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Shortcuts to Becoming a Successful Entrepreneur… a Little Bit Faster

Brian Wong, co-founder and CEO, Kiip, shares his tips on how to make investors happy and how many exclamation marks to use in a business email and so on during a fireside chat by startup Grind.We share with you what the audience reacted to the most from the chat (whether it was a haha, aha! or hmmm…interesting moments).

Photo Credit : UBC Blogs - Olya Kubliy, Startup Grind, Techcrunch,

Brian Wong in Kiip
L to R - Sudeep Singh, Brian Wong
Screenshot of Kiip Rewardable Moment

Wong is famous for being 25 and having raised funds $32 million for Kiip, a mobile advertising network that enables brands and companies to prompt consumers for commercial offers on virtual achievements and so consistently at that. Founded in 2010, the series C round was closed about two months ago bringing in $12 million. Currently, Wong is in India and the ace entrepreneur is visiting ad conferences, scouting out more business opportunities with ad agencies and brand companies for Kiip as well as promoting his book, "The Cheat Code". It is a compilation of 71 things you can do to become successful a little faster than your competition.

How to reach investors and mentors

Bootstrapping in the Valley is incredibly rare unlike in India. There seem to be more investors than entrepreneurs in the Valley too (what with entrepreneurs turning investor freshly rich off of many tech exits). But it's still tough to find funds according to Brian. Although Kiip raised nearly $20 million before the recently closed C round, Wong says, "I had spoken to 40 investors to raise the latest round. And only one said yes."

So how did he do it? In 2009, Wong visited the valley seeking inspiration and opportunity. He is a Canadian born to a lower middle class family migrated from Hong Kong in 1982. Before that his father was smuggled to Hong Kong from Guangzhou, China. "When I started out I didn't have any contacts who could help me. As a Canadian you still have to deal with work visa issues and I only got my green card this year."

This is what worked for him. Asking for what he wanted. Being creative, being memorable. "There's a time to be humble and times not to be. You cannot be humble when you're building a company. Ask for what you want, whether it's help from a mentor, or funds from an investor, you must ask. It's okay if you're rejected, you're not worse off than you were before you hadn't asked. Try connecting on LinkedIn even of you don't know the people and they don't know you. Because I didn't know too many investors I cold emailed. If you don't know their emails addresses, guess. Most will be first name, last name, @ company Any other combinations that can work you put in the Bcc section so no one will know you were desperate enough to cold email!"

Your emails should be short, give only a teaser of your plans to make their business better, and memorable. So lines like "Hello kind sir, we would like to kindly present our plan…." are not as effective as getting to the point in few words as possible. Use exclamation points (min 1 and max 3), use words that show enthusiasm (for example 'great', 'amazing', you know what we mean). It's important because text alone won't convey your personality. "We had an app similar to the Snapchat filters, so we added a pig snout onto an investor faces and sent them those pictures and that made us stand out". Be memorable.

When you finally manage to get a meeting with an investor do not waste their time, stick to the time given. If your pitch is memorable and/or if they like you they will meet with you again. Do not think of investors as gods. Have a clear plan for your product and company, and stick with it. Do not keep changing your plan or products just because an investor didn't like or agree with it. Remember you're not pitching to the investor, you're helping the investor pitch your idea to the investor partnership.

And if you can't get any investors to fund you then get them on your advisory board. Everyone likes to receive respect and appreciation, and humans have an innate need to help others by passing on their knowledge. Perhaps one day these advisory investors may actually decide fund to your startup. But whatever you do, take on mentors who truly want your company to grow and are not just money-hungry.

Do not aim for mentors who are already incredibly successful or who has made it big. They don't necessarily relate or know what your problems at present are. Instead try to find a mentor who is maybe 6 months to a year ahead of you on the growth curve. They will have a better idea of how to help you and probably would have solved the exact same problem so you don't have to.

Potential in India

Kiip's premise is to do away with boring ad banners and get brands to present real-life gifts for consumers when they least expect it. "When you're playing a game and you see an ad banner or pop ad do you really go 'Wow, I really want to click this advertisement?'". Most of us will close the banner, be mildly annoyed at the interruption and resume playing the game. Kiip proposes to solve this problem by integrating the advertising, making it more natural and seamlessly part of the game. For instance imagine you're playing a gaming app that runs the Kiip code, and you this is the third time for the week you're accessing the game - out of the blue, boom! You get a voucher for pizza sponsored by X brand, or a discount to gym membership courtesy Company Y. It's about surprising and delighting consumers in such rewardable 'moments'. A consumer would never really know (or mind) that they are being advertised to.

"I can't even imagine the possibilities for consumer interaction of brands in the digital age. Think of what will happen when Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and chatbots come into play." Like if you're out of toilet paper and all you need to do is tell your phone and it will be delivered to you.

Such innovation will not be possible without expanding the market. According to Wong, India is a big part of the new markets to capture. While the US will still make up most of the 150 million users and revenue across the 5,000 apps that use Kiip, India is growing exponentially thanks to high smartphone adoption rates. "Only last year India had only 5 million users a month, this year it has increased to 7 million, and 18,000 rewardable moments. India is at such a position of growth; it's an exciting time to be an entrepreneur here in India."

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