Alumni Voices: Marcos Brisson '23

Marcos Brisson, Co-Founder and CEO of Kaizntree

Hometown: Hong Kong, China and Sydney, Australia

Major: Business and Finance, Minor in Mandarin/Global Chinese Studies 

When COVID-19 hit, Marcos Brisson ’23 quickly pivoted to studying remotely in Sydney before finishing at NYU Stern. While it wasn’t exactly what he expected, his four years as an NYU Shanghai student forced him to forge his own entrepreneurial path. Before graduation, he and his classmate-turned-business partner Benoît Van Keer ’23, founded their own company, Kaizntree, which has since grown to a full-time venture.

What attracted you to NYU Shanghai?

I grew up in Hong Kong and I was studying Mandarin every day. I thought that China represented a really big opportunity. I wanted to be able to learn the language and understand the culture. So it was really a no-brainer when I got in. 

I really loved living in Shanghai. I liked the idea that I could stay there and perfect my Mandarin, but also be connected to New York. It felt very exciting and full of adventure and mystery and I love the food. It forced me to speak Mandarin which was the main reason I picked the Shanghai campus. Before COVID, I was intending on spending three out of four years there, but it ended up only being very short. 

You only spent a semester in Shanghai, but it seems like it had a huge impact.

In my first semester, I met Benoît Van Keer ’23 who is now my co-founder. We went to an IMA talk about sustainable fashion, and we connected with one of the guest speakers. She invited us to her factory, and we started consulting her on her business. From there, we started a consulting company that later spawned into Kaizntree, which is an online platform that helps solo entrepreneurs streamline their sales channels and manage their production. 

Marcos Brisson (left) with his fellow NYU Shanghai alum and Kaizntree co-founder Benoît Van Keer.

A week after graduation, you joined NYU’s Startup Sprint accelerator program, the first of a whirlwind of opportunities. 

We got into that, which was insane. It's very, very intensive, nonstop, not much sleep. They push you very hard. A week after the NYU Entrepreneurial Institute’s Startup Sprint, we were invited to join NYU's flagship nine-week startup accelerator called the Summer Launchpad, which started the following Monday. It's an extremely intense program with daily workshops and impressive guest speakers. The accelerator is open to students, professors, and recent alumni but only seven startups across all NYU are admitted every year, and we're the first ever NYU Shanghai team. During the accelerator, NYU gave us a $10K grant and paired us with five amazing mentors who later became our first investors. 

In July, we became the first NYU Shanghai team ever selected to represent NYU at the 10th Annual NYU x Yale Pitchoff, and we won the competition. It's a prestigious event where NYU's top three startups compete against Yale's top three and our victory continued NYU’s winning streak for the 3rd year in a row. 

brisson with mentor
Brisson (right) with NYU Entrepreneurial Institute Executive Director Frank Rimalovski, after Kaizntree won the NYU Startup Demo Day pitch competition. 

In October we won the NYU Startup Demo Day pitch competition where we presented to an audience of 500 students, investors, and the public. In December, we started the NYU Stern Berkley Center for Entrepreneurship's flagship startup competition called the NYU Entrepreneurs Challenge, which is open to all NYU students and alumni across all campuses (only 23 startups were admitted). It includes a five month accelerator which culminates in a pitch competition where the winner receives $75K.

What does your current role as Founder in Residence at NYU’s Entrepreneurial Institute entail?

I provide one-on-one coaching to NYU student/alumni founders and I also coach teams doing the NYU startup programs. NYU has 11 Founders in Residence, including some Fobes 30 under 30, it's great to now have NYU Shanghai represented. I have been promoting entrepreneurship within our community, and actually a lot of the founders I coach are NYU Shanghai students. 

pitching at nyu yale pitch
Brisson pitching Kaizntree at the 10th Annual NYU x Yale Pitchoff

What’s your advice for NYU Shanghai students who’ve caught that entrepreneurial bug?

Follow your gut feeling and what interests you and something will come out of that, which is different from doing what you think you should be doing or what you are told to do.  [University] can be very stressful. There’s a constant cycle of going from exams to looking for internships. Before graduating in May 2023, I was applying for a lot of jobs, and I got great offers. I know I would have been miserable if I had not committed to Kaizntree. I'm very happy with how it worked out. 

Most startups fail. So you have to go into it with that mindset, which is like, what are we doing, and how are we different? What is it about us that puts Kaizntree above every other competitor? And so that pushes you a lot. It necessitates a lot of grit and a certain mindset which is different to what most people are used to. The reality is that startups are not for everyone.

If you're working on your own business, there are so many opportunities. Everything we've done with these accelerators so far has put us in the position where we can actually go full time on Kaizntree and execute our vision. To me, that's what NYU’s [global network] has been able to provide.