the math team. Even this year, as Kirin mentioned her love for the GDS math team, applause broke out in the forum. Andy Lipps shared, “Her enthusiasm for math is contagious, and the students love and respect her for it.” Kirin was also editor-in-chief of the Augur Bit during her junior year. “I’m really thankful for what it taught me about storytelling and observation. Telling a story—presenting information in a compelling way—is a huge part of everything I do today, from the visioning of the company to crafting a VC pitch. Being a little bit of a loner myself, having the experiences at the Augur Bit forced me to watch people around me and really try to make sense of the world from different points of view.”
As Kirin prepared to leave GDS for MIT in 2010—after her junior year—Andy Lipps then shared, “With all of her extraordinary talent, Kirin remains a down-to-earth teenager—warm, funny, gregarious, with a generosity of spirit that makes her admired by students and teachers alike. This is a student with a boundless future.”
Kirin had completely immersed herself in the Harry Potter series from a young age, but had never considered that building that kind of magic world could be a legitimate career path. “Advancements in augmented reality and artificial intelligence have meant I get to do more than build games. I get to build worlds,” she said. Kirin and others are taking the next step in storytelling by inviting story-seekers to become active participants in those stories. In AR, you actually walk in Neverland or step into Ahab’s boat. “One of the bigger things I’ve learned since business school is that anything you really want to do— anything that you think should exist—there is a legitimate path to making that passion your job. STEM gave me the power to create.” “Startups aren’t all fun and games—even when they are,” Kirin acknowledged. “Things that you don’t anticipate happen all the time and you have to be able to react, keep your head, and make decisions. Every day, I’ve learned to become comfortable bouncing up and down on this sea. It doesn’t mean I don’t get seasick or soaking wet or near drowned, but I accept that’s what the journey is.” As she’s surmounted each wave on this journey with Illumix, what Kirin has been most excited about has shifted over time.
“First, it was proving that we could build the tech no one thought possible. That was hugely thrilling. Next it was seeing whether we could build a team of experts, hiring people from Google and Zynga and other top tech companies, and convincing them to leave their comfortable jobs and join this small boat. Now we are building products, and the next big thrill will be when it’s out in the hands of consumers later this year. The challenge I have my eyes on now is, what happens then? Is anyone going to play it? Are we going to make any money? Are we delivering on the fantasy of the consumer?” With the consumer reception for their game as yet unknown, Kirin knows there will be some important decisions to make whether it goes big or bombs or lands somewhere in between. Yet, like Captain Jack Sparrow facing all the waves and mayhem cinematic world-builders may sling, she’s trusting the journey—laughing through the storms—trusting that somehow, she’ll walk out okay in the end. “We don’t know if there’s a terrible storm heading for us or if we are about to land on a giant happy island. But I believe in the team and the ship we’ve built...and I think we’ve got a map.” Kirin looked out onto the rows upon rows of rapt High School students in the Forum as she closed her keynote. She clicked the remote and advanced her presentation to the final slide. J.K. Rowling’s tweet, posted on the 20th anniversary of the first publishing of Harry Potter, appeared on the screen. Kirin said, “This is how I imagine I will feel when the worlds I have been dreaming about and building are out there for everyone to experience.”
Illumix’s games will be playable on any smartphone with available in-app purchases. The first, which drops October 4, will fit the Halloween genre. Next year, she’ll release an open world fantasy-style game. Kirin jokes that the first will be the nightmare and the second the dream. *Patronus: “a kind of positive force, a projection of...hope, happiness, [and] the desire to survive”