Life of an Angel: Unveiling John Tan


An angel investor, or angel, is an affluent individual who provides capital for a business start-up, usually in exchange for ownership equity. John Tan is one such Angel, and I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to find out what daily activities an angel investor goes through. Before I shadowed John around for a day, I was unsure of what the duties of an Angel investor entailed; but this experience allowed me to view investing and angel investors in a whole new light.

Who is John Tan?

John graduated with an Economics degree from the University College London. After graduation, John worked as a consultant for a few years but left shortly to start up his first business, Frolick – the first frozen yogurt brand in Singapore. Subsequently he opened a cafe called Black, became the Principal of the Orit Sinclair School of Design, New Media and the Arts, and invested in his first startup – Chope, which started up his career as an Angel Investor where he has invested in around 50 startups. Currently, John has ventured into the fashion industry and founded his own online fashion ecommerce – Controlled Commodity.


Meeting an Angel

Following John around for a day, I was able to step into his world and witness his unwavering passion for all things startup. All my initial nerves instantly disappeared when John greeted me for the first time with his humble smile and bright yellow pants. I was also introduced to his partner-in-crime, Firas Alsuwaigh. Not only did both of them co-found Controlled Commodity, they had also invested in startups together. This was interesting for me as I learnt that angel investors could use either their personal funds, or a shared private pool of funds to invest in startups. John, in particular, invests in tech startups in America and South East Asia using his own personal funds, his shared funds with Firas, and with a venture capitalist group, 8capita.

Daily life of an Angel

Morning: Meetings

For normal human beings, coffee is the way to jumpstart our day. However, for John, his morning coffee is going for meetings in various industries before deciding to invest in them. Today’s meeting was with a mobile app startup in the music industry.

It was exciting to sit through the meeting, as I was able to observe the Director pitch to John ideas and aspirations for his startup. As he scribbled into his notebook, John asked many questions in order to understand the product better before he decides whether he wants to invest in the company. After the meeting, John told me that he makes his final decision according to his predilection for the team, product and market. After which, we attended another follow-up meeting with a growing startup in the tech industry. It was interesting to note that startups offer investors a minimum sum, usually between $25,000 to $100,000, to invest in their company. John also provided advice for the companies, and it was encouraging to see the mentorship spirit in him.

Afternoon: E-mails

Once the meetings ended, John invited me to check out his office located at Toa Payoh. I had the privilege to look at his warehouse where he keeps all the stock from his Controlled Commodity line. While John worked on replying his emails at the office, I browsed through a social media influencer catalogue of a company he invested in in New York. It was enlightening to learn about the business model of the startup, and John offered me the opportunity to work with them after sensing my interest.

Evening: Launch Party


As the evening approached, I was invited to follow John and Firas to an accelerator launch party hosted by Singapore Press Holdings, Plug and Play, and Infocomm Investments. I was able to listen to the ideas behind 8 budding startups from various industries at this event. John also brought me around to network with other investors and venture capitalists that were present at the event.

Takeaways from working with an Angel

When the day ended, I was sad to part ways with John. But I was glad that I had the opportunity to shadow him and experience what the daily lives of an angel investor entails.


What I learnt:

  • Entrepreneurship
  • Knowledge of the start-up industry
  • How to network
  • Financial metrics regarding start-ups
  • Compare macroeconomic trends between the Southeast Asian Region & Silicon Valley

Think you have what it takes to work with an angel? Join the Fashionista Challenge by Controlled Commodity and get the chance to win $300 worth of prizes and the chance to work with John Tan up close and personal HERE.

What Now?

At the end of the session, Glints had had a quick interview with John about the job shadowing experience to find out how he felt about the whole experience.

  1. Would you have someone shadow you again?


  1. I heard you offered Valerie a job, what were the qualities you spotted in her? 

She’s eager to learn and she asks the right questions.

  1. Do you think this is a good way to evaluate and hire future employees?

It’s a great way to know the prospective employee better and assess for culture fit and I would recommend this experience to other employers.

Want to be part of the program?

If you are an interested applicant who wants to be an intern for a day or an employee that wants to try out this program, drop us an e-mail with your Name, Contact with the Subject: Intern For a Day at


This article was contributed by Valerie Chua and special thanks to John Tan for participating in this program.

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