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Alvin Poh

alvin poh, smu, alumni, vodien, school of information systems, singaporeAlvin Poh (BSc (ISM), 2010) is not only a successful entrepreneur, he is someone with a big heart. As the CEO & Co-Founder of Vodien --Singapore's leading cloud hosting provider, Alvin has broken into the Big Boys Club when Vodien merged with an Australian firm, Dreamscape, in July 2017, valued at S$30 million. Success however has not gone to Alvin's head; he still remains the affable, good-natured, down-to-earth young man, politely answering every pesky (and repetitive) question thrown at him. Most impressively, Alvin has given back to the SMU community, donating S$250,000 towards a scholarship supporting the SMU education of needy students. A scholarship recepient himself, impressed with the SMU pedagogy and deeply impacted by his experience at SMU, Alvin wants to pay it forward, with the hope that the next generation of alumni success stories would want to give back in future too. We could not be prouder of Alvin.
 
Share with us a little about your journey, background, and the struggles you may have faced growing up. 
 
I came from a low to middle-income family. I remember space was always tight at home, with 6 of us living in a 4-room flat. I didn’t get an allowance, so I had to look for ways to raise money for myself, which was the spark for my entrepreneurial journey.
 
You were on the dual-degree programme with Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), what was your biggest take-away during your time at SMU? How was your SMU experience?
 
I was privileged to have an SMU education, which gave me many opportunities to grow, especially as an entrepreneur. SMU has a pedagogy centred around exploration, and from that, I learnt how to learn, and that put me in good stead as I needed to quickly pick up a wide variety of skills to run and scale up my business.
 
In addition, the project-based learning provided the foundations upon which I further developed my critical thinking skills, as well as the necessary communication and leadership skills necessary to run a company. With these opportunities that SMU provided, I found the tenacity and the confidence that was necessary to grow from a start-up to the market-leading cloud hosting provider that we are today.
 
Upon graduation, you started Vodien with a partner. What inspired you to start such a business?
 
We started off doing freelance web design projects, since we had those technical skill sets; furthermore, it was a straightforward service that all businesses required. After a while, we realised that the web design clients that we served all required web hosting services. At that time, we used to resell web hosting services from other hosting companies, but we soon realised that there were a tonne of problems beyond our control – i.e. a lack of knowledgeable and responsive customer support, up-time issues, and slow performance. My partner and I felt that we could start a business that could address these issues and provide an unparalleled web hosting experience for our customers on top of that, and that was when Vodien was born. That vision is still what guides our company after all these years.
 
alvin poh, vodien, SMU, Singapore management university, alumni, alumnus
(Alvin Poh, pictured with staff and colleagues at Vodien)
 
Vodien was recently acquired by an Australian firm, Dreamscape, for S$30million. Congrats! How do you feel about that? 
 
Needless to say, I am very happy with this outcome, because it recognises the effort and hard work that my team and I have put into getting to where they are today. It also bodes well for Dreamscape, which can instantly leverage on Vodien’s capabilities and together, expand into the rest of Southeast Asia as an integrated online solutions business. It is a win-win for both parties. I am glad to be able to subsequently give back to SMU as well through an endowment fund.
  
You have recently made a significant gift of $250,000 as a scholarship to support undergraduates at SMU - what inspired you to give back? 
 
Being a scholarship recipient myself, I believe that scholarships are a way for deserving students to receive opportunities that they otherwise would not have been able to experience. Without my scholarship, I wouldn’t have been able to go overseas and study based on my family finances alone. I am very thankful for this, and I want others to be able to go through the experiences that I went through, and do so without a bond to serve. Thus, I wanted to give back having received myself.
 
alvin poh, SMU alumni, Singapore, singapore management university, alumni,
(Alvin Poh, seated in front row in black, at the Alumni Conversations event, together with Guest of Honour, SMU President Professor Arnoud De Meyer)
 
In your opinion, how can we build a culture of giving back amongst our fellow alumni to create meaningful impact and empower our students on their education pursuits? 
 
I believe in a 4-step framework:
(i) Reach – Firstly reaching every single one of our alumni accurately and effectively, through emailers or other mass-marketing channels. 
(ii) Educate – Informing alumni of possibilities for giving back to a cause that has proper governance. 
(iii) Identify -  Focusing on alumini who have the desire to give back through whatever means, be it capital, time, or other resources.
(iv) Inspire – Using stories of alumni who have given back to inspire others to do the same.
 
What’s next for Vodien? 
The current plan is to expand overseas, with Vodien being present in all Southeast Asian countries as a specialised hosting brand of Dreamscape.
 
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Keen to contribute or give back to the SMU community? Here's how: https://giving.smu.edu.sg/ or write to florencetan@smu.edu.sg to find out more.
 
 

Last updated on 15 Mar 2018 .