10 Facts About the Late Sim Wong Hoo, the Creative Founder Who Put S’pore on the World Map

By now, you’ve probably heard about the passing of Sim Wong Hoo, the founder, chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Creative Technology.

As the founder of the company that released the Sound Blaster in 1989, many Singaporeans might remember Mr Sim for literally changing how we hear things.

And for the younger ones, some might also remember Creative for their Chinese electronic dictionaries and other tech-related products used in schools.

Even now, Creative Technology, which Mr Sim founded in 1981, is still rolling out various products to enhance individuals’ experiences when using technology.

In fact, one of their most recent releases is the Super X-Fi, a product which offers headphone users a more immersive experience. It was released in 2019.

Unfortunately, Mr Sim passed away yesterday (4 January) at the age of 67. More details regarding his passing were not disclosed; Creative’s board of directors only revealed that he “passed away peacefully”.

Since Mr Sim’s passing, many figures in the technology industry, such as Min-Liang Tan, the co-founder and CEO of Razer, and even George Yeo, Singapore’s former Foreign Affairs Minister, have paid tribute to him.

Beyond the tributes, here are ten facts about Mr Sim’s life and career at Creative Technology over the past thirty-odd years.

His First Tech-Related Product Failed

While the ancient Chinese proverb “failure is the mother of success” might seem discouraging to many, Mr Sim also went through that process before attaining his success.

Even though many people remember Creative for its iconic Sound Blaster sound card, did you know that there was another product from Mr Sim that came before that?

His very first product was developed by him and Mr Ng Kai Wa, one of his childhood friends. They were schoolmates when they studied electrical and electronic engineering at Ngee Ann Polytechnic.

Prior to that, Mr Sim studied at Bukit Panjang Government High School and grew up in the Bukit Panjang area.

In 1981, the pair set up a small computer repair shop in Pearl’s Centre, a shopping mall that was located in Chinatown.

They then created a personal computer that was compatible with the Chinese language. It even came with sound and music capabilities, which I’m sure most of us would agree was a huge deal back in the 80s.

It took them five years to develop the product before completing it.

However, the computer eventually failed due to the lack of demand for such computers as well as third-party content that could be used with the computer.

Despite their initial failures, the pair’s collaborations did not stop there. Mr Ng ended up being an independent non-executive director of Creative, a position which he still holds today.

After Mr Sim’s passing was announced, Mr Ng was also appointed as acting vice-chairman of Creative today (5 January).

Success Came After He Chose to Sell the Sound Blaster Sound Card in the US

As mentioned above, Mr Sim’s success truly came after he started selling the Sound Blaster sound card, which he started selling in 1989.

He was able to do so after setting up an office in the United States in 1988, and he decided to sell the Sound Blaster sound card as a standalone product.

It proved to be the right decision for him, for this marked the beginning of Creative’s massive success as a company.

And that success has continued until today, for Creative Technology made US$61 million (approximately S$81.69 million) in sales last year.

Currently, the company also has offices in various areas such as Shanghai, Tokyo, Dublin and Silicon Valley.

He Became Singapore’s Youngest Billionaire

In the years that followed, Mr Sim and Creative continued to gain more and more success as they introduced all sorts of tech-related products in the market.

This immense success eventually led to Mr Sim becoming Singapore’s youngest billionaire over two decades ago in 2000.

He was 45 years old when he achieved this feat.

Creative Became the First Singapore Firm to Make it on NASDAQ

And that’s not all.

Creative Technology also made history in the stock market when it became the first Singapore entity listed on the Nasdaq stock market.

For those who are unaware, Nasdaq is one of the most-followed stock markets in the United States.

The company also made it onto the Singapore Exchange (SGX) two years after that, in 1994.

He Was the First Businessman to be Awarded the Singapore Business Awards’ Businessman of the Year Twice

And Mr Sim’s efforts weren’t dismissed in terms of accolades either, for he became the first person who received the Singapore Business Awards’ Businessman of the Year twice.

He received the award in 1992 and 1997.

Apart from that, the Singapore Computer Society also appointed him as the Person of the Year in 2003 to recognise his contributions to the tech industry.

He Sued Apple After the iPod Came Out

And while most people might be filled with nostalgia whenever they think about owning an iPod in the mid-2000s, some might also remember the infamous lawsuit where Creative sued Apple after the latter released the iPod media player.

In particular, Creative had sued Apple for patent infringements.

After some time, both parties agreed to settle the case, and Creative was awarded US$100 million (approximately $134 million) in settlement fees.

Still Paid Tribute to Steve Jobs When He Died

However, despite suing Apple, Mr Sim still paid tribute to Apple’s co-founder Steve Jobs when he passed away. (Kinda like that one classmate who always annoys you with their good results, but deep down, you don’t hate him at all.)

Jobs, who died in 2011 due to pancreatic cancer, was the subject of a full-page newspaper advertisement tribute that Mr Sim placed in the newspaper.

In the tribute, Mr Sim wrote, “Thank you for the great lessons. Thank you for the great products. Thank you for bringing a bit of us to the whole world.”

The ad also included an image of Jobs’ silhouette.

He also admitted that Apple was able to market products better when speaking to CNA Lifestyle in 2021.

The Company’s Shares Lost Their Value Over the Years

On the other hand, the shares of Creative Technology also began to drop as newer technologies took over the industry.

For reference, Creative’s shares were worth $64 on the SGX in 2000, but the value decreased exponentially to approximately $1 in 2017.

As for the Nasdaq stock exchange, Creative delisted its shares voluntarily from Nasdaq in 2007.

In addition, Mr Sim also became “less popular” as other products and companies garnered more attention from the public.

He Came Up With “No U-Turn Syndrome”

Moving away from the tech industry, Singaporeans may also recall Mr Sim as one who came up with his fair share of iconic phrases and expressions.

In fact, the term “no U-turn syndrome” was created by him, and he first used it in his 1999 book titled Chaotic Thoughts From The Old Millennium.

And for those who are too young to even remember what that means, “no U-turn syndrome” was a phrase he used to describe how Singaporeans generally stick to complying with the higher-ups at work before proceeding with any further actions.

After coming up with the term, it became so popular that even Members of Parliament (MPs) began using it when discussing issues related to encouraging entrepreneurship in Singapore.

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Once Told Budding Entrepreneurs to “Not Get Married”

Yup, this is something you can show your nosy relatives during the upcoming Chinese New Year period when they ask you (again) if you have a boyfriend or girlfriend.

When offering advice to budding entrepreneurs in 2019, he told them, “Don’t get married.”

“Once you have family and commitment, you can’t afford to take the risks. I can take risks because I have no family. In the early days, I survived on S$200 a month,” he told them.

So yup, if your relatives ask you if you have a boyfriend or girlfriend, don’t tell them it’s because you can’t find anyone. Instead, tell them that you’re preparing yourself to be a billionaire in the years to come.

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Featured Image: Facebook (Creative Labs)