STARTUPS

In the front seat of chairs for gamers

Secretlab, started by 2 young S'pore men, are gaining quite a name with their specialised chairs

Singapore

IN LESS than a year, local gaming accessory start-up Secretlab has sold over S$2 million worth of its luxury gaming chairs in Singapore and Malaysia, and it is now looking at repeating that success by expanding into Australia.

While the company's Secretlab Throne and Throne V2 chairs, which are decked out in bright colours and priced at $369 and $429 respectively, are aimed at video game players, its Omega and Omega Elite chairs, priced at $499 and S$999 respectively, target the office and PMEB crowd, or just about anyone who spends a lot of time at a desk.

With thicker padded cushioning and multi-point adjustments that allow users to adjust the armrest and height of the ergonomic chair, the latter two models also offer a rear recline that turns the chair into a bed.

The Elite is the company's priciest chair to date, and it comes with a top-grain leather finish. The Omega Stealth is the black version, while the Omega Classic is black with white trims.

While the two co-founders, Mr Ian Ang, 24, and Mr Alaric Choo, 28, declined to reveal sales figures, they say that the combination of the four chairs offered so far have helped the start-up sell over S$2 million worth of chairs by April, less than a month before the company's first birthday.

Part of the company's success is that it sells directly to consumers, cutting out the middleman.

A similar chair from well-known gaming chair brands, such as DX Racer, can cost twice as much.

Locally, the company employs a team to build each chair upon delivery, but their expansion to Malaysia last December (2015) and Australia this month had both founders redesigning their chairs, to make it easier for consumers to assemble their own chairs with the provided instruction manual.

Secretlab now sells the Throne V2 (Green) and Omega Stealth in Malaysia, and the Omega Stealth in Australia. Online orders are sent out via warehouses in Puchong, Malaysia, and Sydney, Australia respectively.

Admittedly, the duo would also love to sell the Omega Elite overseas, but the first-time businessmen say they miscalculated demand for their premium chair, and sold out of their production run here in just two weeks.

Their China factory is currently ramping up production for the other models first, so Secretlab has stopped taking orders for the Omega Elite for now.

"This month (May) alone, we had a record high production number of over 1,000 units for all three countries," said Mr Ang, who is also the company's managing director.

It also means moving to a larger office, several floors above their current one at Bendemeer Industrial Estate.

Unlike most start-ups that raise money through seed funding, the founders raised their capital through bank loans and savings.

But for all of their success, the one metric that the founders like to highlight has nothing to do with sales, or even the positive reviews that their products have received.

A few months after they entered the market, copycat versions of their chairs started popping up on online merchant sites, such as Qoo10.

Some of these S$100 chairs are listed as being "Secretlab Throne Inspired", while others use the Secretlab Throne V2 for comparisons.

As the duo, who rely heavily on social media for word-of-mouth, were preparing to address the fakes, their customers came to their defence.

"A few reviewers who tried out both chairs pointed out stark differences, with one chair fan even posting a point-by-point comparison to inform others about the disparity," noted Mr Choo, who is also the company's technical director.

Their reach has gained the attention of international companies and this week, they unveiled a specially designed chair based on the upcoming Overwatch first-person shooter by gaming giant, Blizzard Entertainment.

The duo are now looking at setting up a made-to-order programme for businesses that want their own branding on the chairs.

Said Mr Ang: "It's great to be able to work with brands which we've personally been a fan of, such as Blizzard. They really love the chair we made for them, and we're looking forward to maybe work with similarly awesome brands such as XBox, PlayStation, or Garena in the future."