When you consciously choose to see the positive and to see the good, even if the opposite is true, life becomes so much easier and enjoyable. It took me a while to learn this lesson but now I proactively think about this and it’s improved my relationships at a personal and professional level. It’s made me a better colleague, a better partner, a better manager.
As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Marin Kim, who recently joined MIRA as CEO, the latest in a career that spans finance, media, and entertainment. Marin started her career as an investment banker and private equity analyst at JPMorgan before the financial crisis in 2009 redirected her career path towards the music industry, where she joined the management team for Grammy-award winning Colombian artist, Shakira. After a successful three-year run, including a global world tour and the launch of the largest YouTube campaign at that time for the 2010 Waka Waka World Cup campaign, she branched off and started her own company, working primarily with clients and partners at the intersection of lifestyle, media, and technology, including Wilhelmina Models, Spring Studios (the 120,000 sq ft facility in Tribeca, home to NYFW and the Tribeca Film Festival, among others), and the Real Madrid FC. Most recently, she partnered with her goods friends Lucas Werthein and Noax Waxman (from Cactus) to launch Mira-Cam, which is coming out of beta early next year. Mira is an automated content-capture system that was developed by Cactus since 2018, soft-launching in various locations including the original Color Factory in NYC and Sloomoo Institute. Marin joined in 2019 as CEO when MIRA was spun-off as a stand-alone company.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
When I first interviewed in finance, I thought I would build a lifelong career in finance; during college, I had a very specific gameplan in terms of how I was going to build my career and what internships and jobs I would need to achieve that goal and once I was there, I excelled…I was at the top of my analyst class and as a woman, it was much easier to stand out since there were so few of us. However, life is unexpected and after three years in finance, when the 2008–2009 crisis hit, I found myself at a crossroads; on the one hand, I could follow the ‘expected’ path which was to go to business school and continue developing my career, which up until then, had followed a pretty linear path, or I could go work for Shakira. The answer was pretty clear to me but I think a lot of people, including family, were taken aback by my decision to wander off this path I had been so diligently carving out for myself. But, I learned so much from this experience and realized that, though unconventional, I could dictate what my career should be, and not the other way around. And ever since, all major decisions that have affected my career have oftentimes taken me off the expected road. My brother to this day does not fully grasp what I do for a living! But it’s been hugely rewarding for me because every major turn has in turn been a whole new education for me and that is why I am so excited about building the new company MIRA and our first eponymous product, Mira-Cam. I feel like every major career step so far has prepared me for this role and with MIRA, I’ve found a product that I really believe in and know I can turn into a great, profitable business. Lucas, Noah and I have always been looking for a project to work on together so when they reached out about MIRA, which they incubated out of their cross-sectorial design innovation firm Cactus, I was very psyched!
Mira-Cam from MIRA is a software-based multi-camera photography system that enables users to capture and disseminate visual content easily in virtually any physical space. Where MIRA is most successful is in immersive environments that drive a specific experience. I think we have reached selfie-saturation and while we still want content, we are also seeking ways to find enjoyment inexperience. If you look at the data, it will show you that just as people crave and spend more time and money on experiences, brands and companies are also investing more capital and resources to building experiences and not just products. MIRA fits squarely into this shifting paradigm because on the one hand, it allows people to still create and share content, which has become a very big part of our DNA, while at the same time, allowing for a better human experience. By automating the process of capturing content and in this case, creating better quality (ie professional-level) content, Mira-Cam allows people to enjoy the moment. MIRA was specifically designed to put user experience at the forefront so when you experience something like the Color Factory, you can enjoy yourself more, in part because one doesn’t have to worry about getting the right picture and so attention is focused on the actual experience.
What gets me so excited about MIRA is that its applications are endless; any business that relies on space and having people go through that space need to think differently about how they are going to evolve and continue bringing those people back. Technology is playing a huge role in how that interaction between space and humans is evolving and we believe that MIRA is a game-changing technology that will bring back the human component in any experience.
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
A good friend of mine, Sari Azout, who is an investor at Level Ventures recently posted a piece on her weekly newsletter about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and the state of startups today. For people who have been investing or involved in technology in the last 10–15 years, the massive disruption that we have experienced because of improvements in technology has propelled us forward by leaps and bounds and, if we analyze this vis-a-vis Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, one could make the argument that we are now entering the phase of self-actualization needs. And, to quote Sari, this is because “overwhelmingly, there is a sensation that as a generation, we are unfulfilled, spiritually and physically, even amid profound, seemingly unending success.” At its most basic level, Mira tackles this problem and as Sari so eloquently states, “It’s ironic that companies that are predicated on getting users offline are the next big thing, but this shouldn’t surprise us. To understand humans is to know that we are all driven by our shared need to feel a sense of meaning, belonging, self-understanding, wisdom, and an authentic relationship with ourselves. For centuries, religion, the communities we are born into, and our families have given us that sense, but modern culture, catalyzed by the Internet, has broken down a lot of these connective tissues. And so we look desperately to other places for belonging.” In many ways, Mira is a product of our times; we have become hyper-connected with technology and while we still crave to share with our friends and family, or our followers, we are also looking for experiences that will trigger our emotions…more often, this is in the form of joy or excitement and what we are trying to build is a product that serves the dual purpose of content creation and sharing but bringing back the human element into experiences.
From a purely business point of view, we are talking about a massive market place: museums, theme parks, installations, live events…the list is endless. And as these companies invest more into creating memorable experiences, MIRA is a tool that allows them to maximize that investment while providing end-users with the content they want, whether it’s for social sharing or for the simple memory of the experience. MIRA was conceived by a team of architects, technologists, and designers who every day are finding ways to merge technology and physical space and it is this expertise that has allowed us to design a product that puts user experience at the forefront.
We all need a little help along the journey — who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
Whenever I speak to younger women who are just starting out, I always share this story because it had such a profound impact on my development as a professional. In 2008, I joined an internal private equity group that was founded at JPMorgan and we were a small team of six, led by Bob and Lauren. Now, I know for a fact that Lauren did not necessarily like me; I know this because word got to me that she didn’t think I was the right candidate for the job because I “cared too much about how I dressed (forget that I had ranked the highest across all categories!) but this anecdote is even more meaningful because of that. At one of our first meetings, Lauren stared me right in the eyes and said, ‘you are a small, Asian woman and you will be perceived to be docile and quiet and obedient and that is not acceptable to me. Everyone in this table needs to have an opinion, an informed opinion, and that is why, in every meeting, you will be the first person to speak and give your thoughts on any investment ideas or any other matter, even though you are the most junior member on the team.’ But more important than just telling me this, is the fact that Lauren made it a practice and effectively, every meeting, I was expected to show up and share my thoughts and over time, when I realized that my perspectives and opinions were shared by other senior members of the team, it built my confidence. To this day, that is one of the most valuable pieces of advice I have received: to always have an informed opinion and be prepared. More importantly, she taught me that leadership is most effective with action and that you will find mentors who will impact your life in people you may not always expect it from.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or an example for each.
Have an opinion (but make sure it’s informed); speak up; and listen. The first two are tied to my previous story about Lauren. The last one, “listen”is something I learned later. I may have taken the first two pieces of advice a bit too close to heart because a few years ago, a mentor I admire and respect very much told me that I would be much more effective as a leader and business person if I learned to listen more.
How are you going to shake things up next?
My goal at MIRA is very simple. To install as many cameras as possible in as many venues in different cities across the world. I think that the next iteration of content will be “passive”; that is, our physical spaces will evolve and become dynamic and alive and all of our interaction will be environmental and not tied to a single device. We are already seeing this. I think MIRA is one of the many products that will lead to this change and become the new normal. We are living in really exciting times and the rapidity at which this evolution is happening is amazing.
Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?
Honestly, the only real podcasts that I listen to on a regular basis, and really only when I’m driving, are murder mysteries or such! I know podcasts have become a huge thing but honestly, for me, it’s my downtime. In the same way that I love to read (I can go through periods where I read a book or two a day!), I value this time as me time and an opportunity to get lost in something that isn’t my work or my career. I always feel like I should be reading more business books or listening to more TED talks but I derive more pleasure in getting lost in fiction or listening to some ridiculous tale of a crazy, serial killer. I have learned to not only value but to truly enjoy work-life balance and find it helps me be a more creative thinker and leader when I can detach.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I don’t know about big, revolutionary ideas but I am a big believer in education and in reading books, and especially in today’s world, where children have so many more options, I would encourage reading. I love fiction because it pushes your mind to imagine the unbelievable, to paint a picture that only lives in your head, to live in worlds that you do not know. I don’t know if this is a movement, but I’ve always loved to read and I think it everyone should read more, or more often. It’s very easy today to get lost without so many distractions and forget the value of the written word but reading is a wonderful thing and I encourage reading and the love of reading. It’s a powerful and compelling way to learn and explore and I believe if we all read more, we’d be in a better place. I love books but I spend the first hour of my day just reading; I have a series of newsletters and IG accounts that I scour every morning that spans everything from business to politics to music to pop culture and I think that makes me a slightly better and more informed person every day.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Someone once told me the following. Imagine you have a $100 bill in your pocket every day, and every day, you lose that bill. Over time, that is a lot of money you would have lost and naturally, you would change your habits and behavior to make sure you would no longer lose that bill. Well, life and happiness are just like that. Life is too precious and too short to allow for negativity in your life. And as painful as it is to lose $100 a day, losing a minute to feeling unhappy or angry is costly. This is not to say that we shouldn’t allow ourselves to experience these emotions. But it did change my understanding of how I approach the world and how, if I consciously practice being happy and positive and not try to control everyone or everything, I can genuinely be happy. It also dramatically changed how I reacted to others and to situations I did not control. But when you consciously choose to see the positive and to see the good, even if the opposite is true, life becomes so much easier and enjoyable. It took me a while to learn this lesson but now I proactively think about this and it’s improved my relationships at a personal and professional level. It’s made me a better colleague, a better partner, a better manager. It’s tough to undo and reteach yourself how to behave or react or think or feel but I think oftentimes, we underestimate our ability to change.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
I am a pretty private person in that most of my social media is limited to only people I actually know; I am a voracious consumer of content but I am not a big sharer! I think a part of this is because when I worked for Shakira, I became a conduit for her fans to connect with her and when I realized how easy it was for strangers to find out information about me (including personal contact information!), I realized how truly powerful the internet was and that always scared me a little. I don’t think this will change any time soon but if anyone wants to find out more about what we’re doing with Mira, they can always reach out to us at [email protected].
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!