Young Entrepreneur Brian Wong: How (Not) to Disrupt a Market [Interview]

April 20, 2012

9:33 am

21-year-old entrepreneur Brian Wong believes in disrupting markets, not just plugging up holes with little apps. (See Brian Wong discuss this at SXSW 2012.) He himself is aiming to disrupt mobile advertising with Kiip, a rewards network that app developers can add to their apps.

On Wednesday, we published Brian Wong’s take on Mark Zuckerberg and young entrepreneurs. Below, hear his latest advice for entrepreneurs, how he came up with Kiip, and what motivates him day-to-day.

Tech Cocktail: What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs?

Wong: Stop asking questions and start doing things. I think you’re creating a false sense of security by trying to find the perfect data that otherwise would probably only minimize your risk by a very small increment.

Learn the skills that you don’t think you know, because it’s very easy to learn now. The information that’s available out there is more so now than it’s ever been before that you can go and learn pretty much any skill to do with building a tech-based business, by yourself, online. There’s no need to rely on someone or something….

Waiting on things to happen vs. trying to take matters into your own hands is not the policy to take here, because it’s only a matter of time before [we see] even younger entrepreneurs – I’m talking 16-, 15-year-olds that are now experts at their field. That trend will continue, and if you don’t learn and stay ahead, you will fall behind.

Tech Cocktail: How did you manage to think outside the box to come up with Kiip?

Wong: Partially it was luck. I’m not going to deny the fact that just accidentally spending time working with games, me being from a marketing background and being naturally drawn to advertising as a concept and working with big brands – and at the same time having this insight about how every app, every game … had these very, very unique moments. And then, I only just so happened in that point in time to understand the tech behind it….

It wasn’t really something where I said, ‘I’m going to go and disrupt a market,’ because the minute you do that, you’re not going to. If you say you’re going to disrupt a market, you’re not going to, because you’re trying too hard to find the way to disrupt it. Many of these things, unfortunately – and this is the bad news – it happens very naturally, and it happens organically over time when you meet more people and you have new investors and you have new advisers that come into the fray and totally blow your mind.

Here’s a quick example: the partnership we launched a few weeks ago with PepsiCo and Propel with MapMyRun – so you could basically get rewards for running – was something that came up late last year when we were talking to the team, and some other people were like, ‘Listen, wait, don’t achievements exist outside of games as well?’ I was like, ‘Hoooooly!’ And all of the sudden, it was like a whole new world just opened up.

And that wasn’t a part of the original vision, I’ll be very honest with you. We did not say, ‘Ooh, we’re going to reward every single achievement right away.’ It was looking at games. When you’re in this mode, when you’re building this company, like, ‘I know this is going to be it. I’m going to go and spend time building this part out.’ All of the sudden when you have that nailed down, there’s so many more opportunities that come up….

Tech Cocktail: What motivates you, and what do you enjoy most about your work?

Wong: Right now it’s seeing things that we had started a year ago just go at the speed of light. That is a very rewarding experience; you’ve waited so long and you’ve spent so much time and you’ve put so much effort into something that seeing it move at this pace – the fact that 10 million devices on a monthly basis see a Kiip reward is ridiculous….

Personally speaking, it’s really the fact that I created something that I know over time has a potential that only will happen with groups of people around me that can support [it]. And I’m very, very, very, very lucky that the team that we’ve assembled can actually do this. So the fact that they’re still here is a very big personal motivator, and I owe it to them to continue to drive as hard as I can to make sure that the outcome for everybody is as optimal as it can be…. It’s much less about me now. It never really was about me, but you realize how much you matter when you’re helping people grow in their livelihoods with their families and with your company.

Tech Cocktail: How long do you want to work on Kiip?

Wong: I see the large vision of Kiip as being a very long-term thing. There is a lot that we have to do still, and this notion of ‘Every achievement deserves a reward,’ and this ‘rewards layer of the world’ is a very, very, very exciting thing that we want to see deployed everywhere, in every corner of the world. And we will only get there by working continually just as hard, even harder, and building this thing out over time. And so I do see myself here for as long as I can see into the future.

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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 [email protected]

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