Chris Howard, Ph.D

My name is Chris Howard and I make things

Born in Reading, England in the early 80’s, I swiftly grew a passion for breaking things (especially the rules) and putting them back together again (not the rules). I became a highly over-active & under-achieving school kid (with grades to match). To this day I believe I still hold the record for the total number of lunchtime & after-school detentions at Theale Green School in one year without being expelled. Sorry, Mr Gittins.

But my nature of rebellion and curiosity helped me build a passion for re-imagining how things worked.

By my early 20’s, I became a modestly well known singer/songwriter around London with a band called ‘Optimists’. Alongside music, by my mid 20’s my passion for food saw me briefly appear as a competitor on Gordon Ramsay’s first season of the “F-word”. And by my late 20’s my need to continually break things and put them back together again led me to graduate with a Ph.D in Computational Physics & Psychology from Reading & Warwick Universities. Desperate to put all this over-education to good use, I became the Head Teaching Fellow of the “Physics of Medicine” at Harvard University, and then welcomed as a researcher into the global crucible of hackers and rule-breakers – Massachusetts Institute of Technology (or MIT, as we call it).

Optimists - London, 2005

It was there at MIT I found my ‘people’. 

What I love about (ethical) rule-breakers is that they continually encourage their peers to better themselves and the world around them. They are taught at MIT that the only guaranteed way to not improve something is to do nothing about improving it. MIT never selects its students, post-graduates, or staff based on academic performance alone. They select on the insatiable urge to ‘hack; and demonstrate the ability to overcome obstacles in creative ways. As such, MIT is an incredibly diverse (culturally and economically) thought provoking institution that values curiosity and tenacity far beyond any ‘classic’ criteria of the Ivy League.

It was at MIT in 2009 where I was provoked into bettering the world using the force of startups and entrepreneurship.

Much since then has been a blur. 

With John Landry - Founder & CTO of Lotus Technologies, Techstars Demo Day 2011

I have had the delight to be a part of the founding team of half a dozen companies and had the pleasure to lead 3 of them. All have been venture-backed and all but one have either been successfully acquired or continue to go strong. I humbly represent some of the world’s most influential organisations in entrepreneurship for the purpose of challenging common beliefs with culture and the arts. I work closely with cultural icons from the world of food & music to help their cultural movements come to life through the power of startups. I infrequently teach my skills to the underdogs of society – empowering those with new and novel ideas & backgrounds to benefit from what ‘being a founder’ can do for their careers. For my sins, I sometimes charge hideous amounts of money to large corporations for my help in bringing their world closer to the world of startups, founders, and entrepreneurship.

The Royal McQ American BBQ Team, River Cottage HQ 2017

But my life is far more enriched than simply founding companies and helping others do so. I have a wonderful wife who has helped me bring a new tiny human into the world. I regularly host rather lavish and completely over-the-top supper clubs for friends, family, and the local community of Earlsfield in London. I am also the co-founder of a (rather rubbish) American BBQ team. And I am regularly seen embarrassing myself at open-mic nights doing various covers of 90’s classics many wish to forget!

Although I often decline the invitation to be a ‘gun for hire’ – I will always enjoy a coffee & conversation in the event I can’t help myself but get involved in your idea/project/startup/company. Feel free to contact me directly on chris+web@iamanoptimist.com

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