employers appreciated.” For example, he learned about the importance of resources, including funds. He also learned how difficult building a business from the ground up is. Most of all, he learned about how critical location is to a business’ success. “We weren’t in the hub of a start-up ecosystem, which made us unsustainable,” he said.  

In search of a strong start-up system, Holt relocated to California, and chances are, he’ll be there awhile.

- Potpourri –

Pressing questions for Tim Holt

What’s the most exciting part of your job?

“It’s a very sales-oriented job, so hitting our numbers and meeting Wall Street’s expectations each quarter and each year is really exciting. There’s always a huge push to meet our goals, and it’s really fun to see the team work together to make it happen.”

What advice do you have for students trying to make it in your industry?

“When I’m hiring, I really appreciate when the candidate shows that they’re in it to win it. It’s a key attribute that others who are successful in the field seem to have mastered. Be bold and put your neck out there.”

Why do you continue to support and stay involved with OHIO’s College of Business?

“I believe in it. College is a pivotal time for people to grow and learn about themselves. OHIO’s College of Business provided a lot of opportunity for me; it was, and still is, forward thinking and progressive. That was truly invaluable. The experience the College of Business provides is of tremendous value, and like anything that’s good, you want to share it with other people. 

One thing I like about the Silicon Valley is its diversity, and it’s neat to come to OHIO and see a microcosm of that. The school has done a great job of promoting diversity and I appreciate that.” 

When you weren’t in class, where would we find you on campus? 

“I spent a lot of time down on West Green in the Convocation Center doing all kinds of menial tasks [for my job], but also making connections and meeting people.”