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May 2, 2012 Volume 33, No. 30

Missouri Innovation Center leader helps students become entrepreneurs

jake halliday

GIVING BACK Jake Halliday teaches “High Growth Ventures,” a course in the Crosby MBA program in the Trulaske College of Business. After years as a business leader, Halliday now enjoys giving back by teaching Mizzou graduate students about being entrepreneurs. Rob Hill photo


Center's leader has years of experience running companies and assisting developing countries

Jake Halliday has hopped from country to country in a quest to develop economic growth. He has educated graduate students, led successful companies and even brushed shoulders with Ronald Reagan.

At Mizzou he supports the university’s economic development mission as president and CEO of Missouri Innovation Center (MIC), which supports young entrepreneurs by providing them a network of tools to succeed in start-up firms.

He also teaches “High Growth Ventures,” a course in the Crosby MBA program in the Trulaske College of Business. Halliday instructs on the process of evaluating the commercial appeal of an invention by MU researchers, developing a business plan and obtaining financing.

He designed the course to give real-world entrepreneurial experience to graduate students.

“In several cases, the class simulations convert to real companies led by graduate students sharing ownership with the faculty inventors,” Halliday said. “This is helping Missouri retain some of our most promising graduates.” 

Over the last four years, the course has helped more than 25 MU students obtain executive-level positions with start-up firms, Halliday said.

Real-world experience

As an undergraduate, Halliday attended Queens University Belfast in Northern Ireland. He obtained his PhD from the University of Western Australia in 1977. He spent the next decade assisting developing countries: first at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture in Cali, Colombia, and then with the Research Corporation at the University of Hawaii.

He caught the attention of President Reagan, who assigned Halliday and 12 others to the Presidential Agricultural Task Force to assess the economic development situation in Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“(President Mobuto Sese Seko) asked Reagan for money,” Halliday said. “Reagan said, ‘No. We’ll send you experts. We’ll send you Jake.’ ” 

The task force performed a total agricultural sector analysis for more than three weeks. While his colleagues remained in Kinshasa, the country’s comfortable capital, Halliday traveled into the bush to evaluate its agriculture. 

He later met Mobuto.

“He was a totally corrupt guy,” Halliday said. “Our opening section (in the report) was that there would be little impact from economic development assistance until the issue of widespread corruption was dealt with.”

Halliday next joined Battelle Memorial Institute, a research and development company where he was vice president of pharmaceutical business development. 

After 10 years at Battelle, he moved to Columbia to be president and CEO of Analytical Bio-Chemistry Laboratories. Inc. 

In 2004 he joined the management department of the College of Business to develop a graduate course and other offerings in technology entrepreneurship. 

Successful graduates

One of Halliday’s recent students in “High Growth Ventures” was Xandra Sifuentes, who had earned a BS in computer science at MU. Sifuentes worked in engineering at Honeywell and Garmin before deciding she wanted a more entrepreneurially focused career. She returned to MU to pursue an MBA. 

In Halliday’s course, Sifuentes developed the business plan and later founded Adroit Motion to explore commercialization of a laparoscopic hand instrument developed by MU researchers. 

As the firm’s CEO, she pitched the company at the Rice University Business Plan Competition, winning $24,100 in funding for Adroit Motion.

After earning her MBA, Sifuentes left Adroit Motion and is now president of Metactive Medical, a start-up in metropolitan Kansas City.

Halliday is proud of his graduates and content these days to instruct on technology entrepreneurship rather than lead companies and assist developing countries. 

“I now have a combination of activities that I view as giving back,” he said. “I find that particularly rewarding.”

— Brad Fischer and Trevor Eischen