Original Influencer: Marques Brownlee '15 Knows Tech
"Hey, what's up, MKBHD here."
That's how Stevens alumnus Marques Brownlee '15 begins his video posts, introducing the fast-moving world of consumer tech to a wide (and still growing) global audience.
MKBHD, as Brownlee calls himself, has accumulated nearly 13.6 million subscribers on YouTube to date, plus millions more followers across other social media platforms. In 2020, he was named to Forbes' 30 Under 30 in Social Media list.
It all began with a video review of a remote control bundled with an HP Pavilion laptop. And though that was years ago, the eventual Stevens business and technology student was already displaying the flair, attention to detail and focus on the user experience that would soon make him famous.
“One of the things that’s been important to me since the beginning is to make videos that I would want to watch,” Brownlee has said. “At many points along the way, there are various temptations to deviate from that, but I think we’ve stayed pretty true to that mission.”
That core objective is what led his work in all sorts of interesting directions. He’s considered the last word on the latest smartphone; once asked a question of President Barack Obama during a virtual fireside chat; made a stylish commercial for Tesla’s Model S electric car; and interviews luminaries like Will Smith, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Elon Musk and Kobe Bryant.
But it’s not the names or brands that have made him such a phenomenon. It’s authenticity and enthusiasm for what he uniquely does: break down tech in ways we can all relate to.
“There’s so many times when you’re watching a video about a product, and you can kind of tell that person doesn’t really buy all of what they’re saying,” he said. “Making YouTube videos isn’t sustainable until you’ve reached a certain level — and you don’t reach that level without being excited about it and really enjoying what you’re doing.”
Brownlee's tech acumen is apparent throughout his videos. And as his channel has expanded, he has also needed to think like an entrepreneur in creative control of his own brand.
“I still want this to be my brush, on my canvas, but as a one-person team, it’s really difficult to do both more and better,” Brownlee revealed. “I’ve hired these super-talented video guys, and while it’s tough for me to hand off animation, or special effects, or even the camera work, that’s what I’ve been doing, sharing my eye for the way I want things to look and incorporating all they bring to the table.”
The quality of his work certainly hasn’t diminished during the channel’s explosive growth. In 2018, MKBHD was recognized as Creator of the Decade in the 10th annual Shorty Awards, honoring the best in social media.
One thing he doesn’t have in common with most entrepreneurs, though, is an exit strategy. For now, Brownlee's long-term plan is all about his very next video.
“As long as it’s still this much fun, I don’t really see a clear-cut end,” he says.