dreamcore shaun tan
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Dreamcore was first established in 2017 after Shaun Tan observed a gap in tools for creators and enterprises that required high-powered workstations customised to their needs.

He saw the need for a custom-built user-centric solution, forming the lightbulb moment for Dreamcore, which specialises in custom PCs.

It eventually prompted him to quit his decade-long career in the finance industry, having worked as an analyst and assistant vice president at Barclays Capital, to pursue his first business venture.

Shaun stressed that Dreamcore serves multiple verticals beyond the gaming PC market, with a strong ethos on delivering excepting customer service.

“Custom PCs are complex products that are often misperceived, being characterised as gaming PCs. We see an opportunity to correct that misperception and offer custom PC solutions from gaming PCs to gamers, corporate PC and laptop solutions to corporate partners, and eSports battlestations to eSports professionals,” said the 38-year-old.

“At the same time, the custom PC industry is notorious for having questionable service and potential scams. As end-users ourselves, we would sometimes find ourselves frustrated with the state of the industry — from needing to lug our computers down to Sim Lim Square to get them serviced, or having to navigate multiple price lists and negotiate with store owners before being able to get what we wanted. We set out to raise the bar in the industry.”

Acquiring a fellow competitor

At a particular IT Show in 2017, Shaun unveiled Dreamcore’s first product launch of the Dreamcore One, which was touted to be Singapore’s smallest custom PC.

“The Dreamcore One could fit in a bag, be carried around, and did not use proprietary components so users could fit most small form factor components inside the One,” explained Shaun.

The customer response was great, but sales unfortunately did not perform so well. They only sold a mere 17 PCs at their first IT Show, but Shaun’s confidence in the product didn’t wane.

“To us, this meant that the Dreamcore One was ahead of its time. It was a fresh product that people found interesting, but adoption would take time,” he said.

dreamcore founders eugene lim kwan wei zhong
Eugene Lim (left) and Kwan Wei Zhong (right), co-founders of Dreamcore / Image Credit: Dreamcore

Despite poor sales, one good thing that came out of the event was getting acquainted with ANVIL, a fellow custom PC startup that focused on creating custom workstations. It was founded by Eugene Lim right after graduating from university, and was joined by Kwan Wei Zhong, who became one of the key stakeholders of the company.

This fateful meeting eventually led to Dreamcore’s acquisition of ANVIL in March 2018.

Despite technically being competitors, we agreed it made more sense to work together and have Dreamcore acquire ANVIL and serve more customers together.

– Shaun Tan, founder and CEO of Dreamcore

Following the acquisition, Eugene and Wei Zhong — both age 32 — came onboard Dreamcore as fellow co-founders. Eugene also holds the role as Chief Marketeer, while Wei Zhong holds the role as Chief Geek.

Building brand legitimacy

The early startup days saw a lot of 16-hour work days, staying up till 2am, and lots of coffee to keep themselves awake.

Being a new player in the industry, one of our main struggles was legitimacy. Back then, many stores sold components and offered a building service, but there weren’t many retailers offering a custom PC experience.

Having set out to deliver the experience, we found that customers would often approach us with some caution, asking us if we sold first-hand components or if they could have their component boxes delivered to them along with their PCs. This was odd to us, since they wouldn’t ask large brands like Apple or Dell to do the same.

– Shaun Tan, founder and CEO of Dreamcore
dreamcore tech show 2022
Dreamcore team at Tech Show 2022 / Image Credit: Dreamcore

They wanted to raise brand awareness and make an impactful entrance into the scene, so they made it a point to exhibit at all four large IT fairs each year, coupled with aggressive social media marketing.

From their early IT fairs, they better understood their customers and learnt that the Singapore market wasn’t ready for small custom PCs.

“More often than not, customers would rather pay S$200 less to get a larger PC with the same specifications. Knowing this, we expanded our product range and sold a wider variety of PCs backed by the same Dreamcore quality,” said Shaun.

“This included a new range of PCs called eSports PCs, starting with the original Dreamcore Ghost. The Ghost was a sub-S$1,000 PC that would play titles like Dota 2, CS:GO and League of Legends without a hitch, which turned out to be a huge success.”

Rise in WFH setups saw surging sales

Dreamcore has been steadily growing over the years, but COVID-19 threw a spanner in the works.

It proved to be a challenging period, primarily due to global stock shortages, an unprecedented increase in demand, and manpower shortages.

During the pandemic, they anticipated that people would need PCs quickly as they increasingly adopt a work-from-home stance. In order to service these customers, they developed a new line of products called ‘Dream Builds’ — it sported simplified configurations, which allowed them to offer same-day delivery service for such orders.

Image Credit: Dreamcore

In 2020, they sold 10,000 PCs, and doubled their sales to 20,000 PCs this year.

Overall, we came out of COVID-19 stronger than we went in, thanks to careful supply chain management guided by an internal mantra to not over-promise and under-deliver. Being forged in the crucible, we also took the opportunity to develop our front-facing customer service, technical support, and production teams.

To date, Dreamcore remains undiluted without external funding, with aggressive demand during COVID-19 driving revenue that gave us sufficient runway to expand locally and internationally.

– Shaun Tan, founder and CEO of Dreamcore

This year, Dreamcore finally soft-launched their new business ElementOne in Malaysia, marking their first foray overseas.

Justifying this move, Shaun said that product-market fit is extremely important to them.

“For instance, certain small countries may already have established players in the custom PC space, so there’s little value we can add, whereas larger countries may have sufficient size to accommodate multiple large players.”

Dreaming and making it big

Besides the recent overseas expansion, Dreamcore has achieved several other notable milestones.

It has signed Paper Rex, which ranks fifth worldwide and is also Asia Pacific’s #1 VALORANT team. It was also chosen to be the official Media Technology Consultant for National Day Period for 2021 and 2022.

It has also won several awards, such as the Emerging Enterprise Award 2022 (Top 10), and has been nominated for the HWZ Tech Awards for the fourth consecutive year.

Image Credit: Dreamcore

“The industry is incredibly exciting. We are at the forefront of technology, with hardware advances driving what’s possible in the realm of software and experience. For instance, the advent of more powerful graphics cards made VR gaming possible and to date, we would consider VR gaming still in its infancy with more potential to grow,” said Shaun.

“Frustratingly, there’s so much more to an awesome custom PC than nice-looking lights. Some things go under-appreciated, like quiet PCs, fanless PCs, small form factor PCs and more — and we wish the market in Singapore were more accepting of these.”

Ultimately, Dreamcore’s goal is to deliver more value to a wider pool of customers — from helping regular consumers make the right purchasing decisions, to giving corporate customers more value for their money by delivering the right hardware for their needs.

Looking back on his entrepreneurial journey thus far, Shaun said that it’s easy to start and run a business when it’s small, but the going definitely gets tougher as the business grows.

Once it starts growing, you start hiring your first employees and having unavoidable overheads. Your staff will find it difficult to understand the challenges you face as a business owner, and you may find it hard to understand why certain problems exist when it seems so easy to solve from your perspective.

Ultimately, the buck stops somewhere and often, it stops with the business owner. You need to take responsibility for every action and every risk, but also be ready to share the rewards with your employees who have willingly joined you and helped you build your success story.

– Shaun Tan, founder and CEO of Dreamcore

Featured Image Credit: Dreamcore

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© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)