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Omaha Magazine

Be Kind and Be Involved

Sep 21, 2023 03:49PM ● By Chris Wolfgang
on the rise the Life Philosophy of Mark Wong

Photo by Bill Sitzmann.

"Maybe Google wasn’t as good as it is now,” Mark Wong, 36, said with a laugh. Born and raised in Stockholm, Sweden, Wong applied to a foreign exchange student program in the US right before his junior year. “I looked up Yuma High School and saw a bunch of cool pictures online, and then when I got there, I realized I’d been looking at Yuma, Arizona.”

Call it fate that Wong had actually applied to a high school in the small town of Yuma, Colorado, instead. The serial entrepreneur has called the prairie home ever since. It’s been a little over nine years now since he followed some college friends from Hastings to Omaha. 

“There are multiple factors why I’m still here,” Wong said. “I’m an explorer, and I think of living somewhere else. But ever since I’ve been here, the opportunities to be involved directly in the community have just been so great.”

Involvement is what you might call a common thread throughout his life. As a side project in college, Wong would throw weekend events in Omaha with friends who went to the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Calling themselves Defy Grav, they hosted several sold-out events at places like Rednecks, Sokol Auditorium, and Fun-Plex. Currently, Wong mentors at Do Space and the CBA Scholars Academy at UNO, and is an active volunteer with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. He’s the lead for the Hypes & Promotions team for the Greater Omaha Chamber’s 2023 YP Summit. He’s also one of three cofounders of Tippl, a marketing app for boosting the bar and restaurant industry in Omaha post-COVID.

Michael Friedman, cofounder and CEO of Tippl said, “We wanted to stimulate the overall industry economy. How do you know what places are still in business, or what new ones have opened? What would make you try out a new bar or go to a different place than your usual?” 

Users pay $5 a month to redeem a free drink every day at participating bars around Omaha. Every two weeks, a user can revisit a bar and redeem another drink. Beyond the cost of the beverage, there’s no participating fee for the bar. While Omaha is serving as the test market for Tippl, the founders want to expand regionally into Lincoln and Des Moines within a year.

“Mark is a huge promoter,” Friedman said. “He makes connections, designs graphics, everything. He wants to make communal decisions, but you also don’t have to tell him what to do.”

Their relationship is an example of how professionalism should be executed even among friends, according to Friedman. “We said early on that if we want this to work, we have to act like it’s a business.”

For Wong, that’s in addition to his day job as a full-stack developer…and the regular pro bono web and graphic design work he does for nonprofits and local small businesses.

“Mark does say no,” Friedman insisted. “So, if he says he’ll do something, you know he will. In fact, when people ghost after they’ve committed to something, he actually gets a little mad. Because he respects people a lot, and he expects that in return.”

Ask Wong when he sleeps and he just grins. “I’m not burned out whatsoever. Helping other people is like my fuel. I’ve gotta do my best to be kind to people. You don’t know what a stranger is going through. I would never want to risk putting someone in those dark places.”

Trying to make changes in a community is part of that. Oh, he’s not above being a bum on a couch and watching sci-fi with Bronco, his Siberian husky. “But volunteering is a big thing for me,” Wong says. “One person can’t change the world, but as long as you can change how you are to other people, your energy is contagious.”

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This article originally appeared in the October/November 2023 issue of B2B Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.  
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