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Setbacks to success: How Line8 emerged stronger after multiple blows to their power track biz

Founded in December 2014 by Kenneth Ong, his father Eddy Ong, and friend Kevin Lim, Line8 has come a long way since its inception, overcoming numerous challenges and achieving remarkable milestones.

The biomedical sciences diploma graduate was accepted into the University of Northumbria in Newcastle, UK, but he decided to make a bold decision to forgo higher education and embark on a thrilling entrepreneurial voyage instead.

The inception of Kenneth’s career saw him take on roles in distinguished organisations, including Johnson & Johnson Ortho Clinical Diagnostics and Thomson Medical Centre.

In the year 2000, when Kenneth was only 18, he embarked on his first venture, Reactive Systems, which focused on battery systems for autonomous robots. As the company expanded into different verticals, it underwent a strategic rebranding, evolving into Reactive Corporation Pte Ltd.

Then in 2009, Kenneth founded Twenty4frames Photography, a boutique event photography firm, racking up an extensive customer portfolio including companies like Yahoo! Mobile, Logitech, Skype, Olympus and National Healthcare Group.

His relentless pursuit in entrepreneurship did not stop there. In December 2014, he unveiled his magnum opus — Line8 Pte Ltd.

The dramatic birth of Line8

The roots of Line8 can be traced back to Eddy’s journey in the industrial automation business, which he later diversified into the power track industry.

In 2004, Eddy founded ASL Power (S) Pte Ltd, becoming the principal distributor of Eubiq, the pioneering power track system in Singapore.

“While operating ASL Power, we were focusing on the sale and marketing of power track systems. Our efforts matured and grew the power track market in Singapore. We saw the revenue of power tracks in Singapore reach S$1 million in 2010,” said Kenneth, who used to serve as ASL Power’s director.

However, in 2012, the course of the power track industry took an unexpected turn. Eubiq’s founder ventured into the consumer retail market, a decision that sparked concern and objection from both Eddy and Kenneth.

They feared that this move would undermine their loyal resellers and partners who had played an instrumental role in the growth of the power track business. As tensions escalated, Eubiq’s founder decided to collaborate with another individual — whose identity Kenneth prefers not to disclose — leading to the incorporation of a new entity that excluded Eddy and Kenneth from the venture.

Tragically, this was accompanied by the unauthorised leakage of Eubiq’s blueprint and technology know-how to a Chinese company. This sinister act ultimately resulted in the production of similar power track products, posing a grave threat to the integrity of the original technology.

“It was theorised that [the unnamed individual] was the one who leaked the design and wanted to replace the original Eubiq products with those that he made in China,” said Kenneth.

The said individual eventually faced termination, and Eubiq’s founder then attempted to forge a joint venture between his Singaporean company and the Chinese company, but it failed.

“This saw the technologies enabling the manufacture and design of power tracks being used by the Chinese to produce similar products,” he added.

Amidst these tumultuous events, Kenneth found himself at a crossroads — torn between the decade-long legacy his father had built through ASL Power and the uncertainties plaguing the industry.

As he contemplated the future, a conversation with his father revealed Eddy’s plans to hand over the company to Kenneth one day.

The decision to form Line8 emerged from this crucible of challenges and opportunities. In December 2014, after six months of contemplation, Kenneth resolved not to let his father’s decade-long efforts go to waste.

Teaming up with Kevin, an electrical engineering graduate, the trio embarked on a journey to create an entirely new power track technology. Their vision was to enhance production processes, ensure safety, and elevate the durability of power track systems.

The “Rolls Royce for power tracks”

In the fast-paced world of technological advancements, innovation is key to staying ahead of the competition. Line8 has taken this philosophy to heart, setting itself apart as the “Rolls Royce for power tracks”.

Line8 stands out from the competition by striving to be the epitome of luxury and precision in the power track industry.

Unlike conventional power tracks, Line8 offers custom-made lengths tailored to the specific needs of customers. They take pride in offering 11 premium finishes, allowing clients to choose a design that complements their interior aesthetics.

Line8 spares no expense when it comes to materials. They use glass-reinforced PBT for electrical plugs, specialised Xyron material for copper carriers, as well as aerospace-grade aluminium and hard-anodised finishing, all of which contribute to the durability and quality of their products.

Furthermore, with over 20 technology add-ons, Line8 ensures that their power tracks cater to a wide range of applications.

All Line8 products are meticulously crafted in Singapore, adhering to strict quality standards.

One of Line8’s core strengths is their cutting-edge technology. They have been pioneers in developing numerous industry-firsts, such as a child-safe switch for power tracks, a push-pull high-power electrical switch, and an asymmetrical electrical core capable of distributing both AC and DC power simultaneously.

They were also the first in the world to launch an IoT-enabled power track and a USB Type C PD USB Charger for power tracks.

They invested more than S$1 million in the early days

When Line8 embarked on its ambitious journey, the initial plan was to develop its power tracks within six months, with a starting capital of S$300,000.

However, they soon encountered unexpected complexities in working with new materials and pioneering world-first technologies. The targets they set for development proved to be exceedingly challenging to achieve.

Fortunately, the launch of Line8’s products was met with enthusiasm as they brought to market numerous unique advantages and solutions. However, building a brand from scratch, especially when competing with an established brand like Eubiq, proved to be a formidable task.

Kenneth explains that after over a decade of building the Eubiq brand, gaining recognition and awareness for a new brand was indeed an “uphill battle”. Nevertheless, Line8 persisted, confident in the quality and superiority of their products.

The research and development process behind Line8’s power tracks was a meticulous one.

It all began with some simple pencil drawings on graph paper, illustrating key dimensions and proportions, as well as the functioning of essential technologies. These drawings were then transformed into 3D CAD designs, combining the ideation elements with technical feasibility.

Unfortunately, the team faced a roadblock when it came to finding suitable production processes and technologies to bring their designs to life.

“We found it hard to communicate and work with tooling experts as trial-and-error is not something that is possible for machining a tool. Very careful design and considerations needed to be taken before any manufacturing tool can be fabricated,” explained Kenneth.

To overcome this challenge, they sought the expertise of industry experts at A*STAR SIMTech, who assisted with the crucial Design for Manufacture (DFM) process.

However, due to the novelty of the materials and processes involved, it took them over two years to perfect the manufacturing process.

Betrayed by one of their trusted shareholders

Kenneth shares that one of the most significant challenges Line8 encountered was trusting the wrong partner.

After four years of hard work and development, they were finally ready to launch their product in 2017. Originally planning to appoint ASL Power as their distributor, Kenneth met someone who expressed interest in becoming a partner.

Unfortunately, this person proved to be deceitful, siphoning sales leads and working with a Chinese company to sell similar products, using Line8’s customer database and marketing efforts for personal gain.

The aftermath was severe — Line8 lost their indoor and outdoor sales staff, production assistants, and installation engineers, leaving only the three original founders to carry on.

The incident with the dishonest shareholder taught Kenneth some hard, but valuable lessons. He acknowledges that not everyone can be trusted, and greed and selfishness can exist even in seemingly genuine partnerships.

However, these experiences have not changed him; instead, they have reinforced his resolve to remain vigilant while continuing to pursue his vision.

Weathering the storm of COVID-19

Like many other businesses, Line8 faced the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Initially, the lockdowns and closures had a significant impact on their operations.

However, as people began working from home more frequently and looking to renovate their spaces accordingly, Line8 saw an increase in sales, adapting to the changing needs of their customers.

Line8 had ambitious plans to enter other markets in 2019 and even incorporated Line8 Global Pte Ltd for that purpose. However, the pandemic brought unforeseen disruptions that jeopardised these plans.

Ultimately, Line8 had to make the difficult decision to entirely shut down the global division a few years later.

Through the tumultuous times, Line8 found pillars of support in the form of Wilfred and Lilian, who helped to rebuild their team and business.

This strategic move allowed Line8 to secure essential resources and continue its operations during the uncertain times, setting the stage for the company’s resurgence.

According to Kenneth, Line8’s journey was no stranger to financial challenges. The company started with an initial investment of S$1 million.

Kenneth acknowledged that much of the funding came from private sources, including help from his wife, who offered a significant bridging loan from her savings to tide them through the COVID-19 crisis and the fallout with their ex-partner.

It took eight years of perseverance and hard work for the company to reach the milestone of breaking even in 2022, marking a pivotal moment in their business journey.

Expanding to 10 countries by end 2023

Since its inception, Line8 has achieved a series of remarkable milestones that testify to the company’s dedication to innovation and excellence.

One of the proudest moments was the invention of their power track technology, which earned a patent-granted status. They also attained the prestigious SAFETY MARK and IEC 61536 certifications, reaffirming their commitment to top-notch safety standards.

Their products have resonated with the market, with revenue reaching S$1 million in 2021 and a substantial increase to almost S$2 million in 2022. Line8’s presence currently spans over 21 retail outlets across 17 shopping malls, further solidifying their market presence.

The recognition they received didn’t stop there; Line8 proudly bagged the SME 500 Award, a testament to their success and impact on the industry.

With sights set on global expansion, Line8 has laid out strategies to achieve their target of establishing a presence in 10 countries by the end of the year, seeking prospective partners and markets in regions like Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Kuwait, among others.

A key enabler of their expansion is the production technologies they’ve developed. Their modular product design and modern processes enable the production of power tracks with reduced manpower requirements. This empowers new distributors with the necessary know-how, making it easier for them to set up successful businesses.

Line8’s development pipeline brims with innovative projects that promise to revolutionise power track technology. Upcoming ventures include the world’s first USB Type-C PD charger adaptor, capable of charging a wide range of devices, and an IoT Smart Gateway adaptor for power tracks, enabling seamless control of smart and legacy devices.

In the ever-evolving world of technology, Line8 stands tall as a beacon of innovation and entrepreneurship. With their unwavering determination and a vision of illuminating the world with their revolutionary power tracks, Line8 is set to leave a lasting impact in the way we power our lives.

Featured Image Credit: Line8

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