Lost and Founded Series - John Tan

At one point in time, John had investments in 17 tech startups. What was the biggest problem? Well, the missus had no idea about it! We talk to this serial entrepreneur to learn a thing or two about startups and keeping a secret!


Will "The Real John Tan" please stand up! John is the founder of Controlled Commodity and Saturday Kids. He also has his hands in Marcella, Ninja Van and Drive.sg. With so much experience in the local startup scene, he truly is the real deal! He crystalizes his experience and dishes out some of the best quotes yet.

People say you are "John Tan, Founder of Controlled Commodity and Saturday Kids, and Angel Investor". Who do you say you are?

The Real John Tan.

Best moment in your startup life. It was so good you wanted to fly BusinessClass somewhere with someone, and pop open the most expensive bottle of champagne there.

When www.ControlledCommodity.com went live last October. I'm most excited/happiest about what I'm working on, not what I've done.

What secret did you hide from your co-founder or partner or parent for the longest time? Why?

For a while the wife didn't know we were up to 17 investments in tech startups. Guess I won't be making any more personal investments until I get a couple of exits.

What's the most eccentric thing about you? If VCs found out, they won't have signed the term sheet then. But hell with that now.

Most things about me are eccentric. That's why no VC has ever funded me.

Have you ever cried?  Or what was the lowest, crappiest moment in your start-up life.  You wanted to give up everything. You wanted to kill someone. (During your startup career of course)  Tell us more!

I'm a natural optimist. That's why I angel invest. 

What are you up to today? What gets you up in the morning?

I run Controlled Commodity, an online fashion label. I'm hands on at a couple of my portfolio companies - Marcella (custom shirt), Ninja Van (delivery for ecommerce businesses) and Drive.sg (car rental portal). I help my co-founders at Saturday Kids grow the business. Helping all these businesses grow and be successful is what keeps me motivated.

How do you keep yourself physically and mentally fit for start-up life?

I do circuit training twice a week at a fitnesss club called Fifth Ray. Been doing it for 4 years now. Competitive weekend soccer helps clear my mind and gets me ready for the week ahead. 

Offer a life hack (or two) to a young founder.

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

Movie or song that best describes you.

Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots.

Favourite quote.

No balls no babies.

Who and what inspires you?

Entrepreneurs. I learn a lot from the founders I've met as well as the ones I've invested in. They are just so full of ideas and energy. 

Tell me about John Tan in 2030.

Citizen of the world. Philanthropist (hopefully!)

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