Sim Wong Hoo Reportedly Founded Creative Tech With S$10,000 Of Savings In 1981
Singaporeans who grew up in the 80s and 90s will be no strangers to gadgets and devices by Creative Technology.
So when news broke that the man who founded the technology company passed away on Wednesday (4 Jan), many of us were likely in shock.
The mind behind the devices that saw us through our growing-up years, is no longer around.
Even though the homegrown company is well-established today, it came from humble beginnings. The late Mr Sim Wong Hoo apparently founded the company with a capital outlay of just S$10,000 back in 1981.
In the two decades that followed, the company’s success saw him become the youngest billionaire in Singapore at the age of 45.
His legacy with Creative aside, here are some lesser-known facts about the Singaporean inventor and entrepreneur.
1. Alumnus of Bukit Panjang Government High School & Ngee Ann Polytechnic
Like many of us, Mr Sim was a product of the Singapore education system.
The youngest of 12 siblings attended Bukit Panjang Government High School near the kampung he grew up in.
Thereafter, he pursued a diploma in Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP) and reportedly graduated in 1975.
2. Started working after completing National Service
After finishing his education and National Service, Mr Sim started working for a small company that manufactured clocks and radios.
At the time, he only harboured thoughts of being a technician and did not dream of becoming an entrepreneur.
Speaking to Lianhe Zaobao, Mr Sim said that he learned a lot while working in the small company but felt restricted when it came to expressing his creativity. He left the company after a year or so.
Sim subsequently joined an offshore oil company where he co-developed a “computerised survey instrument”.
After two years, Mr Sim parted ways with the company, allegedly in search of a working environment where he could study computers without being interrupted.
3. Sim Wong Hoo founded Creative in 1989 with schoolmate
In 1981, Mr Sim founded Creative with his schoolmate Ng Kai Wa, in the form of a computer shop in Pearl Centre, in Chinatown.
According to Lianhe Zaobao, he withdrew all his savings – which amounted to S$10,000 then – in order to fund the business venture.
Even though the company reportedly held lessons and engaged in the purchase and sale of computers and software, Mr Sim shared that he had another mission when he started Creative:
To bring sound into the computer world.
4. Breakthrough came in 1989 with Sound Blaster sound card
The pair’s breakthrough came about a decade later in 1989 with the launch of the standalone Sound Blaster sound card.
The sound card allowed computers to produce “quality sound”, and transformed the PC into a “proper gaming machine”.
Launched at a computer trade show in Las Vegas, the Sound Blaster even caught Michael Jackson’s attention.
The King of Pop reportedly stayed at the booth for 30 minutes and was fascinated by the sounds produced by the computer. In contrast, other computers back in the day were known to be silent.
Over the course of the five-day show, 600 units of the sound card were sold — which came to about one order every four minutes.
In Feb 1999, one million units of Sound Blaster cards were sold worldwide.
5. Sim Wong Hoo became Singapore’s youngest billionaire at just 45
Following Creative’s success, Mr Sim became Singapore’s youngest billionaire in 2000, aged just 45.
Despite achieving such success relatively early in his life, he remained driven for the next 20 years, working with the same passion and determination as before.
Speaking to CNBC, Mr Sim said he was keen on making a difference, and wanted to make the world a better place.
6. Sued Apple & won
Even though most people and firms would be hesitant to go up against an industrial giant like Apple, Mr Sim was seemingly unafraid.
In 2006, Creative sued Apple for patent infringement over the latter’s iPod devices.
Creative claimed that Apple had infringed on a patented user interface that allows users to navigate through a “tree of expanding options”.
For instance, using the interface, users could select an artist, followed by an album by that artist, and then a particular song from that album.
Three months later, both companies reached a settlement, with Creative emerging S$134 million (US$100 million) richer.
However, it seemed Apple had the last laugh as its product gained popularity over Creative’s, causing the homegrown company to lose out.
7. Learned harmonica by himself
Outside of work, Mr Sim also had a keen interest in music.
The technopreneur reportedly learned to play the harmonica as he was performing household chores, reported Channel NewsAsia.
During his time in NP, he also joined the school’s harmonica troupe and ended up meeting Ng Kai Wa, who he founded Creative with.
Mr Sim was pictured playing the piano in his office after a press conference in 2000.
8. Advised budding entrepreneurs not to get married
When asked in 2019 about advice he would give to budding entrepreneurs, Mr Sim apparently replied,
Don’t get married.
According to him, mortgages and family commitments are distractions and prevent entrepreneurs from being “focused and committed”, quoted Yahoo Finance.
Additionally, Mr Sim said that entrepreneurs would become more risk-averse when tied down with such commitments.
He interestingly seemed to have followed his own advice as he was reportedly single at the time of his passing.
An inspiring figure
Humble, driven, and enterprising, the late Mr Sim clearly embodied the values that most Singaporeans aspire towards.
His humble background, including hailing from tiny Singapore, didn’t stop him from shining on the global stage.
While he’s no longer with us, Mr Sim’s legacy will live on through the products he invented and the difference he made to the world.
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