The 34-Year-Old Vodien Internet Millionaire Who Sold Everything Away, Alvin Poh

Photo by Rice Media

Alvin Poh is an entrepreneur and co-founder of Vodien, a cloud hosting company.

Vodien was founded in 2002. It was later acquired by Dreamscape in 2017, and was valued for S$ 30million. Shortly after being a millionaire at 33 years old, he sold most of his belongings (including his Lamborghini) and embraced minimalism.

Alvin holds a masters degree in Information Systems from Carnegie Mellon.

He is now traveling and snowboarding around the world.

In this conversation, we spoke about:

  • Why Alvin sold his Lamborghini and embraced minimalism
  • The evolution of Alvin’s fitness routine
  • How does Alvin apply the 80/20 principle to business

Click “continue reading” for the link and show notes…

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The Cost of Changing the World

You are going to the movies needs to be there by 7 pm. Everyone got in the car and you take the usual route. There is an accident on the road and causes bad traffic. So, you missed the movies. Well, too bad. That’s life.

Imagine another scenario.

This time you suggest a new route when you are met with traffic. A shorter route. Unluckily for you, there is also an accident that causes bad traffic and everyone missed the movies.

Both scenarios lead to the same outcome. However, this time it feels that everyone is blaming you for that stupid shortcut. And by everyone, I’m also including you.

So, why do we allow for luck to be the explanation in one case? But not the other. Why is it that when you challenge the status quo by taking a new route you feel more responsible for the way things turn out?

It is uncertainty. It is because we are afraid of the uncertainty. We are afraid of not knowing how things might turn out. It is because if we change course and things do not work out – It would be our fault.

Even if the certainty is that the route you are on is slower. There is comfort in the feeling that you know how things will go. We would rather stick with what we know even when we know it is not making us happy or fulfilled.

It is the reason why people don’t want to make change. It is why it is so hard to change course once we have started down a path. Changing course means trading that feeling of certainty for the possibility to make things better.

While the uncertainty of a new path might lead to failure. It is also that same uncertainty that allows for breakthroughs, for new discoveries and for success.

We can’t be certain how the future might turn out. We can never. But perhaps the best way to know the future is not to sit around with certainty – It is to dance with uncertainty and create the future you want.

That’s the cost of changing the world. The decision to take a chance.

(Hat tips to Annie Duke for pointing out the decision bias.)


The photo was taken in Portland, Oregon at a hot air ballon festival.

Oh. You Know What I Mean

A shorthand that you are paying more for.

Because if you know what you want for your logo – the right shape, the right colour, and the right fonts. It’s rather cheap to find someone who is good at photoshop.

Even better, if you can write the procedures in a manual, then you can find someone even cheaper.

Perhaps you don’t know what you want (yet). Then instead of saying go design a great logo and I will like it.

It is perhaps more truthful to say – I need someone to go on an exploration with me. Because what great means to you is something entirely different from what it means to your neighbours.

Acknowledge the human work and judgement to guess what you want. But also realise that after the tenth logo – and you still have not nailed it. You might need to change a designer or really dig deep and figure out what you really want in the first place.

Because no one likes that French chef that tell us to add more love in the soup.


The photo was taken in a Shisha cafe in Gifu, Japan.

The Work of Managers

Google famously got rid of all middle managers and when into disorganisation mode. Super talented engineers pick their own project, form their team and got it done. Product features are built at lightning speed.

Similarly, university students received project briefs, assemble their own teams and get working.

With high performing team members, who need managers?

Except (when asked) Google engineers want someone who they could learn something from and someone who helped make decisions. And except, at school, advisor review projects and ask questions to steer the project progress.

In 2002, Google call it quits and brought back their people manager.

Managers (when done well) cares for you. They make sure you are accountable, they stretch you and they create an environment for you to do your best work. They know how to hire great people, evaluate them, and give them hard feedback. They coordinate resources, they facilitate difficult conversations and they fight for you.

They thought of you, the team, and the organisation. Then, put on this great balancing act. And maybe sometimes, they fail. They make mistakes (as we all do).

But once we can stop denying that it is easy, then we can start appreciating the generous work of someone who cares about you – maybe sometimes even a little more than your mum.

Would you be able to say that you have given same care back to them?

[PS Claire Liew did a great presentation (slides). Recommended. Eric Schmidt, ex-CEO of Google, wrote A Trillion Dollar Coach as a tribute to his late coach, Bill Campbell. Wisdom with nuance. ]


The photo was taken in San Francisco while wandering aimlessly.


A hard thing to say and admit.

Sure, there are benefits to an accurate view of the world. But remember the time that you were wrong. Waving the white flag of surrender. The emotional labour we expand to come to that.

Can sorry be a weapon?

In a long-standing argument (where you just want to move on), consider that there might be something that you are missing.

In this case, go first. Sorry, you’re right. Help me understand where you are coming from?

It brings the posture of openness and curiosity. An invitation for understanding, turning a conflict into a conversation.

You might end up disagreeing over a point. But now, you see what they see and learn their story. You have earned an understanding to convince better.

You might even be right in the first place. But now, you just save yourself weeks of made-up mental argument. A cheap weapon, all things considered.

Now with more power, what can you be sorry for?


The photo was taken in Tepito, Mexico City.

Find Your Peers

What kind of person do you want to be?

If you read Fast companies and envy the Silicon Valley entrepreneur at fancy lunches, raising 25 million dollars deal and selling companies in record time. You better be there because you need those conversations.

If on the other hand, you hang out with people who are running soup kitchens. Or you hang out with people who are counselling. Or people who are getting deep into what it means to be human. Chances are, the business you build is going to be more human.

Certainly. Choose your circle and it will change what you dream about, what you notice and what you engage with.

If you hang out with people who are going really slow because they don’t want to make a mistake. Well, you’re not going to make mistakes, but you’re going to go really slow.

On the other hand, if you hang out with people who are going really fast and have figured out that the mistakes aren’t going to kill them. The next time you see them and you haven’t made any mistakes, you are going to be embarrassed.

Who you choose is entirely up to you. There are many happy, smart and successful people. It takes work to find them, help them and support them. The kind of work that pays dividends. The kind that you’ll remember on your deathbed.

Choose your circle. Choose your outcome.

P.S. If resources are limited, you can find these people in books, articles and interviews. They can hardly replace actual interaction, but they might just be better than the jealous cousin.


The photo is taken at the beach in Hualien, Taiwan on a road trip with new friends from the hostel.

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