Secret to their gaming chair success? Grit and passion

Mr Alaric Choo (left) and Mr Ian Ang are the founders of Secretlab, a multimillion-dollar firm that has become one of the most highly rated gaming chair manufacturers in the world.
Mr Alaric Choo (left) and Mr Ian Ang are the founders of Secretlab, a multimillion-dollar firm that has become one of the most highly rated gaming chair manufacturers in the world. PHOTO: SAMUEL RUBY

They met as aspiring professional gamers years ago, hoping for a 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 top-tier teams.

In 2015, the pair founded Secretlab, whose products are now sold in more than 60 countries.

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

The missing piece? A gaming chair that would be comfortable, functional, look good and have a local warranty.

Since he could not find one on the market, Mr Ang decided to make it himself, and roped in Mr Choo, 32.

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

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

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

"There were no textbook answers or anybody to refer to out there," said Mr Ang, who is the firm's chief executive. "We've always had to take a very creative approach to everything that we do."

Despite their success, the pair 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.

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.

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

When asked for their advice to budding entrepreneurs, Mr Ang said: "Entrepreneurship is a lot about grit. It's not about not abandoning the business, but when it's stressful you embrace it and not take the easy way out."

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."

Goh Yan Han

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 21, 2020, with the headline Secret to their gaming chair success? Grit and passion. Subscribe