XBox Live creator, Kry10 co-founder on building what the world is going to need

Discover what led Boyd Multerer to co-found Kry10, a company focused on building the security layer for industrial connected devices.


Rochelle Ritchie

March 29, 2024

On first meeting Boyd Multerer, the first thing he did was proudly show me a shelf of all the software he helped build, including the first XBox Live, signed by ‘Bill.’  

Boyd’s story is hard to beat, among building XBox Live, his story chronicles adventures spanning dreams of being a mechanical engineer to writing code for the ‘File Open’ feature in Microsoft Office and, most recently, co-founding Kry10, a recent Folklore co-investment with In-Q-Tel, among others. 

Kry10 has shared many exciting updates lately, most notably being selected for a US Department of Energy grant to work alongside the US Government in helping deliver cyber safety solutions for industrial connected devices. 

This conversation spans Boyd’s passions, what led him from Wisconsin to Wellington and his journey to Kry10. Enjoy.

Let’s start from the beginning – 

"Growing up, my dad ran a factory in Wisconsin making construction equipment, and my first job was sweeping the floors of the factory and assembling construction harnesses. I grew up surrounded by machines and, for a long time, thought I was going to be a mechanical engineer. I wanted to design engine equipment, and that’s what I got a degree in. 

Funny thing, though, is that half way through my degree, I went really overboard in writing a paper on the freedom factory mechanical simulator for the Macintosh classic. Turns out, I loved the software part of the problem a lot more than the mechanical part. 

By the time I graduated, I ticked all the boxes to be a mechanical engineer, but I’d spent most of my time working with the University Research Lab writing software for factory mechanical simulators.

So, I made the big decision to take the fun thing and make that my job, and take the thing that I thought was going to be my job, and make that the hobby.

It was a good choice."

Looking back at that period of your life, what were your main goals and drivers?

"During University, there were three things I wanted to do:

1. Work in video games.

2. Have a big hand in reducing carbon emissions. In 1990, I was already really worried about carbon, so I wanted to do something that would move the needle.

3. Do something that would end up in orbit.

Those are my three things. I’ve completed one - and I’m currently working on the other two."

Now paint the picture of your journey to Microsoft. 

"After University I moved to Seattle, almost on a whim. I decided not to get a job at the big two (Boeing or Microsoft) straight away, and instead write some software for myself. I started by writing desktop publishing software. I did a lot of work with Waltis Corporation, which made something called PageMaker.

Note: A little history – before the web, if you wanted to publish a newsletter, you would lay it out, get it printed and then mail the newsletter to people. What tool did you use to layout a newsletter? PageMaker. Arguably the Squarespace for printed newsletters. It was a huge product throughout the 1990s.

 In 1994, I got a contract with Microsoft and I wrote code that shipped in Office 4 for Macintosh. I was paired with a programmer called Rebecca Falender and we worked on the ‘File Open’ dialogue together.

One night, I invited her and this crazy guy called Jay Allard over for dinner. That’s where Jay and I first connected, and we ended up working together when I wrote code for this new thing called the Web Server. 

In 1996, we were building what would become .NET, later becoming the mainline web services used everywhere.

I totally lucked out in being around during the foundation of the web.

I wrote code that shipped in web servers between 1996 to 1998, in 1999 it was for data centre management software, at the beginning of having data centres. I got to help work on something called ‘Project 42’ at Microsoft. That’s where .NET was born. (So C-sharp, all those languages …)

A little while after that, and with Jay's help, the XBox was born. On August 4th, 2000 I joined the XBox team as the first hire. This was the beginning of a big chapter."

Here we go – time for the XBox story.

"So, I show up at building Redwest C at the Microsoft offices. If you know the Microsoft buildings, this is where the Microsoft Studio was. It was completely screwed up, and they called this area the ‘rat nest’. It was just me – I was the XBox Live team. But it wasn’t called XBox Live then, it was called ‘XBox Online’, until we had a name.

Between University and this experience I formulated my life philosophy.

Don’t build what the world needs right now, build what the world is going to need when you’re done building it.

So, as one example, when we started XBox Live, we put an Ethernet port in the back, even though nobody had broadband. What we did know is that broadband had 1 - 3% penetration at the time, most people had modems. The lines were still too expensive, and forget fibre, that was a decade away. But, you could see where the trend was going and you could see that broadband was going to take over. We built for that and it was really controversial at the time. I got to be a part of designing that – which meant interviewing gamers.

We flew out to New York to do 3 focus groups, back to back:

  • The first one was people who just played PC games; 
  • The second was people who just play console games; 
  • And the third group was 50/50.

And we’d ask the same bunch of questions:

1. Who do you play with?

2. How do you get the game going?

3. Stuff like that.

It was so enlightening – because the PC gamers said “I go into my room, close the door, put on my headphones, turn the lights off, go online and find someone that I’ve never met before and I try to kill them.”

Console gamers said, “Well, I buy a 6 pack of beer, I invite my friends over, we sit on the couch and we drink beer and play a game together.”

And the third group – they just fought. They didn’t get along at all.

The lesson there was, gaming was on a console. 

So, we wanted to attract the console gamers, but make it online to also attract the PC players. We needed games to attract the PC people – but position it in a way that was about ‘finding your friends’ through the social interaction by console gamers.

We had universal names, reputation tracking and tournaments, we had to worry about connectivity across the planet. We had to solve for voice anonymity and community management (including policing bad behaviour). There was no guidebook to follow."

What led you to found Kry10?  

"Kry10 was born because Jason and I were focused on building what the world is going to need.

After my time at XBox, I took some time off. Enough time to focus on the bigger picture around security of devices at a global scale. One of my last jobs at XBox was looking at the security of phone calls between individual consoles. 

In console land, the consequence of a failure was that a company could go out of business. At an industrial level, the consequence of a failure is that people might die.

Now, going way back to the beginning – what were the three things I wanted to make a difference on?

  • Games – check.
  • Orbit – working on it.
  • Carbon – what can I do about this?

So, this got me thinking, what’s the most leveraged thing I can do to help with carbon loads? Because that is what we’re going to need. We need it now, but we’re really going to need it soon.

Hence Kry10 was born." 

How did you and your Kry10 Co-Founder Jason first meet? 

"Australia, and in particular Sydney, is known worldwide as a breeding ground of seminal work in building Sel4 - a formally proven microkernel which I knew would unlock growth in cybersecurity of industrial connected devices. 

I knew I needed to be in/near Australia.

So, I’m sitting in the US, I don’t have a visa to live in Australia and I need to get as close to it as I can.

My wife is a data scientist, she’s working on her PHD right now. So, she built this model to decide where we wanted to live, crunched the numbers and the results suggested we needed to move to either Wellington, Auckland, Sydney or Stockholm. And, very gratefully, NZ granted me a Global Impact Visa as an Edmund Hillary Fellow.

This is where I met Jason, also an Edmund Hillary Fellow and the co-founder of Kry10."

What’s next for Kry10? 

"Unsurprisingly, we have big global ambition and we'll continue to focus on Government partnerships. What we get from these two inputs is proof that what we have is viable on a global scale. 

We’re looking forward to supporting the defence and automotive industry with our continued expansion plan across Australia, NZ and the US. 

I’m sure we’ll have more updates, and soon."

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