Digerati50: Collaborating and creating
By Lum Ka Kay April 29, 2017
- VLT founder believes that helping to grow ecosystem will lead to business growth
- Opportunity to mash design, technology, strategy & content to help businesses grow
Digital News Asia (DNA) continues its series that profiles the 50 influencers who are helping shape Malaysia’s Digital Economy, from Digerati50 2016-2017 (Vol 2), a special print publication released in February 2016. The digital version of that publication can be downloaded from the link at the top right corner of the page thanks to the sponsorship of Telekom Malaysia Bhd, Malaysia’s convergence champion.
For information on customised reprints email [email protected]
WARREN Tan’s father played a very important role in instilling the entrepreneurship and do-it-yourself (DIY) spirit in him, especially when he was a teenager, when his father bought Warren a computer and refused to upgrade it for him.
“Go figure out how to make your own money to get parts for your computer,” his father told him.
“This was before eBay, Lelong.com and LowYat. I had to rely on newsgroups, the precursor of such websites, where I discovered I could sell and buy computer parts,” recalls Warren, cofounder and chief executive officer of VLT.
That was Warren’s first taste of entrepreneurship, and the bug continued to bite throughout his high school years and into his university days.
“My business remained my priority in university, though of course I took part in social events as well so that people wouldn’t think of me as a complete geek,” he quips.
The consequence of prioritising his business over his studies saw Warren failing his first year.
“No-one would believe me when I said I failed my first year in college because during my high school days, I had been a fairly good student with straight As,” he says.
His father stepped in again, with a challenge. Warren could start a company but would have to install the senior Tan as chairman, where the latter would be given quarterly reports of the company’s performance.
“His deal was that if by the end of the first year of operation, my company was profitable, then I could stay in business. If I was only breaking even or worse, losing money, I was to go back to college to finish my degree.
“That was when I first learnt about investor expectations,” the 35-year-old says.
Warren’s company, a webhosting business, managed to make money in its first year. It quickly pivoted to web design and development when clients started asking him for help in these areas.
The company finally morphed into digital marketing solutions agency VLT, whose clients include Astro, Hong Leong Bank, BMW, and more.
“VLT is about four years old this year, but its history goes back a long way as you can see,” he says.
With the entrepreneurship bug continuing to bite, Warren also set up the startup incubator VLT Labs, which describes itself as a ‘venture builder,’ and the VLT Community co-working space.
“I love entrepreneurship and I love being an entrepreneur. [VLT] has always believed that in order to grow, we have to grow beyond the four walls of our agency.
“We have to be out there, collaborating and creating partnerships with people. It’s really about helping to grow the ecosystem,” he says.
And growing the ecosystem requires better access to people; opportunities to pollinate ideas; and a physical space to conduct events and spur entrepreneurship, which is how VLT Labs and VLT Community came about.
“There’s this incredible opportunity now for us to take design, technology, strategy and content, and mash them together to help businesses grow,” say Warren.
“People who have the ability to create something new – to disrupt and get their ideas across millions of people – are those who understand technology, innovation, creativity and content.
“That’s why I feel it’s incumbent upon us to do a lot more than the agency business. It’s always great to work with world-renowned brands, but our end-game has always been to put our expertise into building startups,” he adds.