Forbes 30 Under 30: UBC Sauder’s standout innovators
UBC Sauder’s reputation for developing market disruptors with the ability to take business in new directions is being built one student at a time.
Inspired by innovation, UBC Sauder graduates leverage their experience and relationships to generate business solutions that challenge the status quo and create new value in the marketplace. Meet four of our BCom grads celebrated for their game-changing achievements in Forbes 30 Under 30.
Since launching at New York Fashion Week alongside Marc Jacobs, Cathy Han has taken the retail world by storm with her software company.
42 Technologies takes data collected at the till and transforms it into easy-to-read graphics, which allows retailers to instantly see what products are catching shoppers’ eyes and how their sales can be improved. From this data, retailers can also develop customer profiles and offer tailored product recommendations.
Simply put, “42 brings online intelligence to offline retail,” says Han, who was inspired by entertainment giant, Netflix. “Look at how Netflix has personalized TV,” she explains. “It made sense to us, with shopping being such a fundamental experience, to try and personalize this as well.”
Han attributes her entrepreneurial success to UBC Sauder professors who continue to act as her mentors.
Nowadays, she finds herself in the role of mentor for up-and-coming UBC Sauder students.
“I have students calling me, saying, ‘I’m too young and inexperienced.’ I tell them, inexperience is the best thing you’ve got.”
Han notes that the risks and expectations for those fresh out of the gate are much lower, which can be an advantage.
“If you go out there and try something big and it doesn’t work, the world still goes on. But if it works, the rewards are bigger and you can really make an impact.”
Han’s company is doing just that, expecting to top seven-figure revenues in 2018.
A curious attitude and an aptitude for marrying business, innovation and social responsibility, earned UBC Sauder graduate Jessica Lam her place in the esteemed Forbes 30 Under 30 list.
Her company Kaiterra and its leading device, the Laser Egg 2, monitors air quality in the home and has been praised for its accuracy and ease of use. The product also allows users to know what’s in the air they’re breathing so they can make informed choices about air filtration and even identify pollution sources.
As a Bachelor of Commerce graduate, Lam describes UBC Sauder as “the place to be” that helped foster her penchant for learning and develop the tools to combine her social conscience with business.
“We learned that every company has its own way of impacting the world,” she says, “through its employees, its product or its leadership – and that making that impact a positive one just makes sense.”
What’s next? Now that Kaiterra has successfully launched the Laser Egg 3, Lam and her team are taking the company to the next level by focusing on working with smart cities to help monitor and map air quality on a much larger scale.
Brian Wong is no stranger to exceeding expectations and pushing the boundaries of convention. A child prodigy, Wong began his Bachelor of Commerce degree at UBC Sauder at the age of 14.
At 19, he created the mobile advertising network, Kiip. His mobile rewards app tracks virtual moments of achievement - like beating a personal best on a fitness tracker or levelling up on an online game - and allows advertisers to provide consumers with real-world rewards like gift tokens or product samples for these accomplishments.
Named to Forbes 30 under 30 three times, Wong raised $15 million in venture capital for Kiip at age 20, becoming the youngest-ever VC fundraiser and breaking the record previously held by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
Before there was Kiip there was UBC Sauder. “I think the school has so much potential to unlock so many more amazing entrepreneurial minds,” says Wong, who is cultivating connections with each new generation of graduates.
UBC Sauder students are exposed to innovative ideas in the classroom thanks, in part, to instruction from the school’s entrepreneurship lead, Paul Cubbon. “I’ve seen how the programs and teaching have evolved to get new information, courses and ideas into the students’ hands,” adds Wong, “which gives me a lot of confidence that the school is very well equipped to produce grads who can change the world.”
What’s next? In October 2017, Kiip expanded its mobile rewards platform to connected TVs, starting with Amazon’s Fire TV and giving viewers the opportunity to win prizes through a click of their remote.
In 2012, four years after graduating from UBC Sauder’s Bachelor of Commerce program, Ian Crosby co-founded Bench, a wildly successful online bookkeeping company, out of the prominent American business-technology accelerator Techstars NYC.
Today, the Forbes 30 Under 30 entrepreneur is lauded as one of the world’s leading tech innovators. With Bench, Crosby has carved out an entirely new space in the professional services market with an online model that removes the burden of bookkeeping for 29 million under-served small business owners across the United States. Pairing intuitive software with a live bookkeeping team, Bench combines the convenience of consumer technology with the expertise and human service of the big firms, allowing entrepreneurs to focus on building their businesses.
Crosby says his experience in UBC Sauder’s consulting and management program was a key boost to his career, as a dedicated lecturer helped land him a job at top consulting firm Bain & Company. It was while working there that he and his Bench co-founder, a fellow UBC Sauder alum saw the major advantage large firms hold over startups: only the big players can afford high end bookkeeping services. So the pair decided to level the playing field.
"Small business owners didn't need another set of bookkeeping tools,” says Crosby. “They needed something that, with the click of a button, would take the guesswork out of bookkeeping and deliver standardized, auditable, trustworthy financials.
Bench has fundamentally changed the way thousands of small business owners approach their finances, making something that was once complicated and unattractive, simple and engaging. Crosby’s goal is to double bookkeeper efficiency by 2020.