Scaling A Business From $0 to $30M

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How would you describe/sell yourself and what you did in 60 words or less?

At the age of 33 years old, I sold my Internet business for $30 million.

This was Vodien, the business that I scaled up from $0 all the way to Singapore’s #1 hosting provider with 35,000 clients and a team of 150 before the 8-figure exit.

I spent the next few years traveling the world, exploring new hobbies like snowboarding, kite-surfing and many more.

Now I coach entrepreneurs to scale up their businesses to 7-figures consistently.

What inspired you to be an entrepreneur?

It wasn’t as glamorous as people make it out to be, to be honest! My co-founder and I were just a couple of broke students who needed a source of income. We could either work at a part-time job earning probably $5/hour or run a small business. So that’s what we did! My first proper business started as a web design firm doing web design projects for our clients.

What does ‘grit” mean to you, and what lessons have you learnt as a result?

Failure is necessary for success.

My whole entrepreneurial journey was filled with lots of failure. At first, my co-founder and I thought that failure was a bad thing — after all, failing is just another way of not succeeding, or so we thought! However, after operating a company with customers and employees, we gradually changed our view of failure.

We now view failure as learning how not to do things. It isn’t that we aren’t succeeding, but it’s that we aren’t succeeding yet — we just have to try something else.

What is work-life balance to you?

When we were still students, we were able to manage our school work and entrepreneurship. It was tough but doable. One of the things that we could give up on as 17-year-olds was sleep. Years later, sleep got more important, but it was still work that was a priority for us. We love our work because we enjoyed what we were doing.

How did your business get its initial clients?

The biggest challenge for us at the start was to find clients. As students, we didn’t really have a budget to do a lot of marketing. I remember doing a lot of free or low-cost marketing techniques to get clients. We put flyers in business books in the library, and we spammed free online classified ads. The amazing thing was that people still responded to those ads back then!

What are the top factors in choosing a business partner?

Besides sharing and agreeing to a common vision, trust and respect are the top two for me. You have got to look for someone who is complementary in terms of skills and personality.

My business partner and I didn’t start the business because we were friends actually. We started the business because we knew we could work well together, and that was only from working together for all the assignments and projects that we did together in school. I think that’s an important differentiation that entrepreneurs must be aware of when starting a business — friends are great as friends, but not necessarily great as business partners.

What qualities make a good leader?

Empathy, respect, trust. They are very important values for me for not just as a leader, but as any human being. The team that we lead is made up of human beings, not robots or slaves.

I always remind myself that entrepreneurship is not something that’s a glorious occupation. It is a huge responsibility – think about it: an entire company depends on you. It is a leadership position and if you don’t have empathy, you won’t be a good leader.

Without empathy, you may succeed but it will come at the cost of people. I don’t want to be an entrepreneur who leaves that trail of destruction behind me. I see entrepreneurship as a journey that I can create a community of like-minded people and help people along the way.

What is your relationship with money like?

I see money as a tool. It’s a way to be able to do more things. However, I didn’t always think this way. Several years ago, I spent a lot on material stuff, but I realised it didn’t bring me a lot of happiness. That’s when I realised there must be a better way of doing things and a better way of using money.

Since then, I’ve looked at impact and happiness as the results of using money. For example, I donated funds in order to create a scholarship fund. This fund allows me to put a student through university every single year. 

If your business were to receive a US$100 million pure-cash acquisition with no earn-out, would you take it? What will you do after?

I went ahead with S$30 million acquisition actually! My co-founder and I spent close to 17 years running the business. I felt that it was time to look at what else we wanted to do. However, we wanted to make sure that our company was in good hands. Nobody seemed capable or congruent enough until our acquirer came along.

As operators in the same industry, it gave us a lot of confidence that they knew what they were doing, and they were in a better position financially to bring it further than we could at the time.

After the acquisition, I had the opportunity to explore other passions of mine, like travelling and snowboarding. Now I’ve had the ability to become an entrepreneurship coach who can positively impact other entrepreneurs and their businesses.

What career advice would you give someone who is 20 years old?

What is popular or trending doesn’t mean it’s suitable for you. We all have our preferences and interests, and these should be what we use to shape our career. After all, our career is going to be something that we will spend decades on.

You have to make sure that it is not only something that you like, but something that you are able to make sacrifices for. You need to ask yourself: will you do it because you want to, or because you have to?

How can people connect with you?

Reach out to me on social media!

Instagram: @AlvinPohOfficial

Facebook: @alvinp

Website: AlvinPoh.com

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