99.co Stories

An apology and an appeal

July 11, 2016

About 24 hours ago, we were alerted by a user that one of our consultants, Sonny Truyen, demonstrated rude behaviour on a Facebook thread.

(The thread has since been deleted by the moderator, but it can still be found on some forums. We won’t be reposting it here because of its offensive nature as well as against our company philosophy to propagate hate)

Let me clear up a few facts:

1) Sonny, an SEO specialist, has only started consulting for us for a week before the incident happened.

2) We are a proud Singaporean company and do not condone such language or behaviour, hence we have since terminated his engagement once the incident came to light.

I apologise on behalf of 99.co, we pride ourselves to be a principled company that celebrates values like diversity and equality. We take responsibility for the public behaviour of any employee or consultant affiliated with us as a reflection of the company.

We are truly sorry, do accept our apology.

Beyond that, this incident has also given me the opportunity to discuss an issue that has been on my mind:

As a fellow Singaporean, I care about the future of this country deeply – this is the place I call home, where we build our enterprise at 99.co, and where I intend to see my daughter grow up.

As you could see in the same forum threads, a reckless act of insult by one individual has provoked the anger of hundreds – not just towards him as an individual, but also inspired categorical attacks on race and nationalities. Simply put, anyone labelled a “Foreign Talent” was heavily criticised. I am sure we all have Australian or Vietnamese friends – how would they feel if they read it?

We are better than that. 

I care about my country, which is why even at the risk of provoking more anger, I ask for your assistance in not propagating messages of hate and division, but instead embrace our diversity.

Insulting behaviour is not acceptable regardless of whether it came from a foreign person or from a local. And the truth is, everyone of us have our best and worst moments. It is a conscious choice we should all be making to focus on the positive.

Our challenges today in Singapore are still relatively small, compared to say, the systematic and fatal displays of discrimination in the US. Our forefathers have worked hard to prevent the deadly racial riots of the 60s from repeating as well as designed policies and campaigns to ensure Singapore stays strong and tightly knitted. However, it seems lately the influx of foreigners has increasingly caused resentment.

I am proud to be Singaporean and believe we have one of the most diverse yet harmonious societies in the world where people not just tolerate, but embrace diversity and individual differences. Besides, for a small nation like Singapore, growth is the only way to survive and the truth is we need foreigners to join us as much as the foreigners enjoy becoming part of us.

It is within our power as citizens and residents of Singapore, to nip this at the bud and reverse the trend.

Thus I hope we will stand firm each time we encounter messages of hate and vitriol, instead of fuelling it with likes and shares, or sitting on the sideline watching it play out. We will share the belief that we are better that, and that we would not allow individual incidents to damage us. We will stand by our friends regardless of race, language, religion, nationality, gender orientation or sports team affiliation.

Please accept our apology for this incident and I hope you would join me!


CEO, 99.co

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  • Reply German guy July 11, 2016 at 1:40 pm

    Thank you, Darius for the well written post.

    While Sonny’s behavior was terrible and his firing was well deserved, the public reaction and mobbing has been quite unsettling to watch. It shows a worrying trend in society, which is also partly propagated by government online media, such as STOMP. Public naming, shaming and humiliating has turned commonplace and the internet reduces the filters that normally existed between people in a social setting.

    The bad behavior of individuals is then often used to condemn a whole group of people, for example so called “foreign talents”. I consider myself as part of the silent majority of Western foreigners here, studied partly in NUS got a combined degree, worked very hard and am fortunate enough to have a senior job in Singapore.

    Just like so many others I try my best to integrate as closely into Singapore society as possible, have been studying Chinese for years, love the local food, know the difference between kopi si and kopi (or masala dosai vs. rava masala dosai) and keep any negative opinions about Singapore to myself.

    Yet whenever some idiot who happens to come from any so called “Western” country does something stupid, my local co-workers and friends will ask me or tell me about it as if I was somehow connected. We have to remember there are always idiots and douchebags in every culture, but we should not generalize and attack a whole group of people on the basis of a stupid behavior by a tiny minority.

    • Reply -WB July 11, 2016 at 8:38 pm

      I hope you don’t go the easy route to hire another foreign talent. There are talents if you are willing to pay the right price.

      • Reply Passerby July 12, 2016 at 12:13 pm

        Uh, you know preferring foreign talents over Singaporeans is not the point of the whole issue right?

      • Reply VentiCup July 12, 2016 at 10:48 pm

        Firstly, as passerby said, that’s not what this is about.

        Having said that, you should hire the right person for the job. Don’t discriminate based on where they’re from. Ofcourse you may take the stance of not going out of your way to hire someone based outside of Singapore and first explore local options (Singaporean or others) but shouldn’t go out of your way in either case.

    • Reply German Germ July 12, 2016 at 10:26 pm

      Hey German Guy, I think you better change your name to German Sausage. You are one of the many idiots and douchebags in every culture.

    • Reply Naga_Singie July 13, 2016 at 9:07 am

      Hello German Guy,

      You mean to say that Singaporeans protesting against insulting language was wrong ?

      And, I wish you had taken perhaps a moment before posting this – because even though I am Singaporean, I get asked about policies of China by ‘Western’ friends as I come from ‘East’. Sorry, you seem to have posted in a haste…are you friends with this Truyen fellow ?


  • Reply max July 11, 2016 at 1:49 pm

    Why you hire this type of person? A lot of damage done to your brand.Consumers have long memories.

    • Reply Keith Power July 11, 2016 at 3:31 pm

      Not always possible to know of such behavior traits through a hiring process Max. I think that Darius’ response being swift, decisive and explanatory will ensure the brand is actually positively affected by this incident and – more importantly – the way in which it was dealt with.

      • Reply Chang-Z July 12, 2016 at 10:39 am

        Totally agree. Because of how Darius has dealt with this issue, i now know of the 99.co brand and have the best of impressions.

    • Reply Doug Finn July 11, 2016 at 7:30 pm

      Quite the contrary. By responding so quickly, and by posting such a considered and wise response, this will generate much goodwill towards the company. At least, I hope it will. Well done, Mr Cheung!

      • Reply Doug Finn July 11, 2016 at 7:40 pm

        By the way, I may well be looking to purchase a property in the near future, and 99.co will now be my first port of call.

    • Reply Justin July 11, 2016 at 9:03 pm

      Do you think that the CEO know that he’s such a person that posted something offensive?

      • Reply Adam R. July 12, 2016 at 1:27 am

        Hi Justin,

        We at 99.co believe that in addition to having the necessary experience and qualifications for the role, there also needs to be a level of professionalism when representing the company.

        We give our employers/partners the benefit of a doubt they will act accordingly as the job requires. That said, we were also unfortunately caught unaware of his conduct (after all, he had only been with us for a week). What we can do now is to move on for this and be wiser.

        Adam R.

    • Reply Ken July 11, 2016 at 11:33 pm

      Darius’s action is swift and decisive. Truly supported your actions and comments. Embracing diversity is important to maintain the delicate social harmony that Singapore has built up over the long years.

    • Reply Passerby July 12, 2016 at 12:15 pm

      You’re wrong, by firing a rude disrespectful employee does add points to the company’s integrity and values. Stop being narrow-minded. How could the employer be 100% certain that he’s actually such a racist bastard right at the job interview?

  • Reply Karl Loo July 11, 2016 at 1:52 pm

    Well said Darius. I applaud your response and quick action taken.

  • Reply Joseph Balan July 11, 2016 at 1:56 pm

    We’ll done Darius !

  • Reply Gilbert July 11, 2016 at 1:56 pm

    Beautifully worded and heartfelt letter that should be read by many and not just those who saw the original post. Much much too frequently, Singaporeans react with xenophobia and hate when any foreigner misbehaves, and instead of seeing it as an act by an individual, they condemn by nationality or race. That’s the very definition of xenophobia and nationalism, when you lump everyone by their nationality and spread hate against foreigners. This cannot be tolerated or it will grow and be a cancer within society.

  • Reply Michael Tan July 11, 2016 at 2:00 pm

    Hi Darius, good and quick response and the mark of a true leader. Regards

  • Reply Marcus Woo July 11, 2016 at 2:15 pm

    Well said Darius. Keep up the good work. I use 99.co too. Never regretted it. And thank you for your quick action in handling the Sonny fiasco. Have a great and wonderful day ahead. Cheers

    Marcus Woo

  • Reply Richard Tseng July 11, 2016 at 2:22 pm

    Well said ….

  • Reply Stefan Phang July 11, 2016 at 2:27 pm

    Hi! Very impressed by your quick action in terminating Truyen’s contract after what he did. Wish a lot more CEO’s are like you.

    Just out of curiosity,why did you need to hire a foreign talent for this consulting role anyway? Cant find a qualified Singaporean for this role?

    • Reply Adam R. July 11, 2016 at 5:39 pm

      Hi Stefan,

      We hire the best we can – there are definitely highly qualified Singaporeans as well (including quite a few we could not afford), but as with all hiring processes go, it’s a matter of finding the right talent at the right time, and indeed Sonny was one of the most skilled persons with extensive experience in a relevant field. This position is now open again – so please do check out our job openings here – https://www.99.co/team

      Adam R.

      • Reply Jenny Lau July 11, 2016 at 11:16 pm

        Adam, I would definitely put in my application for the job but alas! I don’t possess the qualifications. I would welcome the opportunity to work in 99.co – a company run by folks who are of integrity, maturity and fairness, and one who has the courage to take the right course of action regardless the lack of popularity of it.
        Well done, Darius, you have my respect. We need more like you!

      • Reply Naga_Singie July 13, 2016 at 9:27 am

        Hello Adam,

        What SEO expert could not search on google that Pokemon was coming to Singapore in about another week’s time ?

        Really can still do good SEO mah ?

        Being in IT Industry myself, I agree that sometimes it is hard to find local talent and one has to source from where one can.
        I just wish that in the future, someone will devise a way to assess ‘Racism Quotient’ of potential employees to avoid such embarrassing situations.

        You guys have responded in an excellent manner – everyone makes mistakes, it is how we respond that shows our character – I will be calling upon you when I need to see if I can buy services from you.

  • Reply Kevin Ang July 11, 2016 at 2:37 pm

    Totally agree with ’embracing the diversity’ and ‘not propagating hate’. The best part of these all is that, and hopefully, the merit of social media; is to filter and punish those who, as individuals, did exactly that! Motherhood statements abounds, but people who harbour those inherent mindset as individuals, and blatantly display them whether through physical acts or through written words, not considering our feeling as a nation, then, I’m sorry, pride as a Singaporean must take over…Period

  • Reply Evon July 11, 2016 at 3:12 pm

    Good on ya, Darius. Thank you for making a firm yet respectful stand for Singapore.

  • Reply Richard Tai July 11, 2016 at 3:17 pm

    Kudos and well said, Darius.

  • Reply Ravi July 11, 2016 at 3:23 pm

    I don’t know you. I’ve never heard of your company. But just reading your post and how you handled the situation shows your level of maturity and leadership in handling a difficult situation. You have all my respect.


  • Reply Keith Power July 11, 2016 at 3:32 pm

    Excellent response!

  • Reply Wisteria Goh July 11, 2016 at 3:40 pm

    Nicely written, hope this doesn’t affect your company negatively.
    Have a nice day!

  • Reply HS Lim July 11, 2016 at 3:45 pm

    We are proud of you.

  • Reply Curious July 11, 2016 at 3:59 pm

    just wondering if his EP is still valid after termination? Hopefully his negative emotions does not get escalated due to the termination.

    • Reply Harry July 11, 2016 at 10:42 pm

      It’s not. EP is tied to a work contract. Once your employment terminates, your pass is invalidated too.

  • Reply . July 11, 2016 at 4:10 pm

    1. The “us versus them” culture has to start from the top. Very top.

    2. The country must have a system to groom more local talents not marginalise them when they hold a different voice from the establishment

    • Reply Jacqueline Low July 11, 2016 at 5:07 pm

      I disagree with you. The “us versus them” culture can start anywhere, from anyone. You only need one “Indian Chief” for that.

      As for the marginalizing portion, I think you have some strange belief that the government knows each person in this country and each person’s views of a different voice from the establishment. Unfortunately we are all a part of a number. And that will never change no matter which era. They won’t have the technology to “purposely” marginalize anyone here.

  • Reply VernonAE July 11, 2016 at 4:16 pm

    Your PR consultants are worth their weight in gold, against the potential vagaries of lesser hires 😉 Well done!

  • Reply Andrew July 11, 2016 at 4:33 pm

    I must say that in the end Sonny Truyen did help to boost your company name across the Internet, I’d never have known about 99.co otherwise. 🙂

  • Reply Billie Mesina July 11, 2016 at 5:11 pm

    This is a great response Darius & eloquently put.

  • Reply Joseph July 11, 2016 at 5:35 pm

    How about just being proud at being a decent human being? I think that’d work just as nicely.

    Still haven’t heard an apology from the guy that got upset at not being able to get his Pokemon up …

  • Reply Suman July 11, 2016 at 5:48 pm

    Apt response!

  • Reply Samuel July 11, 2016 at 6:20 pm

    An SEO consultant? Haha well played. This got to my fb feed and got me to know about your company faster than Ad words. Talk about shock advertising !

    • Reply Adam R. July 11, 2016 at 6:41 pm

      Hi Samuel,

      It was unfortunate (and ironic) that the circumstances turned out as such. Nonetheless, we hope you do enjoy our site!

      Adam R.

    • Reply D.C July 11, 2016 at 8:49 pm

      😉 nice.

  • Reply Melvin Tan July 11, 2016 at 6:22 pm

    Extremely well written. Quick and swift response. Respect !

  • Reply Andy WRX July 11, 2016 at 7:32 pm

    Good write response to the whole incident. You displayed what the Singaporean spirit is all about. Cheers.

  • Reply Irene July 11, 2016 at 7:59 pm

    Swift response marks true leadership and values of your company. Bravo!

  • Reply Shaun July 11, 2016 at 8:00 pm

    Thank you for your prompt and daring response to the situation. It must have been hard to let go of an employee in such a short span of time. Just wanted to say I applaud the way you stuck to your principles and Made a logical decision.

    I wish you and the rest of your firm all the best, hopefully you manage to find a suitable replacement soon

  • Reply M. July 11, 2016 at 8:45 pm

    Dear Darius, my full respect and support for your swift, appropriate and very wise and balanced response! I wish that there were more leaders like you. Totally agree with your message about not propagating hate, and the need to resist the temptation to over-generalise against groups of people simply based on the actions of an individual. Kudos!

    PS: Because of your inspiring post, I have now ended up checking out 99.co for the first time.

  • Reply Joanna ng July 11, 2016 at 9:14 pm

    Well thought-out reply. Totally agree with your views. Let’s not target any community as a whole by just an individual’s reckless comment.

    We should carry on with what our forefathers has built. A nation of race and culture harmonious.

  • Reply Thomas Law July 11, 2016 at 9:15 pm

    A personal act and behaviour from what I see. He is totally reponsible and which I think he is much regret for how he have react. Singapore is a nice place with nice people and its going to stay that way. Great leader make decision and take responsibility. Well done sir.

  • Reply Abrial Pang July 11, 2016 at 10:10 pm

    Well said Sir.

  • Reply ben July 11, 2016 at 10:36 pm

    Kind of like feeling slightly sorry for the bloke after he was in some way being egged on after a thoughtless outburst But he is ultimately responsible for his own behavior. We need to move on.

  • Reply Sooc July 11, 2016 at 10:53 pm

    I applaud Darius for making such a swift decision. It is difficult enough being a leader of a corporation, also to deal with public opinions.

    However, I feel that despite justice being served, should we as Singaporeans show more empathy towards others.

    That said, I do feel glad that as a nation we are united.

  • Reply Lydia July 11, 2016 at 11:10 pm

    Very mature man of great wisdom and stature!

  • Reply Roy Tan July 11, 2016 at 11:11 pm

    I salute you Darius. It was really brave to hold the bull at it’s horn and make a swift intelligent decision. As a true Singaporean. we can’t let others belittle or disrespect us. Our parents were born here, we were born here and our childrens too. Whether Singapore is good or bad, she is definitely not for an outsider to comment and bad-mouthed especially the so called ‘FT’ who gets paid in Singapore Dollars. Sometimes i just wonder, have our government made a bad choice to open the flood-gate to accept so many so called FT instead of relying more on our LT (local talents). Anyway, that’s not for me to comment too. Thank you for making me proud to have a countryman like you.

  • Reply Vina Ip July 11, 2016 at 11:14 pm

    Hi Darius, this is excellent crisis management by you and your company.
    It is not an easy decision, considering your previous efforts to hire a right person to fill this key position. But you have demonstrated your professionalism and decisiveness in protecting the reputation of 99.co.
    Just want to let you know that I fully support you in this matter. Your sacrifice today will be paid off in the long run. Keep up the good work Darius!

  • Reply 5040 July 11, 2016 at 11:49 pm

    Instant retribution. Love it.

  • Reply Josh Futterman July 12, 2016 at 12:20 am

    Darius, very well written response to the difficulties your consultant caused, and very true. Foreigners and Singaporeans must work together for Singapore to thrive. Racist comments and attacks on outsiders undermine that great project. I did my part by starting a business in Singapore that hired Singaporeans as well as expats, marrying a wonderful Singaporean woman, and diving into Singapore’s wonderful cultural opportunities while I lived on the island. I consider myself an honorary Singaporean, and would defend the country’s multicultural ethos to the end.

    • Reply Danny July 12, 2016 at 7:47 am

      Thanks for your kind and lovely comments. I for one, am a proud Singaporean who loves to read comments from people who have settled into my country and enjoy the experience – not to mention playing an active role to carry Singapore forward. You see, you can be proud of Singapore and not be nationalistic or xenophobic… not at all! I share your enthusiasm to defend Singapore’s multiculturalism – which, in my opinion, is the most beautiful thing about my country.

  • Reply VIKRAM KUMAR B GOTAWAT July 12, 2016 at 1:32 am

    Singapore is a country with diversified nationalists yet unified with each other harming or even troubling it is not good.

    I appreciate the steps taken and avoiding them in future will be good for all is my belief

  • Reply Francis July 12, 2016 at 1:48 am

    Reputation and brand goes a long way. However, as a business people in Singapore, I take a very serious view and will rather put your company or 99.co as last option. Sorry.

  • Reply Eiz July 12, 2016 at 7:07 am

    If you are reading this Sonny Truyen, you should be ashamed of yourself and your family have sacrificed so much to bring you up to where you are today.

    The attitude you display in a few Facebook post really shows your true nature,xenophobia and contempt of people and country who you deem as different as yours.

    Australia does not need bigoted people like you. Stay away please.

  • Reply Cal July 12, 2016 at 10:38 am

    As a Singaporean working in Australia, whose son is an Australian (born here) who will be looking for work in Singapore, I thank you for showing good leadership as a CEO, and hold true and proud to our pledge as a Singaporean (“pledge ourselves as one united people,regardless of race, language or religion”)

    Such racism is appalling, and there is no place in the world for disrespect of fellow country mates (or to citizens of your host country).
    I appreciate and applaud your fast actions in stomping out such antisocial behaviours.

  • Reply NB July 12, 2016 at 11:12 am

    Darius is indeed a great leader. Nobody is perfect but there are better ones like him.

  • Reply chris lee July 12, 2016 at 12:54 pm

    If you think about it, Sonny has done an excellent job. Now all of Singapore know about 99.co, surely your company is now ranked in google search. Maybe this was the plan all along. sacrificial lamb LOL?

  • Reply Kaffein July 12, 2016 at 2:16 pm

    Well done, Darius. Good and heartfelt letter. You did the right thing and I support you all the way. I am a Singaporean living in Australia btw.

    We cannot condone such irresponsible behaviour and this guy Sonny just blew it. These days Facebook posts are being searched and investigated by HR before hiring too.

    Good to see a Singaporean standing up against such remarks. Kudos.

  • Reply John Heng July 12, 2016 at 3:37 pm

    Hi Darius,

    I applaud your quick action. I think you would have acted the same, regardless of whether it was Singapore that was bad-mouthed or any other country/race/creed. The comments were ignorant and particularly vile since it displayed a severe lack of maturity. I hope you good luck in filling the position with someone who will speak, write and act professionally – in a manner that your company deserves.


  • Reply Angela July 12, 2016 at 6:58 pm

    Couldn’t have crafted a better reply. Thank you for taking a stand against xenophobia, Darius.

  • Reply JC July 12, 2016 at 7:53 pm

    I applaud your swift action. As a fellow local, I embraces a harmonious society and only appreciates people (wherever they come from) who integrates into our society, respect our laws and people. Unfortunately there will always be black sheeps from any and every country. Sonny Truyen’s professionalism was probably over hyped and ego overdone.

  • Reply Ethel Minge July 12, 2016 at 8:23 pm

    Diversity and equality, but no free speech. Looks like it’s true, what they say about Singapore: Disneyland with the death penalty.

    • Reply Carol July 13, 2016 at 12:14 am

      You want free speech and then live with regrets later on? Human opinions are shaped by near experiences. A loose tongue no matter how glib can do more harm than good.

      • Reply Naga_Singie July 13, 2016 at 9:21 am

        Hey Carol,

        Never mind lah…some people have the habit to think that they are freer-than-thou, even if that freedom means people do drugs in open, children shoot in the school and child predators roam around freely.
        That sick version of ‘freedom’ is not for Singapore and no Singaporean would welcome that.

  • Reply Lambda Wan July 13, 2016 at 12:40 am

    Hey Darius, I am glad for the swift action but can you clarify if Sonny was an SEO consultant or VP of Digital Marketing? He obviously listed himself as VP of Digital Marketing on Linkedin which was screenshot. Can 99.co clarify this?

    • Reply Adam R. July 13, 2016 at 12:51 pm

      Hi Lambda,

      He was an SEO consultant who had only started working with us for one week before the incident occurred.

      Adam R.

  • Reply Naga_Singie July 13, 2016 at 9:10 am

    Hello Darius,

    Swift and appropriate reply. Mark of a true leader – who will not tolerate non-sense just for business benefit.
    It is ok lah – people make mistakes and this fellow certainly could possibly not reflect the culture of your company.

    By your response, you already did what maximum could be done. You have won many hearts already…..and by the way, the Pokemon is now available in Singapore also, so the SEO expert wasn’t all that great at SEO because a google search would tell him that Pokemon will be available next week……….

  • Reply Force12 July 13, 2016 at 2:41 pm

    Let’s grow up, Cheers !

  • Reply nadahati January 19, 2017 at 12:52 am

    Well said

  • Reply Cathrine Headen March 25, 2017 at 9:18 pm

    It’s onerous to find knowledgeable people on this topic, but you sound like you realize what you’re talking about! Thanks

  • Reply Galina Tucciarone April 20, 2017 at 5:27 pm

    I thank you a lot for your time in writing this post.

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