Stephen Zhang is a digital marketing entrepreneur who knows what it takes to succeed. “If you have to lie or swindle customers to get the sale, then you have built a terrible product or service,” says Zhang, who has been an entrepreneur since elementary school. And he would know because he’s done it all – from selling cookies at lunch and trading eraser shavings as a kid to creating multiple 6-figure businesses in his 20s.
A self-proclaimed internet nerd, Zhang inherited his love for technology from his engineer dad. He learned to code early and earned his first $10,000 at the young age of 13 with Google Adsense on a gaming platform he coded. Zhang was also an early adopter of social media and digital marketing before it became mainstream. By the time he was in high school, Zhang had learned how to create content on social media and built one of the earliest top-performing meme pages on the internet. Zhang grew an audience of over 20M followers on Facebook and leveraged it to market products before he was 18 years old.
The Facebook page was Zhang’s launch pad in digital marketing. He built his first company from that page from his dorm room at UC Berkeley. The company dealt with marketing and delivering traffic to publications and news outlets, which was not a challenge with Zhang’s large audience on Facebook. During the same season, Zhang co-founded IQX, a portfolio company that controls over half a billion digital assets and works with publications to drive high volume traffic. Over time, Zhang’s company grew and he started partnering with celebrities to monetize their Facebook pages through the brand and publication partnerships. At 21, he sold that company and built another one immediately after the sale.
With his skills and expertise in digital marketing, it didn’t take long for Zhang to regrow his audiences on social media. HYGO, the new company, focused on video content and started attracting over 1 billion views per month. Zhang and his team monetized that with ad revenue, brand deals, and ecommerce. They made viral videos for partners and guaranteed them increased KPIs on views, traffic, and conversions. HYGO steadily grew, and once again, Zhang found himself at the top of the industry. Today, HYGO has over 30M followers online. It is renowned for creating viral videos for celebrities, content creators, and models to grow and monetize their audiences.
At the same time, Zhang was growing an ecommerce store with thousands of products. With his dedicated team, he created tens of thousands of original videos for the store to advertise the products. The market responded well, but after a while, Zhang sold the ecommerce store to concentrate on what he most loves doing: tech. He created a social media platform and a cyber-security firm.
Zhang attributes his success to two fundamental values: honesty and hard work. “Improve your product or service and give the client or partner something much more valuable than what they’re paying for. Not the other way around,” he says. He adds that there’s no such thing as an overnight success, even though it might look like that from the outside. Zhang has had to consistently and passionately do the work for years to get where he is, and he’s still working towards achieving more.