San Jose

How to Cheat Like an Entrepreneur

Kiip founder Brian Wong shared the secrets to his success

By Alex Ling


Entrepreneur Brian Wong ducked into the conference room fashionably late. He flashed a wide smile and let loose a current of hyperactive and positive energy.


Almost everything Wong says is punctuated with an exclamation mark. It’s one of his secrets for getting what he wants (cheat #51, but more on that later).

Wong has a talent, perhaps a super power (cheat #16), for achieving goals ahead of schedule. He graduated from college by age 18; raised $24 million in venture capital to start his company, Kiip, before he turned 25; and grew Kiip into a $20 million per year global mobile advertising giant in just four years.

Now, Wong wants to share the secrets of his success. His latest accomplishment is "The Cheat Code," a book that describes 71 shortcuts Wong has used to accelerate his success. On October 3rd, NAAAP San Jose presented the latest event in its entrepreneurship series, a fireside chat with Wong about his book and his journey as an entrepreneur.

Wong’s entrepreneurial career began when he was still a child. “I learned to design when I was 12!” he stated. At the time, Wong was obsessed with the video game Counter-Strike. “I wanted a cool insignia for my team, so I got a copy of Photoshop and learned how to design,” he said. Other players noticed Brian’s work and began commissioning him to create art for their teams. “For a 12-year old, that money adds up. It can buy lots of Skittles!” Wong joked.

An ambitious child, Wong was not content to work for candy. He skipped four grades and graduated from the University of British Columbia at the age of 18. Wong then entered the work force. “I cold called [cheat #50] Digg, a social news site. They got me work and an H1-B work visa,” Wong recalled.

Unfortunately, Digg hit hard times and Wong was laid off mere months after securing his first job. Wong’s work visa expired, so he was forced to fly back home to Vancouver. Little did he know that this trip would play a critical role in his future.

Wong killed time during the flight by playing video games on his smart phone. He looked around and noticed that everyone else in the cabin was also furiously tapping away at their phone screens.

“That’s when the idea for Kiip hit,” Wong recalled. He knew that the marketing programs that most brands used to reward customers for their loyalty were ineffective. These programs relied on point accumulation schemes, which were tedious and drawn out. Wong realized he could boost customer loyalty by mimicking the achievement moments found in video games. These achievements, such as leveling up and reaching a high score, produce positive emotions that Wong figured he could associate with brands through a software platform.

As soon as he landed, Wong began working on the Kiip platform. He envisioned software that would provide customers with gifts whenever they engaged in certain behaviors. A food and drink brand, for example, could provide customers with free samples whenever they looked up recipes on their smart phones.

Wong then drew upon his design skills and created a crude mockup that depicted what an achievement moment would look like using the Kiip platform. He shopped his idea around and raised $300,000 from investors. “That seemed cool at age 19, but that only paid for two salespersons!” Wong joked.

Wong’s idea took flight, and today, Kiip boasts an impressive roster of high-profile clients including Kraft, The New York Times and Campari. Wong, however, is modest about his achievements. “Success is a relative term,” he explained. “I’m only in the first inning of a 30 inning game!”

Wong’s definition of success is optionality. “Success creates the option to do multiple things with the time and money available,” he explained. “With those things, you can raise more time and money.”

One of the options that Wong’s success has provided, was the opportunity to write “The Cheat Code.” “A publisher approached me and asked me to write a book,” he explained. Wong had never written a book before, but he had lots of ideas. “I felt there was a lot lacking in most business books,” he said. “Most tell you to follow your passions. But how do you do that? That’s not actionable.”

“The Cheat Code” is filled with actionable advice taken from Wong’s life experiences. Wong believes that most people tend to do things the way others do them because that way works. “The Cheat Code” shows people how to shortcut their way to success by doing things differently from everyone else.

For example, Wong feels that most people waste their energy trying to fix their shortcomings. “What a waste!” he said. Instead, Wong advises people to focus their resources on sharpening their strengths and developing one into a superpower. “A superpower is a skill that you do better than most people,” he explained. “Ask yourself, what didn’t feel like work? What was effortless? That’s your superpower.” Wong’s superpower is his ability to excite people. “I can describe something to you and get you excited about it. It’s contagious!” he said.

Wong concluded the event by signing copies of his book. “This was a fun event. Very interesting!” said Ricky Chan, of the event’s attendees. “Brian is an exciting speaker. He has lots of good ideas. I will read his book soon.”

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