18 year old Vancouverite Brian Wong embodies this quote. As the co-founder of FollowFormation.com, a tool that helps twitter “noobs” follow the top users in the category of their choice, Brian Wong has traditionally stayed “under the radar” and allowed his products to take the spotlight. Now, as he’s admitted to me, that’s about to change.
I caught up with him at downtown Coal Harbour for a quick interview on what he’s up to. When I say “caught” I mean it in the literal sense as we’ve been playing email tag for the good half of this year. Earlier this week, I finally got to sit down with him & he, being the A.D.D energetic wizard kid he is, initiated my first walking interview:
Passion & Skill: The Driving Forces Behind Brian’s Success
Anyone that has met Brian in person knows that he’s passionate about what he does. That, and he loves talking. Take a look at followformation.com, his design company aer marketing, or his recent slide presentation at Mini Enterprize and you’ll see the perfect blend of aesthetic appeal & quality content.
When I asked him where he learned all his design skills, he said they were “self-taught.” The simplicity and elegance of his design style rivals many top designing companies I know and yet he taught himself! He’s obviously got some natural skill & talent. Imagine if even a fraction of students discovered that unchartered territory of where their passions meet their skills and build those skills!
No Free Lunch: Hard Work Pays Off
However, Brian would also argue emphatically that he worked his butt off to get where he’s at. I wouldn’t agree more. Lucas Lemanowicz, his now co-founder who started off as a developer for Aer, tells me of the time Brian got the idea for FollowFormation:
“It was 4am, and Brian had just called me to wake me up & tell me about his crazy idea. All I could say is, ‘what time is it?!?!’ ” – Lucas Lemanowicz
These stories and more abound in Brian’s life. He’s also known for his sporadic sleeping pattern, which you can ask him about yourself.
However, it’s not just hard work & crazy sleeping that brought Brian to where he is. It’s the fact that he actually went out and did it. He didn’t talk about it, complain about how hard the economy is, or whine about how his previous employees didn’t give him the freedom to create. He went out and made his own company and did all those things.
That’s the pattern I’m seeing over and over in interviewing successful entrepreneurs. When everyone else was talking about it, they went out and did it.
When I probed him further about his lack of personal online presence, he admitted:
“People are telling me I’m hoarding all this information but that’s not it at all. I spend time making presence for the things I do. My actions matter, not my thoughts.” – Brian Wong
Those words speaks highly of the maturity that has led to his current success. Brian has mastered at 18 years what many people still have trouble mastering @ 40.
Connecting with people that matter: Not Just Hard Work but Smart Work
In addition to Kevin Rose, founder of Digg, Brian has been traveling the globe connecting with influential people like Gary Vaynerchuk & the team behind RetailMeNot & BugMeNot. To him, they are “people that matter.” That’s his advice. To connect with the people that matter to you.
But he doesn’t like telling people who he’s met with because they get so focused on those people, they’re missing the point. It’s not the names of these “celebrities” he’s connect with, but rather how he made those connections.
As a quick story to end off, Brian talks about how he started to build his worldwide network & got connected with Kevin Rose. FollowFormation had just made some big news through Mashable and other similar sites and Brian phoned the worldwide Twitter conference in LA, told him he was a poor student, and asked if there was any solution. The receptionist replied that only speakers get in for free. He then asked to be a speaker. The rest is, as they say, history!
As Brian heads off to San Fran to work for Digg, I’ve asked him if he plans on coming back.
“Of course! Vancouver is my home! I won’t forget her!”
I’ll end off with a quote from Guy Kawasaki. Brian chatted with him in LA & Guy told him this:
“Focus on making meaning & the money will come.” – Guy Kawasaki