Described as a ‘category-creating innovation’ (there’s nothing even close to it in existence), Kiip is redefining mobile advertising through its one-of-a-kind mobile rewards network. By leveraging “moments of achievement” in games and apps, Kiip hands out rewards that simultaneously benefit users, developers and brands. It’s unique not only because it filled a niche that nobody knew was there, but also because its designer and company co-founder, UBC Sauder alumnus Brian Wong, beat Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg’s record for being the youngest entrepreneur to raise significant venture capital to launch his company.
Vancouver-born and raised, Wong graduated from high school at age 14, after skipping four grades. He enrolled in commerce at UBC, launching his first tech company while he was still a university student. Upon graduation at age 19 — Sauder’s youngest grad in its history — Wong accepted a job directing business development at news aggregator Digg. He started another company a few months later and another one shortly after that.
Today, with no fewer than four company launches under his belt, Wong has twice hit Forbes’s Top 30 Under 30 list, been named to Mashable’s 5 Young Entrepreneurs to Watch and been honoured by Youth in Motion as one of Canada’s Top 20 Under 20.
The idea for Kiip was born while Wong was on a flight to San Francisco in 2010. Looking around, Wong noticed a number of other passengers playing games on their mobile devices. Thanks to the creative marketing skills he learned at Sauder, he realized that a fierce advertising opportunity was staring him straight in the face.
But as most entrepreneurs know very well, the road from idea to implementation can be grueling. Wong had to raise money to get his humble startup off the ground. He pounded the Silicon Valley pavement hard, ultimately raising more than $24 million from venture firms such as Hummer Winblad, True Ventures, Amex, Interpublic Group, and Digital Garage.
Touted by industry experts as the future of mobile advertising, Kiip has turned the world of advertising on its ear. Instead of cluttering screen space with standard promotional offers, brands now can reach consumers with authentic, real-world rewards for in-game achievements. Wong explains: “Kiip helps brands be a part of these online successes through rewarding users with a surprise gift, like movie tickets.”
Currently active on more than 4,000 different apps and played on 120 million devices per month, Kiip hands out about five rewards per second from partner brands such as McDonald’s, Breyers, Toys “R” Us, Marriott and The Home Depot. These brands turn to Kiip to engage their audiences and build strong brand connections by rewarding people with free samples and special moments. Brands sign up for a contract and in return, Kiip brings them better analytics, brand research and audience targeting. It seems to be a win-win: Kiip’s annual revenues now top seven figures.
Wong chalks Kiip’s supersonic growth up to the business skills he developed at Sauder. When he hit the ground with a plan in 2010, he had to keep track of dozens of details and to-dos. He drew hard on all the practical knowledge he had learned while at UBC — things such as commercial law, interviewing techniques for hiring good people and strategies for securing investment funding.
At just 24, Wong’s youth often fools other executives into imagining that he is unseasoned — but backed by his BCom, Wong is no naïve newcomer. A keen believer that knowledge is power, Wong returns to Sauder every year to encourage and advise other entrepreneurs-to-be.
He is UBC’s special reward.