How a competitive gamer became Southeast Asia’s premier artist for custom computer paintjobs
Feb 25, 2015
Modbot is a hardware modding and painting startup in Singapore. The small team is an active partner of custom gaming laptop builder Aftershock PC and offers gamers “the chance to put their own flavors into what they really want.” The duo spray paint laptops, Macbooks, Playstation consoles, keyboards, headsets, and controllers with high-quality automotive paints for an extra level of exclusivity. Each item is carefully modified and hand-painted with Spize & Heckler industrial paint, the same paint that goes onto a BMW or a Mercedes. It is later topped with an automotive clear coat, which is what gives the car – and this Modbot painted item – a hard, glossy sheen. Modbot’s 26-year-old founder Alaric Choo started offering motif painting and carbon-fiber wraps early in his business career, which he has been bootstrapping since late 2013. Common motifs asked for are Dota logos, Dota characters, and the Assassin’s Creed logos. Choo also offers custom insignia sprays, like team logos, school logos, other game logos, gamer tags (online handles), and even real names. Spray jobs at Modbot differ wildly in price. A full laptop or desktop spray costs upwards of S$200 depending on what the client wants, while console controllers, like those from the Xbox, Playstation, or Wii U cost upward of S$100. Customers can get a full consultation with Modbot about spray jobs before committing. But just how did this former headhunter get into the business of painting laptops? “Gaming connections have brought me everywhere,” says Choo, who used to head a local semi-pro competitive gaming team for StarCraft II called Team Eve. Choo started playing competitively in 2010, and founded Team Eve in 2011. “I’ve always been competitive,” Choo says. “You don’t start something thinking: ‘ok, I want to be average.’ I never start something thinking I want to be average. I start something thinking I want to be the best. If you miss that, at least you are near the top.”
Team Eve won local competitions which put Choo in good stead with fellow competitive players. One of these players, Marcus Wee from clan aLt, would go on to form Aftershock PC with his brother and another friend. Choo says that if not for his playing StarCraft II, he wouldn’t have met Wee, and subsequently, the other big names in the competitive scene for whom he has spraypainted laptops. So how did the Modbot business get started? “The timing was right,” Choo says. “When Marcus started up Aftershock and thought that there was an avenue to do [spray paint customization] for Aftershock and other brands, I had just graduated from university.” The possibility of running his own startup sat in the back of Choo’s head as he settled into his initial job as a headhunter. Four months later, he decided the corporate life was not for him, and combined with encouragement from Wee who knew he was a hands-on person, Choo headed to a car workshop to learn to paint. It wasn’t easy getting started, though. Choo doesn’t speak Mandarin, having been born in the UK, and when he went to the car workshops – which were staffed by foreign Chinese workers – no one wanted to talk to him. “I just learned visually,” he says, and followed up by trying to create a makeshift spray booth to practice in. The spray booth didn’t work out, since spraypainting needs a clean, dust-free environment to work in. Choo found himself moving from place to place to find the best place to work in, before finally settling down somewhere in the east of Singapore. The ModBot team. Founder Alaric Choo is in the middle. Today, Modbot completes about 40 to 50 projects per month, with approximately 20 of these being full-body paints, the rest being backboard sprays, motifs, or wraps. Choo and his colleagues have customized laptops for esports celebrities like Tammy ‘furryfish’ Tang and Daryl ‘iceiceice’ Koh . It’s still the only laptop and gaming peripheral modification service in Southeast Asia, which ties in with what Choo set out to do originally with Team Eve. “It’s kind of a win, being the first, and being the best,” he says. Moving forward, Choo hopes to disrupt the modding scene in Singapore. “It’s a very big thing overseas, to modify,” he says, “and I want to nurture a community that appreciates things that are done by hand. The other thing we want to allow for is for people to express their individuality. Everyone is born different with different tastes and we want to be able to allow for quality customization options for any available product.” Eventually, he hopes to open a storefront where modding enthusiasts can come to and practice their craft. For now, though, there are still 16-hour workdays and countless of projects to attend to.