ST Singaporean of the Year 2020: Secretlab co-founders take gaming chairs to the next level

These nominees made their mark in such diverse fields as social services, healthcare and gaming.

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Ian Ang and Alaric Choo co-founded Secretlab to make the world's best gaming chair and have since sold more than one million chairs.

SINGAPORE - They met as aspiring professional gamers years ago, hoping for the chance to meet their heroes.

And now Mr Ian Ang and Mr Alaric Choo have done it - by collaborating with and producing gaming chairs used by the top-tier teams.

The pair co-founded Secretlab, which has sold its chairs in more than 60 countries, in 2015.

Mr Ang, now 28, had been decorating his room and realised that his gaming set-up - including keyboard, mice and PC - were all there.

However he was missing a chair that would be comfortable, functional, looked good and had a local warranty.

Since he could not find one on the market, he decided to make one himself, and got Mr Choo, now 32, on board to join the company.

From a small office in 2015, the now multi-million dollar firm has expanded to several units in a light industrial building in Bendemeer with close to 200 staff.

For their innovation, entrepreneurship and putting Singapore on the map as one of the most highly rated gaming chair manufacturers in the world, the Secretlab co-founders are nominees for this year's The Straits Times' Singaporean of the Year award.

When the company first began, it was unique in its field. The gaming chair industry was not as established as it is now and the company is direct-to-consumer and operates almost entirely online.

"There were no textbook answers or anybody to refer to out there," said Mr Ang. "We've always had to take a very creative approach to everything that we do," he added.

But despite the success, the two rarely stop to think about what they have accomplished or give themselves a pat on the back.

"There's a saying at Secretlab that we always treat each day as if it's day one. We grow or we die, everyone should always innovate where they can, improve things and never be stuck in the process," said Mr Ang, who is chief executive officer.

Mr Choo, who is chief strategy officer, added: "One of our biggest achievements is that we get to do something we're truly passionate about and do what we enjoy and work with people we're passionate about."

Public records show that Mr Ang owns a 70 per cent stake in Secretlab. Mr Choo has 25 per cent.

Mr Alaric Choo and Mr Ian Ang co-founded Secretlab in 2015. PHOTO: SAMUEL RUBY

Both co-founders were tight-lipped when asked about plans for the future, but Mr Ang said that the company is always looking to grow, especially as the market in Singapore has become more saturated as the Secretlab chairs become more mainstream.

When asked for their advice to budding entrepreneurs, Mr Ang said: "One needs grit - not in the sense of abandoning the business or whatnot, but in the daily, difficult decision-making.

"Instead of taking the easy way out, you have to stress yourself out; think and think and think, constantly weigh all the pros and cons, think creatively of 10 other possible alternatives, then make the best call. It can be mentally taxing and unhealthy."

Mr Choo added: "It's not for everyone. We actually learnt a lot about business from playing games... it helped us be a lot more analytical and honest with ourselves."

Correction note: This article has been updated for clarity.

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