Graduating with a diploma in Electrical & Electronics Engineering in 1975 from Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Sim envisioned building a personal computer that could talk, sing and play music, besides crunching numbers. This came about from his days as a member of the Ngee Ann Harmonica Troupe.
In 1981, with an initial capital of US$6,000, Sim founded Creative in pursuit of his vision. Having told a friend some 10 years before the SoundBlaster was created that he wanted "to sell 100 million units of something", Creative offered Sim the platform to do just that.
Building a low cost music card proved the easy part. Establishing the technology as a world standard took slightly longer and involved Sim spending a lot of time in the US where he set up Creative Labs.
The year 1989 saw the launch of Sound Blaster, a PC card with 11-voice synthesizer, text-to-speech capabilities, digitised voice input and output and a digital interface for musical instruments. What this meant for consumers was a quality and realism to PC sound that had not been experienced before. By 1990, Sound Blaster had become the best selling board for PC sound. The Sound Blaster Pro – launched in 1991 – soon became the industry standard for multimedia PCs.
Today, some 60% of PC audio systems today are based on Creative’s Sound Blaster technology. The company is now expanding into other aspects of the multimedia world, including graphics, digital video disk technology and video conferencing. The Creative Nomad and Jukebox MP3 players have become extremely popular, with more than 100,000 units of the Jukebox being shipped in its first 6 months.
Yet, even Sim has not been impervious to setbacks. The first personal computer released by the company in 1984, which he modestly describes as the world's first multimedia PC, was "five years ahead of its time. It was too costly and too complex", he said ruefully. In 1996, Creative lost some S$100m (US$56 million) when the market for CD-ROM drives suffered a glut and prices crashed.
But, each time, Sim has managed to recover.
Sim is currently chairman of Technopreneurship 21 Private Sector Committee, tasked to recommend changes that can facilitate growth of technopreneurship in Singapore.
Today, some 60% of PC audio systems today are based on Creative’s Sound Blaster technology.
Creative Technology has also started pouring money into small technology firms. Lacking a full-time investment manager in Creative, all investment decisions pass through Sim’s office. They have invested in companies that make products and services that can be used in their own products.
Most notable acquisitions include Ensoniq and speaker maker Cambridge Soundworks. Plans for a 250 hectare high-tech communications park to be jointly developed by Creative Technology and Dragon Land in China's Qingdao city were unveiled recently. To be known as Creative Dragon Park, the facility will focus on infocomm and media businesses. Sim is undoubtedly Singapore’s favorite hero, and it’s the likes of him that the government hopes to groom. – Ken Wong, ZDNet Asia