SME Tech

Hard work building Throne for game

Secretlab founders Alaric Choo (far left, on the Throne V2) and Ian Ang (left, on the Omega). The impetus to set up Secretlab came last December, when Mr Ang was moving house and wanted to buy a gaming chair for his new computer set-up.
Secretlab founders Alaric Choo (far left, on the Throne V2) and Ian Ang (left, on the Omega). The impetus to set up Secretlab came last December, when Mr Ang was moving house and wanted to buy a gaming chair for his new computer set-up.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Secretlab founders built their own gaming chair when they couldn't find an affordable one

It may be just a piece of furniture to some people but local start-up Secretlab's gaming chairs have become objects of desire.

The first 200 pieces of the Throne V1 gaming chair were snapped up at its launch in March this year.

The start-up broke even within a month - a feat that far surpassed both co-founders' expectations.

"We knew that there was a demand for it, but we didn't know that it'd pick up that fast," said Secretlab co-founder and business development director Ian Ang, 23.

Building on Throne V1's success - 1,000 units have been sold so far - the company launched two new products this month: the Throne V2 and the premium Omega, which is targeted at office workers.

EVERY STEP A RISKY ONE

It was like eating glass every day. I think that to be an entrepreneur you have to be very tenacious because, at many points, we wanted to give up. A lot of times, things didn't go as planned, and there were also a lot of things that we weren't very sure of, so every decision was a risk.

MR IAN ANG, Secretlab co-founder and director of business development, on the start-up process

The impetus to set up Secretlab came last December, when Mr Ang was moving house and wanted to buy a gaming chair for his new computer set-up. He found that the only gaming chairs on the market all cost $600 or more each.

"Back then, the prices in Singapore were ridiculous," said Mr Ang.

Secretlab co-founder and creative development director Alaric Choo, 27, said: "We wanted to come up with something that would be competitive."

This led the pair, both former competitive Starcraft II players, to try and design the perfect gaming chair from scratch. As neither of them had any experience in this area, they learnt the ropes of the business by checking out competitors' chairs, among other things.

They also made the right hires: an experienced furniture designer and delivery personnel. The designer lets the start-up sell directly to consumers and keep distribution overheads low.

Four months later, in March, their working prototype was ready - a white-striped version of the chair that Mr Ang still uses in his office.

The finished product was launched later that month, and cost $349 - less than most other chairs in the market.

The latest Throne V2 is going at $429, and the office-ready Omega - so named because it is billed as the last chair you will ever need to buy - is $499. To appeal to the gaming crowd, the Throne V2 comes decked out in racing stripes in rainbow colours, while the Omega features a much more subtle black or white design.

Secretlab is now a 15-man outfit. In August, it moved into a new office space in Bendemeer Road that functions as a warehouse, showroom and office.

For the founding pair, it is almost a second home. The office is filled with musical instruments, video game memorabilia and posters lining the walls.

But for the Secretlab founders, success has been hard-won.

"It was like eating glass every day," said Mr Ang of the start-up process. "I think that to be an entrepreneur, you have to be very tenacious because, at many points, we wanted to give up.

"A lot of the time, things didn't go as planned, and there were also a lot of things that we weren't very sure of, so every decision was a risk."

While Secretlab now has a commanding position in the gaming chair market, Mr Ang said that they slowly want to shift their focus to target not just gamers, but working professionals as well, and that the Omega is a step towards this goal.

They also plan to expand regionally but they are taking it one step at a time as they hope to distribute the chairs themselves instead of going through middlemen, who may hike prices.

The long-term goal, though, is to make a gaming chair as indispensable as a good keyboard or mouse.

Mr Ang said: "You're sitting in your chair for about eight hours a day, and that's more time than you spend on your bed, for most people. Our vision is for our chair to be an essential item, something you can't do without."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 28, 2015, with the headline 'Hard work building Throne for game'. Print Edition | Subscribe