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Secretlab's 6 Secrets From The Throne - How A Singapore Startup Made Millions Selling Gaming Chairs

Work chairs have always been both the glory and bane of our lives.

Some are a comfy rest, while others suffer from poor lumbar support. But the perfect model isn’t impossible to find, and it comes from an unlikely source – the gaming chair of Secretlab.

But don’t be disenchanted by the gaming aspect – it is precisely because of this that they have also become the perfect office furniture.

Founded by Singaporeans Alaric Choo and Ian Ang, Secretlab chairs are now found in many startup offices from SGAG to GRVTY Media, as well as doctors and lawyers’ offices.

So how much do you know about this Singapore startup?

1. It Began As A Gaming Conundrum

Both Alaric and Ian are longtime gamers, and the headache they wanted to solve lay in the chairs that were available commercially.

“The [market] practice incorporated flashy and often redundant features in chairs to justify exorbitant prices [and] we strongly opposed this.” Alaric shares. Their dissatisfaction in turn became the impetus to create something both cost-worthy and aesthetically pleasing.

“It’s a very fine balance but it’s something we believe very strongly in [as] the perfect formula for success.”

Prototype testing began way before the startup was conceived but as gamers, they’d already identified the pain points to solve.

“This made it easier – but by no means easy.”

2. Their Products Speak For Themselves

Unlike startups who struggle for months and years, this team broke even in Month 1, and the demand only snowballed.

“We had an insane amount of sales, far exceeding any of our optimistic projections, during the first few months of launch. That was a good problem to have on hindsight!” Ian shares.

Image Credit: Secretlab

But it was hard-won success, boiling down to how customers were “increasingly disenfranchised with businesses trying to make a quick buck,” explains Alaric.

“They recognise that we are focused on the long game [which is] harder and takes longer [but] we believe that it puts us on an entirely different level.” And this work ethic is certainly paying off, as Ian shares that this year they project an 8 digit revenue.

3. The Gaming Community Banded Together For Them

They didn’t raise seed funding and instead relied on bank loans and savings. Being huge proponents of a lean model even till today helped, but support came in many other ways for them as well.

“We were very fortunate to have the support from the gaming community,” Ian reveals, a network cultivated from a lifetime of active gaming.

Even their friends at Aftershock – co-founders Marcus and Joe Wee – chipped in by giving them free rent space.

Meanwhile, a few months after launch, ‘Secretlab Throne Inspired’ knockoffs popped up on e-commerce sites. And just as the pair was about to address the situation, fans leaped to their defence.

One even posted a point-by-point comparison to inform others about the disparity,” shared Alaric in a previous interview.

4. Their Families Were Equally As Supportive

Ian pulled out from school to grow Secretlab, so parental dissent was natural.

What helped them understand was their own entrepreneurial careers, and they figured he was simply “a chip off the old block.

“I believe it was when I told them “I’d rather die than fail” that they realised how serious I was about [Secretlab],” he reveals.

For Alaric, his family had their reservations as well, seeing how his chosen industry was unfamiliar territory to them. As such, they kept everything on the down low, and only revealed the venture to a few close friends later on who turned out to be very supportive.

5. The Office Is A Mix Of Fun And Tradition

Secretlab has a typical company structure but the difference is that Ian and Alaric seek to “empower staff to make decisions and to take ownership of their roles.”

“You won’t see an equivalent-level CSO or marketer at another company,” Ian states proudly.

But while everyone goes by official work titles, a collective staff interest in Game of Thrones reveals itself around the place.

“When we first moved in, we decided to decorate and plastered titles like ‘Protector of the Realm’, ‘Warden of the North’, ‘Master of Coin’ on our office doors,” he explains.

Lord and Protector of the Realm / Image Credit: LinkedIn
Image Credit: Alaric Choo

 

And of course, you have the ‘Throne’ chair series, named after the TV series itself.

6. They Don’t Slow Down

In terms of milestones, the Secretlab team have a lot to celebrate, but Alaric shares that they are always looking into the future and “don’t take time to pat [themselves] on the back.”

“I think of things as a checklist; once we accomplish something, we strike it off the list and immediately start looking toward bigger things. [And] as absurd as it sounds, we became our own competition over time. It was always about coming up with something better than what we did last and it wasn’t easy.”

The Secretlab Future

Ian reveals that the team has recently come into a huge war chest, and although he was unable to reveal its source, he does share that it’s “quite different” from the usual loans and savings.

“We’ll be working on expanding Secretlab worldwide as well as to exploring opportunities that have been on the back of our minds for a while now.”

According to their main site, Secretlab currently has stores in 4 countries, so perhaps it’s time for them to conquer the world from their throne. Meanwhile, you can check out their chair series on their main site and Facebook.

Featured Image Credit: The Secretlab Team

 

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