Whether working as an entertainment attorney, an award-winning technologist or as an entrepreneur, Chris Nunes ’92 has always been a lifelong learner with a passion for worldwide change. The former De Paul Scholar spent time visiting his old stomping grounds and sat down to talk about his career and how SHC sparked his curiosity for innovation.

Bring us back to your time at SHC and in college, how did your path diverge from what you thought your career might be?

I’ve always enjoyed learning how things work and trying to understand people in general. While I was in high school, John Scudder, Jr. ’73 was the Dean of Students and SHC had just started the De Paul Scholar Program under the leadership of Dr. Ken Hogarty ’66. It was just in its infancy, but I really enjoyed my time in the program, especially during the Senior Seminar because. Ken asked each of us to come up with our own final thesis to graduate—mine was on special and general relativity. I am greatly encouraged by the new I2 Program as the next evolution of forward-thinking SHC programs. I would love to share my real-world experiences with any of this new batch of scholars trying to apply their theoretical solutions to pragmatic problems. Any intellectual student always has a theory or two, but it’s understanding the real-world application of our theories where we encounter our biggest ah-ha moments. Learning raw theory without the underlying reasons behind it leaves you really short on true understanding.

I was fortunate enough to attend UCLA on a Navy scholarship and received a BA in Economics. Economics tries to teach you the theories behind peoples’ decisions. But you can’t understand economics without understanding real people. I’ve had a handful of big “ah-ha” moments in life – and they’ve all come at times when I finally connect the dots between the theories and the real-world.

One of my biggest ah-ha’s was during the first dotcom period, after I came back to San Francisco from Los Angeles in 1996. While in high school and college, I had a certain career path in mind—management consulting. But I ended up in the dotcom world in an industry I never would have been able to select back in high school because I simply knew nothing about it. That ah-ha—that you can have your own plan, but life has its own plan for you that you have to learn how to roll with—has played a constant reminder in my life since then. Plans are crucial, but flexibility in life ends up counting for a lot more. John Lennon got it right in more ways than one: “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.”

I eventually attended Georgetown Law studying International Law at first, even going as far as studying in Italy and working in Germany for a period. I had done a study-abroad program in the south of France when I was here at SHC. Studying and living abroad really helped me connect dots on global cultures and not be so parochial with thinking “like an American,” which is increasingly important in today’s world. My law practice in LA was all about deal making in film and television. While there, I met my wife. And now I’m back in tech—life led me back to the Bay Area.

Describe your GE Healthcare 2013 Grand Prize Winning App.

GE was looking to improve the patient experience with hospitals through technology and product management. Hospitals can be terribly intimidating places—there’s sickness, death, large buildings, strange equipment, it’s often very expensive, and for the most part, it’s hard for the average person to comprehend all the health “solutions” that happen there.

But hospitals are also a place of health and care and caring people. I created an app for iPads that puts much more control of the hospital “experience” directly in the hands and laps of patients. The iPad became the patient’s window into the hospital’s systems where the patient had more transparency into the treatments, the processes, the insurance, the costs—and simple things like navigation around and inside the hospital. I implemented a new kind of technology called Augmented Reality where the patient could even change the view out of their hospital window by holding up their iPad and, real time on the screen, their view would change to a field, or mountains, or a forest scene—anything better and more uplifting than hospital curtains.

I called the app “Hospitable” and it was one of the grand prize finalists out of 165+ submissions. I’m hoping to get more involved in new healthcare mobile solutions—there’s so much need and opportunity there for the right team or inventor.

Are you working on other apps?

StarPop is my Hollywood Walk of Fame app with augmented reality features. When you hold your phone over a celebrity’s star on the sidewalk, first their shoes appear on the sidewalk, and when you step back, that celebrity is standing there on the sidewalk on your phone screen and you can have your friends or family jump in and take a photo with them like you ran into the celeb on street. I got that idea after visiting the Leaning Tower of Pisa—where you angle your camera and direct your friends to stand in the foreground like they’re holding up the tower. You do the same thing with StarPop—tell your friends where to put their arm, or their kissy face, to match up with the onscreen celebrity. Augmented realities are something I am increasingly working on and seeing how it evolves.

I have another app I’m working on now called ThinLines that is a fuel-conscious shopping assistant app. We show you the cheapest option for a product online or locally, and compare the carbon footprint of each shopping choice—hoping to minimize driving trips around town, or unnecessary deliveries from remote online fulfillment centers. One of my goals with this app is to show climate skeptics that a carbon conscious lifestyle can be cost effective and how their daily activities affect their local environment—we want soccer moms in Idaho to see how chasing a $1.13 price difference on Amazon might result in more pollution than simply buying something locally.

Why do you continue to pile up course credits from universities across the United States from MIT to Stanford?

As an entrepreneur, there are many times that I don’t know about a subject or have an immediate answer to a problem. For instance, in dealing with an algorithm with carbon I realized my shortcomings in overall climate science and search algorithms. So I went online and found classes that helped me understand those processes. That kind of “problem recognition” and “answer seeking” has led me to take courses from iPhone development to climate to statistics. I took statistics at UCLA—but it never really connected for me until I had a real-world problem with my search algorithm, and I needed to apply a theory around standard deviations. Having a problem you need to find an answer for is the absolute best teaching incentive out there.

You also serve as an executive producer for independent films, what was being entertainment lawyer like?

I bridge connections between the artist world in film—writers, directors, and actors—and the business world in film: the producers, financiers, and distributors. Sometimes I take equity in films in exchange for finalizing the contracts between both sides. I approach the legal and business problems in terms that artists can understand, leaving the artist working knowledge of the issues, as well as reusable resources from which to draw in the future. It is always important for the client to have an understanding of their contract because after all, it is THEIR career, THEIR project. They need to understand it and not just put it in the hands of their lawyer or their producer. I love that job of crafting entertainment deals. But at the end of the day, unless you’re dealing with documentaries, we’re not saving the world with the film business. With technology, there’s more of a “Hey, I can impact the world,” kind of approach.

Any other updates?

We just had a baby, and I am excited to have moved back to the Bay Area to raise my kids where I grew up. I really look forward to connecting SHC with the innovation that is happening in San Francisco and the greater Bay Area because I see what you guys are doing with the campus—the library (that was new for me), the Sister Caroline Collins, DC, Theater and the new programs—and it’s really inspiring. I hope I can help add to that.

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