As the Chief Technical Officer for Secure AI Labs, Anne is the face for our technology and in charge of spearheading innovation within the company. A graduate of both undergrad education at MIT and a Masters through the Media Lab, she is a veritable polymath. Here is her story.
Anne grew up in New Jersey, in a small town of 40,000 across the Hudson from New York City. The only sister among three brothers, she attended church regularly with her family. This early exposure to the church and its emphasis on purpose and doing good for others — not to mention keeping up with her siblings — impressed upon Anne a desire for positive change. She fully absorbed the philosophy of making a big impact that brewed within the family, instilling in her a strong sense of purpose even at a young age.
In elementary school, she fancied being a doctor; in middle school, an actuary; and in high school the career of a bioengineer researcher.
As an example of Anne's work ethic, she interned at an oncology research lab her sophomore year of high school. Later, in her junior and senior years, she worked in a computational protein folding lab at Rutgers. The only thing I ever folded in high school was laundry!
However, Anne was already facing a midlife crisis in high school: how could she best be a positive force in the world? A doctor could have an outsized impact in a local maximum, something that she admired, but her goals were loftier. Her choice to work in various labs throughout high school was informed by a small bit of utilitarian calculus; a researcher can have a global impact, and anything computational increases one's existing impact by an order of magnitude.
It was this keen observation to have a high-throughput impact on the world which ultimately drove her to enroll at MIT. She started her MIT career first as a Bioengineering major, but switched halfway through to the Institute's unique Computer Science and Molecular Biology program, one of only a few undergraduate degrees in the whole country specializing in the combination of the two curricula. In addition, in the later years of undergrad Anne started working as a Teaching Assistant for courses based in the Media Lab.
Again, Anne's manifold interests began bubbling around in her head. She wanted more than to work as a software engineer after graduating, and began exploring her options. Eventually, she settled on a position in Korea doing business development research.
It was this time in Korea that planted a seed in Anne's mind. While doing market research, she faced many roadblocks in accessing clinical trial data. Regulation was a thorough impediment to her process, and she was discovering that results of many trials were frequently not even published. Access to this data was rightfully private, yet what good is an oracle if the gates to the temple are locked?
Soon tiring of the work and looking for a change of pace to collect her thoughts, Anne left her position at the biotech company in Korea and returned to Massachusetts. Back in the comfortable familiarity of Cambridge, she took a job that others with her pedigree might've balked at: an early-morning shift at a bakery. The hunger of the Kim family – both literal and metaphorical – extends to all endeavors, regardless of supposed intellectual merit. An avid baker herself, this unassuming job scratched an itch just as much as all those more prestigious ones before it. Her skills as a hobbyist baker were plateauing, and Anne sought out the job at the bakery as a chance to climb that next slope.
This drive is what her and her youngest brother lovingly call as a Kimism. Oftentimes the two of them stay up late into the night talking or texting, and when one inevitably discovers how time flies the other will instinctively retort, "But how can I go to sleep if I still don't know how to play the drums?"
But not just the drums. Anything at all. For Anne, every skill or subject has the potential to be a Kimism.
And so it went that she would wake up at 3AM each day and head into work. Alone and in a groove, she'd do the preparation and baking each day and enter a therapeutic flow state. This went smoothly for a few months, but she soon pined again for intellectual challenge, which led to perhaps the most bizarre daily schedule I have ever heard about.
Anne would start her day early at the bakery, and leave around noon after her shift ended. Then, she'd take a break for lunch before heading over to a second job she'd arranged, with a quantum chemistry group at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. Here, she'd hack away late into the evening before starting the day all over again. However, even this unconventional combination grew tedious, and Anne found herself considering what exactly it was she wanted to devote her time to.
Having remembered her time as a TA during undergrad, Anne decided to apply to the Media Lab as a Masters student. She was accepted, and in the Fall of 2017 began her studies in the under the leadership of Alex "Sandy" Pentland in the Human Dynamics group. While there, her research centered on the use of Open Algorithms to mediate federated the sharing and analysis of clinical trial data on a massive scale. While at the Media Lab, Anne was enthusiastic about finding a practical application to incorporate her with studies.
As luck would have it, an email popped up on the CSAIL mailing list that caught her eye. A professor, Manolis Kellis, and two postdocs had started a company that incorporated software and biology, meeting at the intersection of her interests.
She reached out and was met with a bizarre idea that seemed crazy enough to work. The pitch was for the company to be the "23andMe of blockchain." Considering that this was a little over a year ago during the height of the crypto craze, the atmosphere was conducive to an idealistic dream no matter how outlandish it was. Anne reached out and, with both her engineering and business background, was a perfect fit for the budding business.
She spent her days designing pitch decks and refining the business plan. Between meetings with potential investors, she kept hacking away on the code to refine it as much as possible (an algorithm that calculated your genetic admixture based upon an averaged vector of ethnic profiles across countries, ala Ancestry.com).
Unfortunately, the company (at that time named GeneTank) hit a snag. The founder and CEO left, which defaulted Anne, then COO, to be bequeathed the reins of Chief Executive Officer. This newfound business responsibility disillusioned Anne because it wasn't what she had originally signed up for. She came to the project for its technical merit, and was unhappy to be finding her days taken up more and more with business matters as opposed to the technical challenges that she craved.
However, during MIT's IAP in January 2018, at an event for students eager to work in startups, she met a bespectacled Sloan Fellow named Ryan Davis, who shared her enthusiasm for the tech and its potential. Over the next couple months, Anne reviewed résumés but kept coming back to one: the like-minded student she met at IAP. Anne offered the now-open role of COO to Ryan as winter drew to a close.
The team applied and were accepted into MIT delta v, a summer startup accelerator operating through the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship. It was about midway through the program when she popped the question: would Ryan relieve her of the position of CEO so that she could take up the role of CTO?
That summer proved to be eventful. GeneTank sheds its original business model and in doing so adopted the name of Secure AI Labs (SAIL). This "rebranding" was key, as from further research the team discovered a more pressing need: to secure both the world's healthcare data and its analysis. Anne's previous difficulty in accessing clinical trial data cemented the newfound objective in her mind. If the team could build a platform for hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, and academic researchers to collaborate without risking patient privacy, the discovery of new cures and treatments could be accelerated tenfold.
Anne is excited to lead SAIL into its next chapter as CTO. The team has already grown significantly – we are currently hiring! – and is excited for our pilot programs with Leo Pharma and Brigham and Women's Hospital. The future is looking bright, so stay tuned for our end-of-year report to learn more about our recent milestones and what's on the roadmap for 2019!
In addition to her future with SAIL, Anne is currently teaching herself the jaw harp and indulging a newly rekindled passion for poetry. All in characteristic Kim family fashion.