Secretlab's Ian Alexander Ang And Alaric Choo Are Engineering Comfort For Gamers One Chair At A Time

By Chong Seow Wei

The duo's ergonomic seats are proving to be a godsend for the non-gaming community as well, from corporates to doctors alike

Tatler Asia
Photography: Darren Gabriel Leow

In the What Matters To Me series, Generation T honourees describe what they do, why they do it, and why it matters

Ian Alexander Ang and Alaric Choo founded gaming chair company Secretlab in 2014, fuelled, to a large extent, by the backaches and strained necks they experienced after spending long hours playing computer games. They first met as professional gamers at a tournament, before Ang reached out to Choo with the idea of creating a chair that could provide “incredible comfort for long hours, is aesthetically beautiful, uses industrial‑grade materials and has local warranty”.

After the launch of their first chair in 2015, Ang, who as CEO oversees engineering, marketing and product strategy, and Choo, who is technical and partnerships director, have expanded their product line with three models: Throne, Omega and Titan. Each chair delivers comfort with a level of firmness for good posture.

Secretlab has sold over 500,000 chairs to customers in more than 60 countries; scored a global partnership with Riot Games, the developer of popular esports title League of Legends, as well as a partnership with One Championship's esports venture, One Esports. Ang and Choo also secured Temasek’s Heliconia Capital Management as an investor. More recently, the brand launched in Japan and forged a partnership with Make-A-Wish International to fulfill the gaming and esports dreams of children dealing with critical illnesses around the world. 

Ang and Choo describe their work and what gaming has taught them about business.

See also: Edward Tirtanata Founded Indonesia's Fastest Growing Coffee Chain, Kopi Kenangan. Here's How He Did It

What’s the story behind the name Secretlab?
Ian Ang The words “Secret” and “Lab” describe our company’s most important values. “Secret” suggests something mysterious and is such an alluring word—two qualities we want in our products. Also, very few people know what’s in Secretlab's pipeline. We prefer to keep it a mystery. “Lab” points to our pioneering approach towards R&D and how much Alaric and I love the product development process. 

What was a big hurdle you both had to overcome when you first started out?
Alaric Choo
The difficulties scale at each juncture so while we become more experienced, the challenges evolve as we grow… sort of in the same way they unfold in games. 

Ang It may sound nice if we romanticised a single moment, but the truth is we've had to face challenges and make difficult decisions week in week out ever since we started, as most growing businesses do. And it’s like eating glass—no matter how calculated your decisions are, you won't know if things will turn out well. Most of the issues don't have a definite right answer and most will have a big impact on the business. Most of them also stress the hell out of us, but they will also be forgotten after a week or two.

Grit is needed for achieving success. This doesn’t mean blindly going at something endlessly, but having the mental fortitude to take on multiple problems at once without taking the easy solution
Ian Alexander Ang

How has gaming shaped or changed your lives?
Gaming has taught me more about business than anything I’ve learned in a classroom. I’ve learned the concepts of economics, cost accounting and even organisational structures from playing massively multiplayer online games such as World of Warcraft and RuneScape. Finding the most efficient way to complete a mission often requires you to think outside the box, which can also be applied to running a business.

Choo Gaming will always play a central role in our lives. It has broadened our network and given us the chance to forge lasting friendships. While a lot of the simulations are virtual, you can learn a great deal about a person’s character which you might not have been able to in reality.

What does success look like to you?
Success is not permanent and failure is often right next to it. There are successful people who get complacent and subsequently fall, while there are also those who give up when success is just next door. Grit is needed to achieve success. This doesn’t mean blindly going at something endlessly, but having the mental fortitude to take on multiple problems at once without taking the easy solution.

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