It was the need for a beverage that first brought Ian Ang, 26, and Alaric Choo, 30, together. The two of them were at a local esports tournament eight years ago as rival participants. Alaric approached Ian to ask where he had gotten his Starbucks drink from. And, just like that, a friendship was forged. Their shared interest in gaming led to numerous gaming sessions, competitions and, eventually, the more serious path of business partnership. In just three years, the duo has built an impressive business that has expanded to over 50 countries. From just the pair of them working out of a small space in the office of custom gaming PC maker Aftershock (also co-founded by gamers), Secretlab now has a staff of 40 and its own premises, where customers can walk in to try out their range of chairs. What makes Secretlab ahead of the game is not just its relentless pursuit to produce quality gaming chairs – it’s also its understanding of the need to evolve continually based on shifting customer requirements.
In 2014, Ian was in the middle of moving when he decided to get a gaming chair. It proved to be an uphill task. “I couldn’t find one that fit my needs. I wanted a comfortable chair that matched the aesthetics of my room,” he says. “Eventually, I bought one from an international brand, through an importer. But when I later had issues with the chair, I was tossed between the importer, the overseas distributor and the company’s HQ.” This frustrating experience of musical chairs was the spark that Ian needed. “It got me thinking: First, the comfort and aesthetics of the chair weren’t even up to my standards. Second, there was a severe lack of customer service when an issue arose. So I figured: ‘What if I could do it better?’” He roped in his pal and fellow gamer Alaric and, together, they consulted a few designers and experts in the furniture industry to determine if this was something they could take on. In just one year, the pair launched their first Secretlab chair.
For Gaming, For Health
Being gamers, Ian and Alaric instinctively knew what features they wanted in a chair. “There are health concerns stemming from long hours in front of the computer,” says Ian. “And the scary thing is, these days it isn’t just the gaming community spending long hours in front of their computers. Most office workers are also doing the same. “That’s where we come in – to design a chair that can alleviate the potential health conditions that may arise from spending eight to 10 hours sitting, typing and clicking away.” The duo, together with their design team, worked with industry experts to examine the different aspects that would affect a seated person’s health. These include body proportions, the chair’s typical environment, the right amount of lumbar support to help maintain a healthy back, and more. The result was a well-crafted and reasonably priced chair that used top-of-the-line materials. The chair also included a suite of fully adjustable features to facilitate long hours of sitting.