Queen’s grad explores virtual innovation
In 2007, Kevin Henshaw, Artsci’90, left his job with Adobe Systems – one of the biggest software companies in the world – to join a much smaller organization. At the time, IMVU had fewer than 50 employees and an innovative idea.
Fast forward to 2011, and IMVU has reached 50 million registered users and brings in 10 million unique visitors per month. IMVU, which describes itself as an “online social entertainment destination”, allows members to use 3D avatars to meet new people and chat as well as create and play games with their friends. The company also boasts the world’s largest virtual goods catalog of more than six million items, most of which were created by IMVU community members.
Kevin, who is the Vice-President of Business Development at IMVU, remembers when he made the jump to IMVU. He says, of working with Adobe Systems, “it was an incredible experience, working for a world-class organization.” However, he wanted to take his talents further. “I was anxious to take part in Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurial environment and join a smaller organization,” he reflects. “I took the leap, leaving one of the world’s best high tech companies for an innovative, scrappy start-up.”
For Kevin, the preparation for this position at IMVU started on Queen’s campus. “Queen’s provided a very well-rounded education, both in the lecture halls and the community,” Kevin recalls. “Moving into the student ghetto at age 19 was ‘growth opportunity’ (as business pundits are fond of saying) for me as an individual.” He adds “the experience gave confidence that I could succeed while taking risks.”
IMVU is undergoing a stage of massive growth. In the past year, it has more than doubled its employee force and has moved its headquarters to a massive new location. For Kevin, this means bigger possibilities of company development. He’s in charge of expanding the company’s collaborations with external partners. This means creative work in conjunction with other sectors, including the music and gaming industries.
Kevin keeps a watchful eye on social media start-ups and is curious about the evolution of the medium. “I’m hoping 2011 is the year in which geo-location-based services deliver some value to me in daily life,” he remarks. He’s quick to add, “we are, in my opinion, in the very early days of the social media phenomenon.” He finds this exciting. “I love working at IMVU because it’s an innovative firm blazing new ground.”