Former Biotech CEO Richard Hollis Unveils Web Startup Holonis

Richard Hollis, who lost control of his namesake biotech company in 2009, is staging a comeback with the launch of San Diego-based Holonis, an online marketplace providing e-commerce software and services on a subscription basis for business customers.

While Hollis spent 30 years in the pharmaceutical industry, beginning in 1978 as a salesman with Baxter International, he’s now focused on the Web, saying he “fell in love with the opportunity that the Internet represents.”

In a statement today, Holonis says it is now accepting new users for the beta launch of its online marketplace, which integrates e-commerce with content publishing, search, social media, e-mail marketing, and analytics. The company says its target customers are the 28 million small and medium-sized businesses in the United States, and “nearly 50 percent of those businesses have no Web presence.”

Of course, the e-commerce market that Holonis is targeting is already dominated by some of the world’s biggest Internet retailers, including Amazon, Apple, Staples, eBay, and Alibaba, along with dozens of more specialized e-commerce sites like Etsy, Zappos, Netflix, and NewEgg.

But in a recent phone interview, Hollis said the big e-commerce players like Amazon and eBay were founded 20 years ago during the first dot-com boom, and still basically operate only as e-commerce websites.

Holonis is taking a more holistic approach. “What we’ve basically built, in a nutshell, is an ecosystem that empowers global commerce,” Hollis said.

Hollis, who has a stream-of-consciousness way of talking, said: “I would like to think that we’re a more modernized and up-to-date marketplace that takes advantage of search engine optimization, takes advantage of publishing content—photos, videos, and articles—takes advantage of the distribution of that content to social media channels, to e-mail channels, to search engine channels, distributes that information, [and] creates conversations with consumers who are looking for you. Now you’re into customer engagement, and the customer engagement leads to transparency because now the company is producing content and becoming exposed to consumers, and all that transparency and conversation leads to trust, and that trust leads to transactions, and all the transactions lead to data.”

Hollis plans to make money by renting space in its online marketplace to small and medium-size businesses, and by providing them with access to Holonis’ suite of software and back-office services.

Hollis, 62, said he started Holonis in March 2009, immediately after he was ousted from San Diego’s Hollis-Eden Pharmaceuticals, the biopharmaceutical startup he founded in 1992 and where he served as chairman and CEO for over 17 years.

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Bruce V. Bigelow was the editor of Xconomy San Diego from 2008 to 2018. Read more about his life and work here. Follow @bvbigelow

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2 responses to “Former Biotech CEO Richard Hollis Unveils Web Startup Holonis”

  1. Mark King says:

    Richard Hollis is back at it! I can’t wait to see what he releases. He is a big thinker and I am sure Holonis.com is gonna be something special if he had anything to do with it.