Just nine years after accepting his own sheepskin from Stevens Institute of Technology (SIT), YouTube gadget guru Marques Brownlee was back on campus to deliver the 2024 commencement address at his alma mater on Wednesday, May 22. He’d been given seven minutes in which to deliver his remarks—a time period shorter than the videos he creates for his YouTube followers, he quipped.

“Find something that gets you excited,” Brownlee told the assembled prospective graduates. “This is the perfect time to take a minute and ask yourself those big questions. Like, who am I? Like, what do I really want to do?”

It was during his time at Stevens that Brownlee, known professionally as MKBHD, began to establish himself as a significant online presence. He’d recorded his first video in 2009, three years before matriculating. But by the time he graduated in 2015 with a BS in business and information technology, MKBHD had built a YouTube following of more than 2.5 million subscribers.

At Stevens, he divided his time between studying, making videos, and playing ultimate frisbee for the school team. Although Brownlee originally intended to seek a job in tech marketing, his growing YouTube fame prompted one professor to ask, “Why haven’t you dropped out yet?”

Since graduating, MKBHD has scaled his following to more than 20 million subscribers. His operation now includes 13 other content creators. Brownlee and his team have also launched two Youtube spinoff channels: the Studios, featuring behind-the-scenes content; and Autofocus, a channel devoted to reviewing cars. Brownlee and Andrew Manganelli (MKBHD’s first full-time hire and a fellow ultimate enthusiast) have also turned their in-studio conversations into the podcast Waveform, one of the most popular tech shows on Apple and Spotify. Brownlee was the cover subject of Fast Company’s recent “Next Big Things in Tech” issue.

While his success, Brownlee said during his address, was due to “the state of the world, finding a niche, [and] capitalizing on good luck,” he added that “purpose is a tool. And to me, it’s the most powerful.”

During the ceremony, Stevens awarded Brownlee an honorary doctorate of business administration, leading his followers to redub him, “MKPHD.”


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