MANY PEOPLE LOOK BACK ON THEIR CHILDHOODS WITH ROSE-TINTED GLASSES AND THE NOSTALGIA OF CAREFREE DAYS SPENT FROLICKING WITH FRIENDS. BUT NOT SAMSON OH.
He refers to his growing-up days in Imbi, once the red-light district of Kuala Lumpur, as the “dark side”. As a child, Oh had a front-row seat to the unsavoury drama, violence and corruption that plagued the neighbourhood.
“In the ‘70s, I lived next to the headquarters of one of the first red-light districts in Kuala Lumpur. My mother was a seamstress, and sometimes she would ask me to deliver clothes to where the prostitutes lived,” says the 45-year-old, now a self-made esports and gaming entrepreneur. His business suite in this sector includes esports news portal Gosu Gamers, esports talent agency Team Flash, media agency Redd+E and the incubator Cargo Studio.
Years after he worked his way out of Imbi, he still has vivid memories of peering out of his ground floor apartment window when commotions occurred on the street. “There was a lot of bribery and corruption, and I saw people getting stabbed outside my door. In school, I sometimes had to protect my schoolmates from gangsters,” says Oh, who became a Singapore citizen this year. “I have seen things no person should.”
A turning point for the young Oh came when he was introduced to a church, where older children like himself were tasked with taking care of the younger ones. “This was the best leadership school for me. It taught me to have a heart for youth and to leave no one behind. That has carried me through my life,” he reflects.
Today, the area, within walking distance of the Bukit Bintang and Sungei Wang shopping precinct, has evolved beyond its tainted past and is now better known for its vibrant street food scene.
But for Oh, these experiences are an indelible part of his identity. A licensed practitioner of NLP (neuro-linguistic programming), he says he draws strength and direction from his past. As a reminder of how far he has come since his gritty childhood, he has even posted a photograph of his old street on his Facebook account and looks at it at least once a year to ensure he stays the course.
NURTURING YOUNG DEVELOPERS
As he continues to grow his esports and gaming empire one company at a time, Oh is crystal clear about his mission: he wants to empower the next generation by offering them viable career options in the esports and gaming industry, regardless of their backgrounds or academic abilities.
“I am still buying and creating companies because I want to hire as many as possible regardless of their educational qualifications,” he says. His companies have a headcount of about 200 employees, with more than half of them based in Singapore.
Most recently, he raised $750,000 to launch the games development incubator Cargo Studio in February. Its programme for aspiring developers includes mentorship and guidance on essential entrepreneurship skills such as project and resource management, operations planning and monetisation design. This month, Cargo Studio launched its first two games, Rumble Jungle and Aesir Defense, at Gamescom Asia 2021.
“Building and shipping a game is like a start-up venture. My team does not look at the applicant’s PSLE scores or educational background but his passion and hunger to create something,” he says.
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