Innovation is embedded in VLT's DNA
By Chong Jinn Xiung February 6, 2018
- To position itself as a product, design and innovation firm
- Targets to launch an IPO within two years
VLT chief executive officer Adrian Lim is a man who has achieved much since the foundation of his company five years ago. A passionate entrepreneur, with close to two decades of experience in the digital industry, Lim has built many businesses and experimentation is definitely in his DNA.
It is a wonder that he finds the time to engage himself in so many projects but somehow, he manages to do it. You would think that after building VLT since 2013, he would say it is time to kick back and take it easy. But no, he is just getting started.
Lim explained that the three core pillars that made VLT an award-winning digital agency were design, technology and innovation.
He asked us to pay close attention to ‘innovation’ because VLT is in the midst of pivoting from being a digital agency to a product, design and innovation firm.
“We find ourselves developing more products and innovating for our client these days. We are more than just a digital company and we have often been misunderstood as being a digital marketing company,” he said.
In fact, VLT has even stopped accepting awards as a digital agency, as it wants to cement its identity as a builder of technologically user-centric products, by incepting, building, enhancing and bringing unique digital products to market.
There is no better validation of the investment and effort VLT has built for itself than the acquisition of VLT Labs by global consulting agency McKinsey & Company in September 2017. While McKinsey acquired VLT Labs’ team and some its assets, VLT Labs continues to be VLT’s investment holding company for their venture builds.
“Our core capabilities within the group remain the same and the acquisition has given us the capability to grow beyond Malaysia,” said Lim.
Over the years, VLT has worked to develop digital solutions with notable brands like Astro, Hilton, Hong Leong Bank, Skittles and SP Setia among others. Lim explained how VLT itself has dabbled in all kinds of technology from Artificial Intelligence, big data, mobile technologies, e-commerce to payment integrations.
“We always try to push the boundaries of what we do; whether it is in the user interface, user experience or content, we try to see where the users are and we tell those stories. We are insightful and try to make sense of whatever data we can find before executing on our work.
“All digital products are changing the traditional methods that consumers are used to doing things such as Airbnb for booking hotels and Uber for ride sharing. Even communication is changing from social platforms to user-centric applications,” he added.
More than just a digital agency
Over the years VLT has involving itself in a variety of different areas from startup incubation, community building, events and co-working spaces.
Lim said he had identified early on that the agency landscape wasn’t going to look the same in the future. In fact, one of the notable startups VLT has supported and invested in is Supahands, that specialises in matching digital companies with a workforce to perform content moderation and lead generation.
“We see a lot of venture capitals investing in new funds in Southeast Asia but what we have learnt is that it is not easy to find good entrepreneurs or ideas. Even if there is a good one, there aren’t enough resources to support it,” he said.
That’s where he wants VLT to fill that gap and solve this problem. His idea is that VLT can partner with VCs to fund, facilitate and accelerate good startups.
Transforming through the years
Amazingly, Lim has organically grown VLT over the years without ever taking a bank loan. Though the trade-off to this is that cash is always a constant demand and challenge, especially when they were rapidly growing and venture building.
But he said one of the biggest challenges he faced during the course of his journey with VLT is that the business grew too fast. They had employed over 106 people in 2015 and the pressures to manage the team of that size was tremendous.
Though they had record-breaking revenue that year, the real struggle was there were inevitable gaps that occurred when scaling up too fast.
“There were lessons learnt and strategies put in place since then. These strategies now are used on how we scale into the region,” he said.
Speaking of expansion, VLT is looking towards stretching its wings across Southeast Asia by establishing itself in two new markets this year after having established itself in Singapore, Cambodia and Sri Lanka (with Trumps Solutions) already.
Trumps Solutions (PVT) Ltd, a Sri Lankan advertising agencies joins VLT, to offer Sri Lankan startups, businesses and brands an integrated design, technology & innovation as well as brand solution with content, media and PR. VLT will offer its design, innovation & technology expertise and content specialists to serve both Trumps’s clients and explore new opportunities afforded by the new integrated offering. This provides the services from the spectrum of product or brand inception to go-to-market.
Apart from all this, Lim outlined several goals he has in mind including raising an Initial Public Offering (IPO) in the mid-term and turning his business into a product business in the long run.
“Raising funds is definitely on the horizon as we are now growing and we are exploring the possibility of an initial private equity fundraising before we head to Initial Public Offering (IPO) within the next two years, said Lim.