These S’poreans Started Secretlab In Their 20s, Now It’s A $300M Global Gaming Chair Company

From “rivals” to business partners – that’s one way the relationship between Secretlab co-founders Ian Alexander Ang, 28, and Alaric Choo, 32, could be described as.
The two hardcore gamers first met each other at a local e-sports tournament when they were both playing StarCraft II semi-professionally. Today, they run a S$300 million gaming chair company together, which was born out of a common love for gaming.
Recounting their first meeting, Ian said that Alaric had asked him where he had gotten his Starbucks drink – that casual question quickly turned into a conversation.
“We hit it off and grew to become close friends as we played a number of games together like Diablo, World of Warcraft, Destiny, Dota, Overwatch, PUBG and Rust.”
Today, Ian is the CEO of Secretlab who oversees engineering, marketing and product strategy, while Alaric is the technical and partnerships director (their respective office titles are ‘Protector of the Realm’ and ‘Warden of the North’, cheekily inspired by the Games of Thrones series).
Secretlab was founded in 2014, back when Ian was still a university student.
He had struggled to find a “satisfactory” chair to complete the setup in his room. Other chairs that he tried lack the ergonomic support for long hours, which resulted in back and neck aches.
He also found that existing chairs that suit his needs were either too expensive, or the quality wasn’t up to his standards.
Ian wanted to fill the void in the market by creating a comfortable, supportive chair himself and presented the idea to his boss at that time, Marcus Wee, co-founder of custom PC manufacturer Aftershock.
Marcus fully supported the idea and told him to not waste time waiting for someone else to make it. Ian went on to pitch it to Alaric, who was working in the same office space as him then (but for a different company).
Ian described Alaric as “someone good with people” who had a “good intuition of how things are physically constructed”; so when he came up with the idea for Secretlab, Alaric was naturally the first person who came to mind.
Together, they invested $50,000 to kickstart the company. Ian and Alaric was only aged 22 and 26 then, but they were confident that they would be able to create a product that consumers want.
“As competitive gamers, we know first-hand what gamers need in their chairs to prevent the health issues stemming from spending up to 16 hours in front of a computer,” said Ian.
“With all these combined, we had an idea of what the perfect gaming chair would look like right from the start and never stopped pursuing that vision.”
It took the duo six to eight months to create the first prototype, and it took them at least 20 iterations to finalise the design.
In March 2015, they finally launched their very first gaming chair: Secretlab THRONE V1.
The first 200 units sold out within a week, and the company quickly broke even within a month.
As the business took off, I realised that I had a once in a lifetime opportunity and I shouldn’t let the opportunity pass. That’s when I decided to quit school to focus on the company.
Addressing the lack of options in the gaming chair market was something that I felt very passionate about. Even if Secretlab didn’t succeed, I would’ve been happy with at least making the product of my dreams.
Describing the move to quit school for Secretlab as a “strategic decision”, he went on to liken business decisions and risks to gaming: “If you’re losing, take chances and make riskier plays. If you’re winning, play more conservatively and get further ahead.”
Ian previously asserted that he does not subscribe to the university-dropout-turned-business-mogul notion. In fact, if Secretlab didn’t take off, he would have stuck with school.
“There’s this overblown thing about Bill Gates dropping out of university, and Steve Jobs didn’t have a university degree. That kind of fairytale story is overblown. In my case, I got extremely lucky that there were results to show for it,” he told The Esports Observer.
Secretlab quickly took off in Singapore soon after launching, but it posed the duo with a dilemma: they didn’t know how a…