ripsy and Colina are virtual influencers from Sydney, Australia who spend their time guiding 135,000 Instagram followers through life. These digital twins mysteriously appeared on the virtual influencer scene in mid-2019 and are now known as the digital doubles of Hripsime and Colina Demirdjian, co-founders of Double Trouble Creatives.
Under Double Trouble Creatives, these ambitious sisters founded viral emoji app Moji Edit, a mobile platform blending AR and AI to design personalized emojis for tens of millions of users. Their successful, social track record recently earned them Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia in consumer tech.
Both of these virtual twins and their human counterparts are deeply passionate about the overlap between the virtual and the real. Let's find out who they really are.
Hello Hripsy, Hello Colina. I understand you co-lead a business, share an online presence, and share a spotlight (so to speak) with one another. When did you first decide to pursue this professional lifestyle, and what ups or downs have you experienced as a result?
Nice to e-meet you Christopher! At the time we decided to explore tech as a career path, we were in our final years of studying a Double Degree in Law and Arts (Psychology) at Macquarie University (top 3 of Australia’s universities), with a major in Criminology. During our university studies, we had built a massive community of over 360,000 Instagram followers on our own original emoji content, with each post garnering over 60,000 likes and millions of impressions on our videos.
Being part of the online generation, we saw the app space holding great opportunity to fuse our passions for tech, creativity and audience development. The idea of creating an app (despite having no tech background) sounded exciting, yet challenging enough for us to be motivated about it.
Taking the opportunity of our long mid-term break, we decided to launch our first social experiment to our engaged audience and followers. This was around the idea of creating a custom emoji avatar creator application. Our app Moji Edit is a toolkit that allows users to create their own emoji avatar and enter new modes of immersive expression with their avatars, such as AR experiences and AI personalization.
In the first week alone, we had received over 50,000 subscribers who wanted to download our application with 5,000 sign ups in the first 24 hours. A few months later, we launched our first release of the Moji Edit app. In the first month, we had over 500,000 new users. Since then, the app has exponentially grown to over 10 million users and ranks the top 10 applications in the Utility category in the US, UK, AU, and Canada. That was really the first time we started looking into the tech lens as a creator, as opposed to a consumer.
As one would expect, our journey to success was one that comes along with a fair amount of sacrifice and trials. In our early days, the hardest part was maintaining our high distinction average across our studies during the semester. We were staying up at crazy hours of the day, giving up any kind of social life we had, stopping our extracurricular commitments and focusing every free moment on our app.
Our drive to continue even during the hard times was, plainly, because of our passion for what we were developing and our desire to amaze our community. Being first-time product creators, we are highly determined to carry forward our vision. Passing the initial challenges such as balancing our law studies, validating the need for our app idea against the market, and then developing the app (with no previous tech experience) were some of the greatest reasons to continue despite the many obstacles we faced.
The support of each other and keeping morale high in the hard times helped us stick it out and defeat the odds. We are immensely grateful to have started something so special together that we can build for our growing community of users.
Congratulations on your progress, and congratulations on Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia. How has this accomplishment affected you?
Beyond the initial excitement—which was the greatest feeling ever—we recognize that being named Forbes 30 Under 30 holds a significant amount of responsibility, first as female role models and second to make sure we positively contribute to the wider community in driving forward awareness around social issues we currently face as a nation.
For us, being recognized on the Forbes list allows us to continue our mission among other industry leaders and push forward innovation in new dimensions. We believe avatars and digital humans will transform our world and their impact will allow humans to fulfill their physical, social, emotional, and escapist needs in this world of materialistic loneliness, anxiety, dehumanization and mediocre culture.
Avatars and digital humans allow us to tap into the truth of our human existence within the digital world—that’s precisely what we intend to do with Double Trouble Creatives. We see being part of the list as a huge opportunity to meet other change-makers, big thinkers, and innovators and a way to connect and collaborate on solving problems at the intersect of humanity.
Let’s talk about your viral digital avatar app, Moji Edit. I understand you’re at 10MM+ emojis created, yes? What’s your long-term vision for the company?
After amassing 10 million users on Moji Edit, our vision has become to bridge the gap from the physical to the digital world by creating connected experiences that surpass physical limitations. Our mission is to deliver value by accelerating the utility of the avatar as we continue building our own avatar technology to personalize various domains with authenticity and human preservation maintained at its core.
With the success of the app, over the years, we have developed software that instantly creates your emoji avatar on the iPhone by either uploading a photo or taking a selfie. The app brings together Augmented Reality and Artificial Intelligence to deliver a powerful creation experience for our users.
It is the most advanced avatar creator application available to download from the App Store. Moji Edit has been featured by Apple, covered by Forbes, Yahoo Finance, Business Insider, Daily Mail, Cheddar, and many more. Our greatest moment was when we were interviewed by Apple and received our own Apple Developer Story (which is a big thing in the developer community!).
We look to solve complex problems through virtual avatars and how they will allow us to understand the future of communication, entertainment, fashion — all course, with the digital you.
Are there any new Moji Edit initiatives on the horizon you can tease today?
Yes, we have some really exciting news! It’s hard to keep this one to ourselves. In line with our vision and commitment to our users, we have some awesome, new updates planned that will really help us all better communicate online during these unprecedented times. We’re unable to share much at the moment, but we can promise that this will be a massive game changer! As usual, you will continue to see some exciting new features regularly added to the app every month.
PS. Did you get to see us at Apple’s WWDC2020 Virtual Conference?!
What drove your decision to become digital twins and virtual influencers?
From finishing each other’s sentences to completing matching law degrees to starting a successful company together, coupled with our own individual sense of curiosity, we saw living as avatars a natural progression of our life’s journey.
As identical twins, we have been extremely curious about humanity and how us twins are unique individuals born in tandem, living gifts to science and to humanity combined. For us, the feeling of belonging is one we see as a personal, social, and individual discovery of our selfhood.
As with most of everything we do, we like to start things as experiments. Hripsy and Colina is just another one we were excited to explore and passionate about! We guess you can think of us as scientists who like to build avatars and want to create their own ideal world, a place we can call home and a utopia where all our friends can join the fun (above the clouds)! You can call us “virtual influencers” now that we have over 135,000 followers on Instagram!
In one of your virtual influencer posts, you say “everyone deserves a chance to feel fulfillment and acceptance of who they are.” How does this mindset pertain to your work on Moji Edit?
As founders of Moji Edit, understanding that trust, acceptance, loyalty, and brand building starts with a community is what makes us different from anyone dealing with the same situation.
Accomplishing this multi-faceted aspect of emoji avatars is the key to providing a uniting experience for all our millions of users: from respecting and acknowledging the notion of gender and not seeing sexuality as a social construct, to understanding that offering personalization (to a high degree) when creating an avatar is empowering for our users and representing the product in the most authentic way.
Within the last year, we have developed our own advanced avatar creation technology powered with the intelligence of AI. This further shows our desire to create tools and opportunities for people to better represent themselves, construct their own identity, find their sense of fulfillment and allow them to celebrate what makes them unique. Our commitment has always been to maintain inclusivity, embrace cultural diversity, empower creativity, and uphold equality for all.
We hope to inspire many others with our story, and that they will go beyond any expectations today as we all drive tomorrow’s innovation forward in all the aspects of what we do. Not only do we believe in the future, but we are shaping it every single day with the work we do. At the heart of our commitment is to create a better world with avatars.
What helps you feel fulfillment and acceptance in who you are?
We find acceptance and a sense of fulfillment when our users tell us we are doing a great job. When your work is in the hands of millions, we think it becomes less about ourselves and more about how we can help others to feel acceptance and belonging in their own lives. We’re simply humbled to have the opportunity to follow our passions and keep true to who we are, as we grow personally and professionally.
As twins, where do your passions overlap, and where do they diverge?
While we have common interests and values, we have individual passions that motivate us. We have found that our uniqueness is that we can share a common goal but often propose uniquely different ways in achieving them.
What do you do for fun, when work is completely out of the question?
When we’re not working, we like to spend time designing and building creative projects. We enjoy drawing on our iPads and freeing up our minds in the most creative ways possible. Did you know we both play the piano and are mean scrabble players?!
When outdoors, we enjoy going for long adventurous walks and taking cool photos. We like to lead our life curiously and learn about history, art, and architecture. This is a newfound passion, sparked from our recent travels.
What is the importance of virtual influencers? Are they important?
As we have already witnessed, there is a great emergence and proliferation of virtual humans. This has become the new mode of virtual influence. The shift to virtual influencers partly began as a result of our innate search to find new modes of self-expression, self-presentation, and self-awareness. These are tied to our human traits, characteristics, and qualities that allow us to live our truest and most authentic self.
Virtual humans create new opportunities for us to explore different dimensions of our personal, social, creative, and escapist desires. They can help us fulfill various needs in virtual environments and digital manifestations. The opportunities virtual influencers can offer to individuals, creators, and brands further presents them with a new connected medium to amplify their presence and voice in untapped digital arenas.
From our own learnings and firsthand experience, we have understood that the successful creation of a virtual influencer requires authentic story formation and storytelling capabilities.
Where do you see the virtual influencer industry heading?
With the demands of the Internet and the increasing importance to connect with our global fans, customers, and the wider community at large, we see virtual influencers playing a key role in shaping our online messaging and making these experiences more personal and rewarding. We’re sure we will see this phenomenon gaining more momentum over the next coming months, especially as most of us are living under quarantine conditions.
We have all seen the rise of the influencer marketing industry over the last few years. Virtual influencers pose brands, marketers, and brand strategists new untapped economic opportunities to build relationships with their target demographics whilst effectively managing their consumer behaviors and positively increasing their engagement levels with their products.
We are confident that virtual influencers will undoubtedly and inevitably become part of our social and cultural norms. We’re proud to support and make our own contributions to the virtual influencer space.
What role do you intend to play in the future of the virtual influencer industry?
We have and will continue to heavily invest, shape, and bring awareness to the virtual influencer industry. More importantly, we will use our resources to advocate for the positive benefits that virtual avatars and virtual influencers can bring to society. At Double Trouble Creatives, we will drive forward our mission to deliver immersive avatar experiences and power fan connectedness for virtual influencers using our avatar technology.
Who is a famous person who should create a digital twin of themselves, and why?
We wish Rosa Parks had created a digital twin of herself. While Rosa is no longer with us, she is one of those women who changed the world for the better. Her enormous and strong contributions to the civil rights movement, along with her fight for freedom is much needed in today’s world.
She will always be remembered.
Now, a question I ask every virtual—who are you, Hripsy and Colina?
We are quite literally our own selves, living the best life we can live (just virtually!)
Thank you, both, for your time.
Check out Hrispy and Colina, and follow their journey!