From S $ 600 / month starting salary to millions


If you see a toy figure like this in someone’s house on full screen, you have to make a mental note that that person is a really serious toy collector.

These figures from XM Studios Singapore are no ordinary toys. They cost at least S $ 599 each, and some can even cost as much as S $ 6,000 each.

Some of these hot collectibles are known to sell out within minutes of launch.

XM Studios is a premium toy maker that designs and produces handcrafted porcelain statues of characters from various pop culture comic book brands including Marvel and DC.

They are works of art, as each statue is individually hand painted.

One would think that the pandemic may have slowed this company’s sales due to the price tags of collectibles. But this is not the case.

Last year, the company’s revenue doubled to S $ 16.9 million, while after-tax profit was S $ 4.2 million.

Some toy figures sold by the company / Image Credit: XM Studios

The business is growing rapidly, probably supported by collectors with more disposable income due to more work from home and unable to travel.

Earlier this month, XM Studios raised S $ 4.5 million in a deal anchored by Temasek’s Heliconia Capital to fuel expansion plans.

The company is currently present in around 35 markets and employs more than 50 people.

However, XM Studios’ journey to get to where it is was certainly fraught with challenges and obstacles.

We take a look at how far founders Ben Ang and his brother Seng have come since they started their business in a humble boutique in Bras Basah in 1997.

They invested their S $ 1,000 tuition to start the business

Twenty-four years ago, brothers Ben and Seng took S $ 1,000 for the polytechnic tuition fee and invested it in Xenomorph, a collectible toy store located in the complex of Basah Arm.

Ben, who is currently the company’s CEO, was only 23 at the time.

Ben (left) during the early years of running the business / Image credit: XM Studios

It was hard at first. Founders who are comic book fans struggled to stay afloat at first. They taught airbrushing workshops, charging S $ 50 for eight lessons to get by.

However, it was difficult for the brothers, who had to work seven days without rest.

They each had a low salary of S $ 600 per month and only took a break during the Chinese New Year.

Get off the beaten track to survive

During the early years, Xenomorph had slowly grown into a family business. The couple’s older brother and retired father joined the business soon after, and it was up to Ben and Seng to ensure that all mouths were fed.

At one point, the company even made large-scale models for companies like Universal Studios at Resorts World Sentosa theme park.

However, these undertakings were unsustainable for Ben in the long run.

Seng (left) and Ben (right) / Image credit: XM Studios

This is because these artists were getting older and it was becoming physically taxing to climb on scaffolding to do maintenance work.

One day, Seng told Ben that he didn’t mind working part-time or becoming a taxi driver while he was running the business.

This comment made Ben want to find solutions to change the business model they made a living on. He didn’t want his brother who had mastered the art of the trade not being able to fully use his skills.

The world of Disney and others

Thanks to the support of clients and clients, Ben decided to contact large media companies like Disney and Warner Brothers for licensing opportunities.

Disney owns Marvel Entertainment which produces comic book characters like Spider-Man, Captain America, Iron Man, and Wolverine, while Warner Brothers owns DC Comics which has comic book characters like Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman.

Due to the small size and the unknown of the company at the time, they had to face multiple refusals from large companies. It wasn’t until 2013 that they finally received a recall from Disney.

The brothers negotiated with Disney to pay the license fees in installments and raised S $ 50,000 in capital from friends and family.

Funding for initial prototypes and designs was also supported by clients and customers.

XM Studios’ Magneto collectible instantly put it on the Collector’s Watchlist / Image Credit: XM Studios

XM Studios was launched in 2012 with their older brother Clair and two business partners. But there were still obstacles in the way.

In 2014, when the company was first presented at the annual Comic Con convention, people said the company would not survive because they were “unknown” and how dare they sell action figures for S $ 800 each.

The prices for XM Studios figures were then double the industry standard.

However, Ben insisted on her views and the company got its big break when it launched its Magneto collectible that same year.

Less than a day after its launch, all 800 pieces of the model were sold.

The intricate details and beauty of the piece have caught the interest of other companies and franchises.

The newcomer quickly began to gain recognition, win awards, and receive offers from franchises to license with them.

High end luxury designs

Today, XM Studios has over 10 major licenses including Batman, Justice League, Star Wars, Mickey & Friends, and the fantasy game Dungeons & Dragons.

It also produces collectibles of iconic Japanese characters like Godzilla, Ultraman, and Sanrio.

XM Studios now has 50 employees with headquarters in Singapore and operations in China.

It is now present in 35 markets around the world and is said to have sold nearly 20,000 figurines last year.

The Singapore-based company sold nearly 20,000 action figures last year / Image credit: XM Studios

The markets of the United States and Europe, China and Southeast Asia each account for 30% of XM Studios’ revenue.

The company plans to open experiential concept stores showcasing its figurines in countries around the world over the next few years.

Impact of Covid-19

However, the Covid-19 outbreak may put a wrench in the work for its upcoming retail expansion plans.

Comic book conventions, for example, were canceled around the world, and it was an important marketing channel for XM Studios.

XM Studios booth at conventions / Image credit: XM Studios

To circumvent the impact caused by Covid-19, the company had adapted quickly to develop its online presence by continuously engaging with its community through social media channels like Instagram, Twitter and Weibo.

As the pandemic shows no signs of slowing down, the company is also reportedly venturing into podcast production to reach more customers.

Latest fundraiser to help enter the mass toy industry

Earlier this month, the startup raised S $ 4.5 million through a token offering on the ADDX investment platform, a digital securities platform.

The generated digital tokens or exchangeable tickets will be used by XM Studios to expand its premium mass collection business into new markets.

With this “premium mass market” in mind, XM Studios is in talks with its partners to offer products in a more affordable price range of S $ 200 to S $ 300.

The funds will also support the purchase of new intellectual property licenses and will be used for general working capital.

ADDX Chief Commercial Officer Choo Oi Yee (left) and Ben (right) / Image Credit: XM Studios

The deal was anchored by Heliconia, an investment firm linked to Temasek, with an investment of S $ 1 million. The remainder of the offer, subscribed 1.75 times, was taken up by ADDX accredited investors.

Ben said the fundraising on ADDX was designed to allow split access with a minimum investment of just S $ 10,000 because “we wanted to give longtime fans of XM Studios the opportunity to participate in the growth of the company. ‘business “.

Image Credit: XM Studios

XM Studios is set to open its first experiential concept store and office at the Kitchener Complex in November. The site will cover an area of ​​19,000 square feet.

The company has also turned its attention to female-centric collectibles, following the stronger play on female characters like Wonder Woman and Elsa from Frozen. Currently, the majority – around 95% – of its clients are men.

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Featured Image Credit: The Edge Singapore

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