Brian Wong to Young Entrepreneurs: “Assume That Nobody Gives a Shit about You” [Interview]

April 18, 2012

11:30 am

Just turned 21, entrepreneur Brian Wong is already racking up achievements: graduated college at 18, worked at Digg, founded Kiip, got funding.

But, on Skype at least, Wong comes off as humble: he brushed aside a comparison to Mark Zuckerberg, wants his business to take the spotlight, and explained how luck and teamwork fueled his success.

And it’s no small success: Kiip is a mobile ad network that bypasses the notion of banner ads. Instead, apps with Kiip installed show pop-up rewards when players achieve things: win a level, get a free Pepsi. Close to 200 games now use it, putting rewards in front of about 35 million US users. That network will only expand, with Kiip’s Build Fund: $5,000 each for 20 independent app developers to kickstart their projects.

Perhaps Wong’s next achievement will read: disrupted mobile advertising.

In the meantime, here is Wong’s take on Mark Zuckerberg, “cocky, ego-driven” young entrepreneurs, how people underestimate him, and more.

Tech Cocktail: How do you feel being compared to Mark Zuckerberg?

Wong: First of all, I think it’s only my PR agency that really does that comparison; I don’t know if anybody else in real life actually does.

He has built a very great image for himself and almost on a daily basis creates an urban legend in the entrepreneurial community and overall in the world in general. People have looked on him in awe as to what he’s been able to do and build wealth so quickly.

But I think this is giving birth to a generation, unfortunately, of extremely cocky, ego-driven young entrepreneurs that think that just because they’re young, they should be paid attention to. Which is just very unfortunate, because there’s a lot that they need to continue to build in value that just doesn’t come from “just because you’re young you deserve this” kind of thing. I really hope that people realize that and continue to build their businesses for the sake of building their business and not just because of the fact that someone else has been able to do it at a rapid pace….

I am my own person, I am my own class of entrepreneur, and I will build a company without anybody asking me how I built it compared to someone else. I’m going to build it my way.

Tech Cocktail: What would you say to those young entrepreneurs who are trying to be Mark Zuckerberg?

Wong: Just be patient, and be humble, and build your profile and your company from the ground up. Assume that nobody gives a shit about you, that nobody cares about your company, nobody cares about you, nobody cares about anything you do, and once you do that it’s very easy to work your ass off and start from the beginning. Because maybe it is true, maybe it isn’t; either way, it’s a good thing to take that attitude.

Tech Cocktail: In terms of being a young entrepreneur, what are some of the benefits and drawbacks? 

Wong: I turned 21 this weekend. It honestly did not feel as significant as people might think …. In the beginning when your company is very new and hasn’t really proven a lot, of course you really become the novelty factor, people focus on you: age, age, age. And then after a while, people are like, “Huh, this business is actually pretty interesting.” If my business was really boring and had nothing exciting about it, they would continue to focus on me. So I’m very glad that the shiny object is now the business and not just me….

With age, you have to learn by spending as much time as you can with these [older] guys. Another quick example: the last year, I think 3 of our employees and their wives had babies. And I will never understand that until at some point in my life. I can’t even try to pretend; even if I tried to pretend, it would be offensive. So I try not to pretend and just go, “Okay, you just tell me” – and I spent some time with people who I knew that weren’t at the company, just like, “What are normally things you should be doing to be accommodating?”

The advantages, of course, still remain the same. You have the excuse to learn all the time. And when you do progress and you do nail down things, people totally underestimate you. It’s really funny. They’ll go, “Wow.” I’m like, “Dude, I’m running a company. I know how to do this. It’s a very obvious thing, and I’m glad you’re proud that I can do it, but this was a natural order of things.”

Check out our other interview with Brian Wong at SXSW 2012.

Check out part 2 of this interview with Brian Wong

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Kira M. Newman is a Tech Cocktail writer interested in the harsh reality of entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and psychology. She is the founder of The Year of Happy and has been traveling around the world interviewing entrepreneurs in Asia, Europe, and North America since 2011. Follow her @kiramnewman or contact kira@tech.co.

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