Featuring Evan Foo of ARCHT Audio
WHEN EVAN FOO describes launching ARCHT Audio as “pretty ambitious, kind of diving into the deep end,” he’s not quite overselling the endeavor as he is stating a clear fact – as CEO of a new start-up launching a Singaporean-designed product in the United States, that’s basically what it is.
ARCHT One (pronounced “ark,” as in “architecture”) is a speaker unlike anything I have ever personally seen – a slim cylindrical sound system, with 360-degree sound that connects to any device via WiFi, Bluetooth, Airplay, and basically any wireless connecting system you can think of. They launched on Kickstarter late last year, where they exceeded their original $70,000 funding goal by 346%. Recently, they participated in the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas (where the Microsoft Xbox and driverless car technology debuted in 2010 and 2013 respectively), leaving with glowing reviews.
But the road hasn’t been easy – Evan relocated to the US two years ago and had to build the team from the ground-up. “People say that you get to do whatever you want when you’re your own boss, but I think it’s the opposite,” he says. “You have to do a lot of the things you don’t like to do just because there’s no one else to do it.”
Evan’s first taste of entrepreneurship was moving to Silicon Valley for a year as part of NUS’ Overseas College Program, where he interned at a startup. “The whole vibe was infectious, and it left a really strong impression on me,” he says. After graduating, he worked on the other side of the table at SPRING Singapore, evaluating startups for government opportunities and managing a $100M fund.
That was where he met his future business partner, Samuel Tan, a veteran in the car audio space who came in originally seeking funding to develop a high-end audio system that would have cost someone upwards of $30,000 to install in their homes. Evan was inspired by the new technology that Sam presented, started working with Sam to reposition the product into a more affordable option for a larger market (their product is now priced at $599), and a year later left to join ARCHT Audio.
When I ask him how he made the decision to leave a stable job for the uncertainty of a young startup, Evan turns philosophical – “It was definitely not an easy decision, but I really believe that a job is not something that you dread going to; it’s something that you enjoy and believe in doing.” Plus, it also helped that he already had years of experience seeing how startups functioned – from investing, to managing and being on the board, to exiting. “Yeah there was risk,” he says. “But I knew the best and the worst case scenarios, and really hedged my bet. I believe in this technology, I believe in Sam and our investors, and I believe in what we’re doing.”
Evan is optimistic for the startup scene in Singapore. “There will always be capital available for capable people and good ideas,” he says, definitively. He points to the growing numbers of incubators and accelerators (“Five years ago we had none!”) and the recent successful exits in Singapore as evidence of a growing trend – “people are seeing this and saying, ok why not me?
“It’s a good thing, as long as people understand the risk.” A cautious investor to the end, and good advice for any budding entrepreneur.