Money & Me: 'I sold my first company for millions of dollars'

Entrepreneur Sam Singh first started working at the age of 24 and invests in property and fixed income

Sam Singh recently founded property technology start-up Tripler. Antonie Robertson / The National
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Sam Singh took his first steps as an entrepreneur in his twenties, launching a pirate radio station. The serial entrepreneur has since founded, built and successfully exited a number of companies.

Most recently, he launched property technology start-up Tripler. It uses artificial intelligence to help estate agents multiply sales conversions by analysing potential buyers’ voices to understand what they say, as well as their underlying emotions, intent and urgency.

Mr Singh has worked in London and Silicon Valley, California, on ventures including a hotel development company and a real estate technology firm. To date, he says he has raised more than $50 million in venture capital.

The Briton, 49, is married with children and lives between London and his home in Downtown Dubai.

What was the earliest lesson you learnt about money?

I began my career – and entrepreneurial journey – 28 years ago when I finished my studies at the University of California, Berkeley. In the beginning, I had zero capital, zero clients and zero idea of what I was doing.

While I came from a very successful and wealthy family, my idea of starting a business at the age of 22 was frowned upon and I was cut off. It was a key driver to starting my own adventure.

One of the first things I learnt about money was, “hold is gold”, meaning whoever holds the money has the cash flow, or the gold. I learnt this the hard way running a business, trusting people and following up on payments.

At what age did you start working?

I began working in 1994 at 21 years of age, while still at university. I launched a pirate radio station and an audio channel called MTV on Tape. Amazingly, I began making money from it. Within the first few months, I received my first pay cheque from that business and took home about $12,000.

What has your entrepreneurial journey been like?

My view is that it is easier to become a failed entrepreneur now because the barrier to entry is so low that it does not test people before they start their own business. Earlier, when capital or technology was a barrier, it was harder to quit your job and start a business – you needed money to do it.

My journey has been a rollercoaster for the past 25 years or so. The main challenge is the ability to actually change oneself.

Who is your biggest financial inspiration?

Elon Musk, simply because he has created real value and hasn't just been an investor like other prominent businessmen.

Why do you live between Dubai and London?

This is to ensure I have equal time at our headquarters in London and at our operations in Dubai. I just think of it as a very long commute to work and the rewards are enough, and it pays off.

I spend two weeks at our offices in Business Bay, Dubai, then a week in London at our offices in Kensington. It works quite well because the environment in Dubai supports businesses and is meant for entrepreneurial energy to be harnessed to create wealth and value, and that's fantastic.

How do you handle the tax implications?

Without going into too much detail, the UK allows you to keep your international income international if your ancestors were not originally British in some cases.

So, all business income and everything generated outside the UK, whether in Dubai or India, stays in those jurisdictions and is taxed according to those laws. I work with great accountants in each jurisdiction to ensure I’m staying within the law.

Why have you launched an AI-based platform?

I have unwavering faith in the power of technology. We currently live in a world that is dramatically changing and I don’t think people realise what is upon us. AI is going to replace so much of what we believe is normal life. It will become the core, the sun around which we humans will operate as planets.

What asset classes do you invest in?

My first investment class would be the companies where I put my capital, like my current company, Tripler, in which I hold up to 90 per cent of shares.

I have basically invested millions of pounds in myself, as I believe I am my own greatest asset. The second would be property and the third would be fixed income, where capital is not at risk.

Tell us about a successful investment.

That has to be the first property I bought, a holiday home in Kasauli, in the mountains in India. I bought it cheap – as a ruin – for about £20,000 ($25,535) The current value is about £500,000.

Why is property an important investment for you?

I have done about 15 to 20 property investments and transactions to date. They have all performed really well except one transaction where I lost value because of Covid.

With property, you have several revenue streams. Not only do you get the 7 per cent to 10 per cent yield from renting out, but you also harness appreciation, which is another 7 per cent to 10 per cent. That is capital secured because property over the long term never goes down.

People often think it is a liability that property is illiquid. However, I believe that is its greatest asset. In an emergency, for instance, since property is illiquid, it works like a forced barrier so you don’t destroy your wealth. If you hold property through the classic seven-year cycle, you will never lose money.

Because I am an entrepreneur and I don't have a fixed salary, there is no such thing as saving on a monthly basis
Sam Singh

Where do you own homes?

I own homes in the UK and India, in the Himalayas. I owned a property next to the Burj Khalifa and sold it at a significant profit. Currently, valuations are so frothy that rental yields do not justify the investment.

What has been your proudest financial moment?

It was selling my first company, a marketing services company I founded at the age of 24. I made a multimillion-dollar exit at the age of 34. So, when most people were still figuring out what to do with their lives, I had already built a company with nine offices.

Are you insecure about money?

Yes, I am – and I am proud that I am insecure about money because a relaxed man and his money are soon parted.

When did you become financially independent?

I became financially independent after university at the age of 24. I don't believe financial independence is about never having to work again. Rather, it means having an honest means of income that justifies your existence, so you are not dependent on selling assets or on family, spouse or anyone else.

Are you a spender or a saver?

I used to be a spender and now I am a saver, having learnt things. I wish all young people could get this advice early on, it will save 20 years of having to make all these earnings the hard way!

How much do you save each month?

Because I am an entrepreneur and I don’t have a fixed salary, there is no such thing as saving on a monthly basis. It depends on how the businesses are performing.

Updated: December 22, 2023, 6:02 PM