SGAG founder Xiao Ming requested to retain JC 1 despite passing exam, met co-founder in repeat year


Mandy How | January 01, 2022, 04:09 PM

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Comedy site SGAG might not have happened if founder Xiao Ming did not do so badly for his science examination.

The fortuitous turn of events was made known to host Quan Yi Fong on the latest episode of talk show "Hear U Out".

Screenshot via MeWATCH

Seeing how well he did in science during secondary school, Xiao Ming decided to continue with the subject in junior college (JC).

Alas, except for the introductory chapter, he understood nothing else. It was then he realised that the subject was vastly different from his expectations.

After struggling for a year, it was time to struggle another three hours for the exam.

However, Xiao Ming gave up two hours in, and handed in his paper much earlier than his schoolmates.

He only managed to pass by a stroke of luck.

But scraping by had given him cause to consider his future—what if he failed to make it to university due to equally bad grades in JC2?

He then made up his mind to repeat JC1 with another subject: geography.

While the school staff was bamboozled and his mother cried, Xiao Ming was eventually granted a repeat year after explaining his view to them.

It was during the repeat year that he met his co-founder, Karl Mak.

Screenshot via MeWATCH

Screenshot via MeWATCH

A third founder

But other than a slightly rocky start where Xiao Ming had to convince his mother and then-girlfriend (now wife) of the enterprise's viability, the founder also had to contend with internal disagreements.

Besides Karl, there was initially a third partner involved, Xiao Ming said.

As the company started generating income, the trio had different views on how the company should move forward.

After failing to come to a consensus, the third partner offered to sell his shares back to Xiao Ming and Karl.

Xiao Ming recalled that the partner had quoted his price at a coffeeshop, whereupon Xiao Ming started crying after hearing the sum.

It was the only time that the founder had thought about giving up, as the asking price was much higher than whatever the company could afford then.

"But if we didn't buy back his shares, we would be stuck, unable to progress," Xiao Ming added.

Screenshot via MeWATCH

Even if he started afresh, the new platform might not experience the same growth and opportunities SGAG did.

And so he bit the bullet and agreed to the deal.

The company paid out the sum in instalments over the next two years, using the income that it generated.

The toughest phone call in his life

Another setback that SGAG (and most companies) experienced was the circuit breaker in 2020.

Xiao Ming went through a gamut of emotions before Singapore went into lockdown, as he was unsure of whether he could keep everyone's jobs throughout the pandemic.

It was also not something that he could solve immediately, the founder explained, as there was no way to predict what would happen next.

But there was one thing he had to do: make a call to an employee who had signed a contract and was due to start soon, to tell him that the company couldn't take him on anymore.

To make matters worse, the employee was a work permit holder who had already quit his previous job.

It was the most difficult phone call he had to make, according to Xiao Ming.

During the challenging period, however, another incident happened that touched the founder greatly.

A colleague had offered to go without pay for three months, in order to help the company tide through.

Xiao Ming was so touched that he broke down in tears—one of the few times that he had done so in the office.

Screenshot via MeWATCH

Screenshot via MeWATCH

However, he declined the colleague's offer to forego their pay, as the company was doing still "ok", although the situation was very uncertain then.

The founder said that it was a "turning point" for him, where he decided to stop being overly emotional about the circumstances and focused instead on what they could do during the lockdown.

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Top image via MeWATCH