What true entrepreneurs have is dreams

The National - News - Business - - Front Page - Sabah Al Bi­nali Sabah Al Bi­nali is an ac­tive in­vestor and en­tre­pre­neur­ial leader with a track record of grow­ing com­pa­nies in the Mena re­gion. You can read more of his thoughts at al-bi­nali.com

Noon.com, the on­line re­tailer, was an­nounced in Novem­ber 2016 with a launch date of Jan­uary 2017. Last week, word be­gan to emerge that Noon, now al­most five months late on its orig­i­nally an­nounced launch date, might be mov­ing many of its staff to Saudi Ara­bia. Why, when a ven­ture is al­ready de­layed five months, would you make such an im­por­tant shift? More per­plex­ing is why a ven­ture that is less than a year old would sud­denly have to move peo­ple? Was the ear­lier plan wrong in its em­pha­sis on Dubai? Aren’t busi­nesses sup­posed to pick Dubai as their re­gional hub? This was per­plex­ing, so I tried to look at it from dif­fer­ent an­gles.

One an­gle is that since Saudi’s Pen­sion In­vest­ment Fund (PIF) was in­vest­ing half of the US$1 bil­lion into Noon then PIF wanted to domi­cile the com­pany in its own coun­try. Wouldn’t PIF have thought of that when it de­cided to make the in­vest­ment? It is, af­ter all, known to be so­phis­ti­cated and pro­fes­sional. All things be­ing equal, it would have made that de­ci­sion at the be­gin­ning. If by some over­sight it didn’t, PIF would un­der­stand the high risk of mov­ing the op­er­a­tional base of a late-to-launch start-up. There must have been an­other rea­son.

Per­haps look­ing at what lit­tle pub­licly avail­able in­for­ma­tion there is on Noon might shed some light on the mat­ter. A quick sur­vey of rel­e­vant an­nounce­ments re­veals: (1). A five-month de­lay in launch; (2). A last-sec­ond of­fer for Souq.com; (3). The ac­qui­si­tion of JadoPado, an ex­ist­ing on­line re­tailer; (4). One month later, se­nior peo­ple from JadoPado and Noon left the ven­ture; and (5). The an­nounce­ment of the move of the op­er­at­ing ven­ture to Saudi.

The first four points sig­nal neg­a­tive events for Noon. The last one simply looks like PIF, the 50 per cent share­holder, de­cid­ing to ex­er­cise some cor­po­rate gov­er­nance and move the op­er­a­tional base to Riyadh so that it could have bet­ter over­sight over the ven­ture. This is, of course, simply my the­ory since as of writ­ing this no­body from Noon has pro­vided a ra­tio­nal ex­pla­na­tion to what is go­ing on.

One of the heart­break­ing is­sues is that JadoPado, a great en­tre­pre­neur­ial startup story in the re­gion, seems to have been un­nec­es­sar­ily shut­down. Is this a sign of things to come? Peo­ple who have, or con­trol, large amounts of fi­nan­cial as­sets harm­ing our nascent ven­ture cap­i­tal ecosys­tem be­cause they think they know what it means to be an en­tre­pre­neur? Will other entrepreneurs who have spent years build­ing up their com­pa­nies face the same fate be­cause es­tab­lished in­ter­ests are sub­op­ti­mal in how they han­dle their ac­qui­si­tions? This re­minds me of a poem by Wil­liam But­ler Yeats:

Aedh Wishes For The Cloths Of Heaven

Had I the heav­ens’ em­broi­dered cloths,

En­wrought with golden and sil­ver light,

The blue and the dim and the dark cloths

Of night and light and the half-light,

I would spread the cloths un­der your feet:

But I, be­ing poor, have only my dreams;

I have spread my dreams un­der your feet;

Tread softly be­cause you tread on my dreams.

In the end, that is the only thing that true entrepreneurs have – dreams. Peo­ple who have money and busi­ness suc­cess handed to them will never, can never, un­der­stand this. When entrepreneurs ask in vain where the fund­ing part of the ecosys­tem is, per­haps they should look to those who have re­ceived busi­ness and sup­port in ex­cess of the value they pro­duced. If those who can be com­mer­cially suc­cess­ful can’t find fund­ing be­cause those who aren’t com­mer­cially suc­cess­ful keep hoover­ing it up, per­haps we should re­think the ecosys­tem.

I spent three years build­ing an in­vest­ment bank in Saudi Ara­bia deal­ing with reg­u­la­tors, gov­ern­ment de­part­ments, in­vestors, and staff. They are com­pe­tent and pro­fes­sional. I hope that they can help what is left of JadoPado and in­vig­o­rate Noon. Uni­corn should mean sold for a bil­lion dol­lar val­u­a­tion, not de­stroyed a bil­lion-dol­lar val­u­a­tion.

I also hope that we can re­bal­ance the ven­ture cap­i­tal ecosys­tem in the UAE to sup­port entrepreneurs.

JadoPado was a great en­tre­pre­neur­ial start-up story in the re­gion

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UAE

© PressReader. All rights reserved.