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Stanford GSB | Mr. Co-Founder & Analytics Manager
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Darden | Mr. MBB Aspirant/Tech
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Is An MBA Really Worth It? Confessions Of A Self-Made Millionaire

Kiip’s Brian Wong

Is An MBA Worth It? Confessions of a Self-Made Millionaire

For those considering an MBA, you may want to hear some advice from this self-made millionaire.

Brian Wong is the CEO & co-founder of Kiip, a mobile advertising company. Wong founded Kiip at age 19. He’s one of the youngest CEOs to ever receive funding from a venture capitalist firm and he became a self-made millionaire at 20. Business Insider has named him one of the “18 Most Important People in Mobile Advertising.” He’s even been listed in Forbes’ “30 under 30.” Wong says if you’re pursuing an MBA for a “safety net” or in hopes that it will give you “direction,” you’re doing it all wrong.

“My whole point is, I don’t want you to take an MBA for all the wrong reasons,” Wong tells Business Insider. “Don’t do something for some weird backup plan… Do something for an intention and I think you’ll get way more out of it.”

For Wong, business is about experience. He says experience is the new MBA.

“The new MBA is the MBA of doing stuff,” Wong says. “Like, going out there, building something, tripping and falling along the way, getting back up. Those are the best lessons that you will learn, especially in the business world.”

Wong is a master of falling only to get back up even stronger. He graduated from the University of British Columbia at just 18 and has gotten to where he’s at from jumping into the deep end. When graduating from UBC, Wong immediately began networking with professionals to seek guidance.

“I was doing everything I could to get as many informational interviews and coffee meetings as I could,” Wong says in an interview with Groove. “I was genuinely curious about what it means to work in a startup. What are the jobs like? What am I expected to do? When you’re genuinely curious, people are willing to help you.”

After networking repeatedly, Wong landed a job at Digg, a social news aggregator. But things went south fast. After merely five months at Digg, Wong was let go as the company went though a round of corporate layoffs. Eventually, Wong, a Canadian citizen, would have to return to his parents’ home in Vancouver after his visa expired. He was unemployed.

“I just showed up at their door,” Wong recalls. “It freaked out my parents; my dad came out with a shovel thinking I was someone breaking in. When they realized it was me, though, they were very relieved. They were caring and supportive and understanding, so it was everything I could have asked for.”

Wong’s big idea came from an experience he had on an airplane.

“I remember seeing people on their phones, and I was like, ‘they’re all playing games,’” Wong recalls. “It got me thinking: why is mobile gaming so popular all of a sudden? And what exactly is causing this adoption?”

Wong realized a big problem in the gaming industry: advertising. He saw advertising in games to be “unnatural.” – “How can something—banner ads and interstitials—be so ubiquitous, and yet so rejected by the consumer?” Wong says.

The realization brought Wong back to the drawing board. He began drafting ideas on alternatives to the traditional advertising method. It was then that he found his idea for Kipp. Rather than shove advertisements down the consumer’s throat, Wong theorized to have brands offer rewards instead. Rewards—such as products and gift cards—would take the place of banner ads inside mobile games.

With $300,000 in funding from True Ventures and two co-founders—Courtney Guertin and Amadeus Demarzi, Wong started Kipp and revolutionized gaming advertising. According to CNBC, the company is on track to make more than $20 million in revenue this year.

For Wong, it wasn’t a formal MBA education that taught him the most valuable lessons in business. It was experience.

“Business, you can learn so much,” Wong says. “There is no life or death. That’s the best part about our industry. There is no life or death and you can learn so much just by doing.”

Sources: Business Insider, Groove, CNBC

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