It’s just past the busy lunch hour, and the lift is packed with employees clad in business attire. One by one, they exit to various floors in a flurry of ‘Excuse me’ and ‘Sorry’. I squeeze out of the crowd and find myself alone at the 10th-floor corridor of International Plaza—it is dead silent.
I walk past several closed office doors in search of one with the Ace Profits Academy (APA) sign. When I arrive, the door is already open. People are clamouring around a non-descript registration table with a television screen hanging behind it, playing a video presentation by Bob Proctor on repeat.
“Hi, my name is Dominic, and I am an Internet Millionaire.”
In his series of YouTube ads many Singaporeans might have seen, Dominic Tay sits on a coffee-coloured sofa in a space that one can safely assume is a function room in a condominium. He’s wearing a bright blue tee shirt with a black jacket and a pair of jeans that veers on pedantic. His demeanour is relaxed and inviting.
Looking straight into the camera, he addresses the viewer who has to sit through the minimum of five seconds of this ad and introduces himself. “Hi, my name is Dominic, and I am an Internet millionaire.”
It’s a familiar trope that we associate with the marketing of a get-rich scheme and one that has just as quickly gained a foothold in Singapore.
He has other friends too —Imran, Benjamin Tan, Patricia—who are also eager to share with us their secrets to going for holidays every month and using a presentation schema that reeks of something a snake oil salesman employs.
There is no shortage of online fodder dedicated to exposing the ways of these get-rich-quick schemes. There’s even a website set up solely to discredit the work that Imran does, and it looks like something straight out of a conspiracy theory novel.
But little has been said about what exactly goes on in these presentations. What do these Internet millionaires teach? Who signs up for these complimentary sharing sessions? I was on a quest for the truth.
With all the controversy behind Imran Ali’s and Dominic Tay’s get-rich-quick seminars and workshops, I wanted to try a session for myself. A friend shared that Imran’s workshop costs approximately S$1,000 a session, money that I didn’t have. Dominic’s, however, offered a free two-hour seminar, so that’s exactly what I signed up for.
“The first 30 people to register get a free CD.”
I expected a bigger space. This was especially so after the phone call I received from APA saying that the first 30 registrants would receive a free CD. Instead, all I see is a small space resembling the office of a maid recruitment agency. Foldable IKEA chairs are already set up in neat rows—most of which are already filled by eager punters.
I hover near the door until I caught the eye of one of Dominic’s assistants. She asks for my contact number, instructs me to write my name down on a sticker label and tells me to have a seat while waiting for the seminar to start. I take a mental note of the sign stating that at all times, there are to be no video recordings or photography.
Looking around, the interested parties run the gamut from young adults dressed in their t-shirt and jeans to middle-aged men and women. Except for a young couple and their baby, many of them seem to be here alone. My thoughts are interrupted by one of Dominic’s helpers, directing our attention to the television screen.
“Before we go into the room, our founder has prepared a video for you. Please watch it.”
(audio snippet of the video we were told to watch)
Dominic appears on the screen and introduces himself and the purpose of the seminar—to earn a decent passive income by selling E-Books on Amazon. In this short presentation, he had only one request—to go in with an open mind. At the end of it, we file into the room and take a seat on one of the black chairs set up in neat rows.
“Please welcome our speaker, Dominic, without any applause.”
The room itself was relatively bare. A visualiser in the centre in front of floor-to-ceiling draped windows; in the corner, a foldable table with stationery. A lady enters, and reminds us, again, to “Please ensure that all your phones are on silent mode. No recordings or photography is allowed at any time.” She then waits for a short moment to ensure that everything’s in order.
“Please welcome our speaker, Dominic, without any applause.”
“Imagine, you can’t even go on holiday because you have customers asking you where their parcel is.”
Dominic approaches the front of the room from the back where he has been waiting and observing the proceedings prior. Today, he is in a navy blue t-shirt with a black blazer casually thrown over, formal pants, and shoes to complete the self-made entrepreneur look. He looks a lot younger in person.
The seminar begins with his back story. A typical young boy in an Asian family of four, he wasn’t exposed to the world of fancy cars and large houses. He was, however, advised by his mum to study hard if he wanted to become rich and so he did—completing his diploma in Biotechnology at Singapore Polytechnic. Like most of his schoolmates, he always imagined that he would be stuck in a hospital doing blood tests for the rest of his life because of his education route. However, his first job was with DBS bank.
“I realised that the industry was not right for me. I was always arrowed left, right and centre by my employees.” Tired of the backstabbing, he left and followed the advice of a broker who approached him, claiming that he could grow his savings at a higher interest rate than the banks could.
After skimming through the numbers that the broker had shown, Dominic entrusted most of his life savings to the broker hoping that he too could be rich. Unfortunately, through the unfavourable and unexpected economic downturn, he lost approximately 80% of his life-savings.
Following that, he tried reading books on the stock market, made even more losses through investments, and concluded that he needed to find another way to get rich. He mentioned learning from professionals and realised that as much as they would teach you their ideas, they would never let slip the secrets that made them wildly successful. The audience sits silently, completely enthralled by this presentation.
“Are you tired of having a boss that doesn’t appreciate your work? Are you sick of dealing with customers? So many people have tried starting up e-commerce businesses, and yet they always fail. Imagine this: You can’t even go on holiday without customers asking you where their parcel is. You come back, and they’re already on your Facebook pages chasing you for their item. You don’t have the freedom.”
“You mean one year you get S$10k?”
Throughout his spiel, he takes intermittent pauses to present a video reel testimonial of successful graduates of his program. He also shows us pictures of the first cheques he received from his first E-book sale and, subsequently, how much more the cheque increases weekly. By the end of the month, he had managed to earn an income of approximately S$10,000.
This amount prompted a loud “Wow!” from the lady sitting next to me—she has been diligently jotting down notes throughout the seminar. “You mean one year you get S$10k?” she asked. There was a short awkward silence before Dominic responds tersely at this interruption, “No. This is for one month. You know ah, auntie, everyone wow ten seconds ago already.”
He continues with his presentation and mentions his mum. With the consistent earnings his the E-book business, he asked her to retire, seeing that he had reached the stage where he could provide her with financial support.
Dominic then introduces her to his method of earning a good income—through the selling of E-Books online.
His 60-year old mum was reluctant at first, especially after finding out that she had to use a computer. “What’s an e-book?” she asks. Upon finding out that it was a digital book, she became more concerned. She was worried that with her poor English and lack of formal education, that no one would want to read her book.
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