Just a young poly grad, but…
He creates his own product with Apple
By Liew Hanqing
November 03, 2006
AGAINST the advice of his lecturer, polytechnic graduate Darran Nathan turned his back on a university studies to start his own company.
Mr Nathan with the BioBoost accelerator. — KENNETH KOH
That was in 2000. He had just completed his studies in electronic and computer engineering at Ngee Ann Polytechnic.
He did not embark on his dream right away, going on to complete National Service and doing research for a year at the polytechnic first.
But he held his dream fast in his mind.
Now, Mr Nathan, 26, is the jet-setting head of a year-old IT company, Progeniq. It is run in a small office on the National University of Singapore campus.
And it has developed a product with the assistance of computer giant Apple.
Called the BioBoost accelerator, it harnesses the power of Intel-based Mac computers to speed up applications used in life sciences.
It’s what Mr Nathan calls ‘a major milestone in bringing new generation computing technologies to the life sciences industry at mass-market cost’.
Mr Ron Okamoto, Apple’s vice-president of worldwide developer relations, said in an e-mail response to The New Paper that the company was thrilled to see a universal version of BioBoost, which was launched in August.
Most of Progeniq’s clients are overseas companies from the US, Europe and the Middle East. Mr Nathan and his team spun off Progeniq from a research initiative called Project Proteus, undertaken at his polytechnic’s Digital Signal Processing Technology Centre.
Mr Nathan and a co-founder, who did not want to be named, started the company with about $80,000 which they raised themselves together with funding from the polytechnic and Spring Singapore.
It has been a fast ride.
Just last year, the company had barely taken off.
‘We were still doing initial marketing development and targeting our first clients,’ said Mr Nathan, who was in San Francisco for BioBoost’s launch in August.
To get the fledgling company off the ground, he decided to forego an overseas education.
Said Mr Chua Beng Koon, a senior lecturer at Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s school of engineering: ‘I told him that ultimately, it’s important to have a degree. But I told him not to be in a hurry – to take his time and do something worthwhile.’
Mr Nathan said: ‘For someone who does well in school, the normal route is to get a good scholarship and to go overseas. For someone who wants to pursue an alternate route, the pressures of society are quite great.’
But he says he has no regrets.
Being CEO is not all fun
November 03, 2006
WHAT’S it like being a chief executive officer at 26? Well, let it be known that it’s not all roses.
Mr Nathan said he has had to give up much of his free time. He usually spends more than 12 hours a day at the office, video-conferencing with overseas clients and meeting business partners.
He also travels regularly to countries, including the UK, India and Japan.
His trips are not just to sell his company’s products – but also to speak about his experience as a young entrepreneur.
When he does get a chance, he catches up with old friends.
‘But there are sacrifices – especially in time spent with family and friends,’ he said.
However, his parents – his father is a businessman and mother a housewife – have been supportive.
And the sacrifice has been worthwhile.
Said Mr Nathan: ‘Starting your own business is very different from school life… It opens your eyes.’