At 24, most people would either be in university or starting out at their first full-time job after graduating with their bachelor’s degree.
But at 24, Benjamin Ang had started up his own motion design studio armed with work experiences from his past internship and freelancing, and his trusty diploma in Motion Graphics and Broadcast Design from Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP).
He has done work for Mediacorp, Dentsu, and MTV but the 27-year-old avid gamer and entrepreneur shared with me that when they had an opportunity to work on an eSports account, they jumped at it.
Genesis Motion Design‘s portfolio now includes big names in gaming like EA, Riot Games, and computer hardware maker, Razer.
Recently, they were commissioned by Hyperplay, the first-ever ASEAN eSports and music festival, to create content for the festival’s online platforms and ‘live’ stage.
Despite what society thinks about chasing paper qualifications and gaming, the entrepreneur has managed to carve out his own path in a span of three years.
The Beginning Of Genesis
Following his graduation from NYP, he went to Los Angeles, California, to intern in a studio called Blind.
The internship was set up exclusively through his course manager and was fully self-funded, Benjamin told me.
During his time in California, he was inspired by the people’s self-driven attitudes to producing work with great quality.
“After my internship stint, I came back home to Singapore and realised that there is nothing like what I experienced while I was there. So I decided to start my own,” he said.
Benjamin returned from California in 2012 and finished serving National Service (NS) in mid-2014.
“Between 2012 and 2015, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out my own future and career path like any other Singaporean guy going through the post-NS life crisis,” he chuckled.
“I was still familiar with the industry landscape [during] NS, and entertained the thought of starting up [in mid-2014] after I realised there weren’t any local companies that I genuinely wanted to [work] together with due to ideological differences.”
In 2015, he poured in around $10,000 to $15,000 of his own savings and earnings from freelancing after his internship to establish Genesis.
“All I could afford was like… two iMacs and my own computer from home,” he shared.
From Freelancer To Founder
Benjamin also recalls spending “every bit of free time” he has to work, sacrificing quality time he “could have and should have” spent with his family and friends.
“Before I started my own company, I was freelancing. And one of the upsides of freelancing is that I can take a break whenever I want [or don’t want to].”
“A lot of people think that starting your own company means more freedom and work-life balance, yada yada, but it isn’t all that easy,” he explained.
Employee welfare, work performance, and work quality among others are some of the responsibilities of a business owner, he said.
As a boss, he believes it’s important to help employees’ grow and not overwork them.
Benjamin laughed as he lists his day-to-day duties, “I do client acquisition, liaising, client management, logistics, accounting, office maintenance, and human resources.”
“Occasionally when we are swamped, I do project management and marketing, too, before we hired a marketing executive.”
He’s involved with the creative direction of the company, from social media and their online presence to the projects they handle.
The young boss gets down and dirty too, doing storyboarding, brainstorming, designing, and animating among others, and shared that he enjoys doing work “very much”.
It’s common to have a business partner when starting up but he hadn’t mentioned about a co-founder up till now, so I asked him how he felt about it.
Benjamin answered, “I felt quite alone. I had friends who started their own businesses too, but they were all in different industries.”
He told me he’s had to learn a lot by himself, gleaning knowledge from observing the companies and other studios he’s worked with.
“Looking back at it now, I’m glad I made this decision to start up alone because it allowed me to move quickly and work better since I’m my own decision maker.”
Starting up independently also taught him to be accountable for his own actions.
Difficulty Level: Entrepreneurship
His family was supportive. His friends, however, were mostly uncertain.
“[There] were always more questions than encouragements. The questions were all driven by doubt and well.. you know,” he let out a small laugh, “They were all sort of backhanded criticism.”
“I lost some friends in the entire process due to my schedule and new commitments, which to me was a very big form of discouragement.”
He was told that it wasn’t possible to bring back a concept and idea from an American studio to Singapore because of the vast difference in cultures.
But he refused to believe that and went through many trial and errors trying to fuse and balance a mix of both cultures.
Benjamin recalls going through some difficulties creatively too, as they had to produce corporate, explainer, and B2B types of videos to stay afloat at the start.
“They were all very restrictive and we couldn’t see ourselves grow,” he mentioned.
Playing A Role In Making eSports More Mainstream
When their first eSports account came around, Benjamin and the team went for it because “it was such an opportune time” as the industry has been gaining traction worldwide.
He shared with me that he loves gaming “with a burning passion” and would “squeeze in a little game time every day” to de-stress and unwind.
Lately, he’s into PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) and enjoys first-person shooter games and Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) games like LoL and Dota 2.
He would sometimes sacrifice sleep to watch eSports tournaments that happen around the world and noticed the high production value that goes into hosting a tournament and the quality of work in the motion graphics.
“That’s when I realised this was something that Genesis could venture into,” he added.
“Before Hyperplay, the only largest eSports-related event held in Singapore, from what I remember was the World Cyber Games in 2005. Even then, the production value was nothing close to the ones I’ve seen overseas.”
Not Downplaying Their Efforts In Hyperplay
Benjamin and his team had worked with Riot Games, the company that developed League of Legends, to produce the Preseason 2017 explainer video.
The seven minutes and 20 seconds video went viral within 30 minutes of its release on YouTube, garnering over 300,000 views and about 257,000 on Facebook, according to Benjamin.
“It was so widely shared that international audiences mistook this as an international release from Riot Games HQ,” he said happily.
The video caught Riot Games HQ’s attention and they loved it.
This collaboration led to Genesis clinching the Hyperplay account.
“When we first took up the project, we only received the logo and there was a lot going on within it which was a challenge for any designer,” he recounted.
“So we sieved through the logo to pick out elements that we wanted to work with and created a simplified version of the logo.”
They kept the designs and the colour scheme consistent and animated inanimate objects like the crystals and clouds as well as the characters using a mix of 2D and motion graphics techniques.
“We donned the ‘Victory’ clip with more crystals [and created] movements to convey a sense of euphoria,” he explained.
“For the ‘Defeat’ clip, we added the shattering of the crystals and rocks to symbolize broken dreams and hearts.”
As the LoL competition was executed in a double round robin format, the team had to come up with numerous variations of the same design since they could not anticipate the results of the games.
Just before the event, they found out that the arrangements of LED screens on stage were different from their brief so images and letters got cropped out.
But they managed to make last minute changes to the designs.
Chasing Passion And Play
Going what he has gone through, he believes that having a degree in his field of work “does not really matter” because it’s more practical and hands-on, even though he admitted to having considered furthering his education.
“My diploma, as well as the experience that I’ve garnered over time, have provided me with enough ground skills,” he told me.
“The lack of a degree did not affect my journey very much but my age did come into question all the time. It seems to many people that I’m just a 24-year-old poly graduate fronting a company. But hey, I’m still here.”
He’s happy that Singapore is showing signs of support for the eSports industry with Hyperplay and hopes that in time, eSports will be seen as mainstream entertainment.
He wants to grow Genesis to be recognised as one of the top motion graphic studios globally and to build their clientele.
“I hope to push the industry standards in terms of what can be achieved locally and in Southeast Asia. [To] blaze the trail and set ourselves apart and in turn, realise the true potential that designers in Singapore hold,” he said.
“Internally, I hope to help grow the abilities and passion that my team has towards the art. We constantly strive for improvement and it’s [more than] just a motto; we put it into action and it means a lot to all of us.”
Currently, he has no plans to expand yet, but he will consider that option when he’s “able to do this company and everyone in it right”, and when the time is right.
Visit the Genesis Motion Design website here for more of their work!
Featured Image Credit: Genesis Motion Design