They may be blood-related, but for Adam Tan, getting his older brother Andie Chen to invest in his events marketplace platform EFFRO was an uphill task because, well, as the latter candidly put it, “I can see through all his bulls***.”
“This applies to anyone who is close to you, be it a sibling, spouse, or best friend,” Andie explained. “When you get a bright idea and share it with them, they’ll be like, ‘Walao, this is stupid lah.’ (Laughs) It’s just harder to convince them.”
What’s more, the 34-year-old actor admitted that his little brother’s apparent frivolousness made him question why he should put his money (literally) on “this young punk”. “Before he started EFFRO, he was trying out so many different things and dating different girls, like so not stable one! So I said, go and prove you’re serious about this, then we can talk.”
Well, Adam obviously managed to pull it off otherwise both wouldn’t be sitting together for an interview with Toggle. Besides demonstrating how committed he was by quitting his previous job as an emcee to concentrate on building EFFRO, the 31-year-old had data documenting his company’s growth and future goals to present to Andie, which helped persuade him to come on board as an investor and advisor.
The numbers are pretty impressive: EFFRO earned over S$500,000 in revenue last year and is projected to make twice that by the end of 2019. It also recently set up platforms in Malaysia and Thailand, and there are plans to continue expanding throughout the Southeast Asian region. Two of Adam’s proudest achievements that he gushed about were helping one events company grow by over 300 per cent in 18 months, and another to hold its first overseas function in Bangkok.
Not bad for something started by a “young punk”.
The story behind EFFRO’s inception embodies the saying “necessity is the mother of invention”. Adam recalled complaining to Andie and their eldest brother Ash about how difficult it was to find talents when he ran an events company, and how difficult it was to find companies that wanted to hire talents when he was an emcee. “It was ridiculous – the two sides never met!”
Thus, the idea to create a one-stop shop for both talents and event organisers to find and engage each other – think Airbnb, food delivery apps, and, to a certain extent, Carousell – was born. EFFRO was registered in 2014, officially opened for business in 2017, and was relaunched just recently with a focus on professional event organisers (instead of individual consumers) and a friendlier user experience.
By now, some of you might be wondering: so where does Andie come in?
“I just advise him lah,” he grinned, gesturing towards Adam. Specifically, his expertise is in the area of showbiz – and he doesn’t hold back with his opinions. “I started all the way at the bottom and now I’m in the TV and film industry, so I know what the ecosystem is like in the entertainment industry. For example, when he comes to me about an idea involving an actor or host, I’ll be like, it’s good, but you might have a problem here.”
Andie’s frankness has led to Adam dubbing him “a wet blanket”, albeit a very necessary one. “He basically gives me reality checks,” Adam shared. “Because of his advice, I’m steered away from making mistakes I would never have known about.”
This is where working with a close relative proves to be a bigger boon than a bane. “I could easily find any other advisor, but they may not be willing to be as straightforward as Andie,” Adam explained, as his brother added, “One good thing is that I’m always keeping him accountable – no one’s gonna dare to scold the boss, right? (Laughs)”
Of course, this is not the first time Andie has been colleagues with a family member. Remember when he and his wife, actress Kate Pang, launched Kandie Network almost four years ago? Managing the now-defunct parenting portal together apparently took a toll on their marriage, and the couple ended up arguing all the time, which rarely happened before.
“Actually, it’s easier to work with my brother because we grew up in the same family, so we have similar values and mindsets,” Andie shared. “On the other hand, my wife and I are running on completely different operating systems, like iOS and Android, which I learned the hard way.”
He continued, “We never had one big fight, just multiple small ones, and one day we were just like, why have we been fighting the whole year? So we disbanded the company to start our own separate ones, and while we still work together very closely, we do it in our own different ways and we’re back to the time where we just don’t fight.”
Of course, that’s not to say Andie and Adam don’t have their own sibling squabbles, but they clash over personal matters more than professional ones. “We care about each other, so when we see behaviour that we think should change, we will sit down and stage an intervention, and there will sometimes be crying,” Andie chuckled.
“Us three brothers are ridiculously close to the point that people ask us, ‘You all no friends ah? Always hanging out with each other.’ (Laughs) But I really do spend most of my time with my family, and because we care so deeply, when we fight, we fight with love… as disgusting as that sounds! (Laughs)”