Cover Photo: CLDY

Here’s how a broke student’s attempts to earn pocket money steadily grew to become one of Singapore’s top hosting providers

It’s not every day that an entrepreneur comes along, starts a company in school and gets to say that they sold it for millions later on in life, so it’s certainly a big deal that Alvin Poh, the founder of web hosting service company Vodien Internet Solutions and CLDY.com can make this claim to fame. 

Poh started Vodien while he was still in polytechnic, and managed to sell it 17 years later for SG$30 million dollars despite not being academically gifted or particularly well to do. 

Don’t miss: 9 to 5: Cheryl Han on Opening a Postpartum Clinic After Getting Retrenched

“Many people often think that I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth, but that’s not true. My family could only afford my tuition till secondary school because that was subsidised by the government. After that, I had to find ways to pay for anything else from a meal with my friends, to my polytechnic and university education fees,” Poh shared. 

Though Poh was struggling to make ends meet, he was able to get into a polytechnic. However, he was far from being academically inclined and found himself struggling. Rather, his strengths lay primarily in the digital space. 

“One day, a relative approached me to do up a website for him. It was for a token amount but it showed me that people were willing to pay me for my skills so I started doing freelance web design by myself,” he said. 

Wanting to go further, Poh decided to see if he could use his skills to create something more profitable. 

“When I met my co-founder in school, I realised that we could start this business together, and so we did,” Poh said. And this was how Vodien was born. 

Vodien is a company that provides web design services and Poh was very quickly able to adapt to his customer’s needs in order to gain their trust and business. 

Don’t miss: 9 to 5: How Jasmine Chong Used Her Passion For Yoga to Launch Lab Studios

“One of my first jobs was selling knick-knacks from door-to-door, such as toy pianos that sold for around SG$10. I realised a very important concept while doing this which was client qualification. It was a lot easier selling to a housewife with young children in the house than to sell to any other person who opened the door. This became a core concept of any sale that I do, even till today,” Poh said. 

Poh’s work ethic and keen business sense quickly helped the company grow. What started out as a broke student’s attempts to earn pocket money steadily grew to become one of Singapore’s top hosting providers with 35,000 clients and a team of 150. 

 

In 2017, when Poh was 33, Vodien got acquired for SG$30 million by Dreamscape Networks in what was, at that time, the biggest deal in South-East Asia for a pure-play hosting company. 

“My company’s acquisition shook up my whole identity, especially since the business had been part of me for 17 years. I took about a year to reevaluate my life, and came up with my new life purpose, mission, and goals,” said Poh. 

Of course, money does not buy happiness, and Poh very quickly found that out when he realised that he was getting too materialistic and that he was still not fulfilled. 

“I found that I much rather preferred spending time, money, and effort on things that resonated with me,” shared Poh, before admitting that this was what led him down a new path of minimalism and self-discovery. 

Not sure what to do with his life after deciding that the high life was not for him, Poh decided to take some time to travel the world and to try new things. At one point, Poh even became a snowboarding instructor—a far cry from what he was doing at Vodien.

“Becoming a snowboard instructor was something that I wanted to do in order to prove to myself that I was actually good enough to be certified. Also, I wanted to see what it took to be a teacher, which was something that I didn’t explore before,” said Poh with a smile.

While Poh certainly enjoyed finding out what really mattered to him, he missed the tech industry and decided to go back when he noticed that there was a gap in the market that was not being addressed. 

“CLDY was created because my co-founders and I saw a gap in the market that needed to be solved. The gap was that customers weren’t getting the service and support that they deserved. They were also getting over-charged and blindly led by other providers because they didn’t have any knowledge in the space,” explained Poh. 

He added that a major issue in the cloud space is that consumers simply don’t understand what the cloud is. 

“CLDY helps bridge that by being a trusted provider who can empower consumers to go on to the cloud,” Poh elaborated. 

Today, Poh is once again working on growing his new start-up, which aims to meet the demands of businesses who are looking to navigate cloud technology amid Singapore’s rapid digitalisation movement. 

He is also teaching businesses how to scale up with business fundamentals and his own life lessons to help them level up as painlessly as possible. 

The spunky entrepreneur also recently published a book entitled Super Scaling, which aims to help businesses put productivity strategies into place, streamline their workflow, and achieve success.

With a massive amount of courage and grit, Poh is determined to use his entrepreneurial skills to be a mentor to others while also managing his team of dedicated employers to bring CLDY to greater heights as their chairman.

Below, Poh shares how he does it all in his own words. 
 

What is a typical morning like for you?

Alvin Poh (AP): I follow a morning routine daily. After I get up, I make my bed, drink 600ml of water, have black coffee, and complete my daily workout.

What do you usually have for breakfast?

AP: I practice intermittent fasting, and I skip breakfast, only having a black coffee with no sugar.

What does a standard workday look like for you?

AP: I put the principles of my 5E Scale Engine into practice in the businesses that I run.

One of the biggest problems that entrepreneurs face is the huge amount of decisions on a daily basis.

I have strategies for my businesses that I break down into milestones so that I’m always working on things that move the needle for the businesses.

Don’t miss: 9 to 5: Meet Dr Tan Sok Chuen, the Only Female Hip and Knee Surgeon in Singapore

How would you describe your working style?

AP: I’ve realised that I’m a structured and systematic person, so I like having systems and processes in place in my businesses.

Free time: overrated or underrated? Why?

AP: Underrated. Our society seems to overvalue being busy and free time seems to be a bad thing. However, I’ve realised that free time is necessary so that we have the mind space to be creative.

Don’t miss: 9 to 5: Endowus CEO Gregory Van on Growing Up in the World of Investing

How do you achieve a work-life balance? How do you set boundaries?

AP: Instead of work-life balance, I prefer to think of it as work-life integration. That doesn’t mean that I work 24/7 but that my lifestyle supports my work and vice versa. I have boundaries on my time, especially after hours, and I communicate that to my team as well so that they know it also applies to them.

How do you chase your dreams?

AP: Fervently and obsessively.

Risks: should you take them? Why or why not?

AP: Absolutely. I think that by not taking risks, you stay in your comfort zone. That means you aren’t growing, and if you’re not growing, then you’re stagnating.

How do you deal with your shortcomings?

AP: I manage them, but I prefer to focus on my strengths and double-down on them.

What is one failure business-wise that you have experienced and what did you learn from it?

AP: My parents always instilled the value of working hard. As a first-time entrepreneur, I wrongly construed that to mean that I had to do everything myself.

As a result, the business was held back by my own limiting belief for several years until I realised and embraced the true need for delegation and teamwork.

What is the best piece of advice that you have ever gotten?

AP: To use frameworks and models in codifying our thoughts and communicating to others more effectively.

What is an idea/thought that you heard recently, that you thought was interesting?

AP: That humans are irrational.

How do you unplug?

AP: I like riding my motorcycle, working out or hanging out with my friends. When I can, I go snowboarding.

How do you stay grounded?

AP: By remembering where I came from and who helped me be the person I am today.

How do you manage stress?

AP: By having a clear vision that I’m fully committed to and making sure whatever I’m doing is helping me work towards it.

Don’t miss: Singer JJ Lin Has Purchased SG$123,000 Worth of Virtual Real Estate

How do you prioritise tasks?

AP: I use a tool described in the 5E Scale Engine, which is the 4-Stage Future. It helps break down big goals into near-term actions that allow for a clear priority of tasks.

Do you have moments of doubt and how do you overcome them?

AP: Yes, for sure. I don’t necessarily overcome them. I typically take leaps of faith, doing what I know best at that moment and adapt as more information becomes available.

What would you consider your greatest accomplishment to date?

AP: Being able to take care of my family’s needs.

What is the last thing you do before you go to bed?

AP: Think about what to do for the next day.

© 2022 Tatler Asia Limited. All rights reserved.