Ghandour: I'll retire when I've proved my point

Founder & former CEO of Aramex urges people to invest in the GCC.
Fadi Ghandour.
Fadi Ghandour.

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by Tamara Pupic

Often described as the father of entrepreneurship in the region, Fadi Ghandour – the founder of Aramex and active supporter of Arab entrepreneurs – said he wanted to prove to people that the GCC was the place where they should invest.
So much so that he claimed he will retire after showing the world that the region is where investors should put their money.

Speaking at a Disruptive CEO session at Impact Hub Dubai this week, Ghandour said: “I want to invest, make money, prove to people that it’s here where they should invest, and then I’ll retire.”

Addressing a room of budding entrepreneurs, he also pointed out that investing in start-ups was the only solution for the region’s high youth unemployment rate.

“People who build businesses do one thing – employ,” he said. “To think of the problem of jobs you need to think about investing in start-ups.

“Big companies don’t employ, they fire people. Young companies are producing business and jobs.”

Ghandour stepped down as CEO of Aramex in 2012, having developed the delivery and logistics business to become the first Arab-based international company to trade its shares on the NASDAQ stock exchange in 1997.

Now dedicated to helping young Arab entrepreneurs, he is currently executive chairman of Wamda Ventures, a new venture capital fund focusing on technology investments in the Arab World, and managing partner of MENA Venture Investments, a seed capital investment company focusing on early stage tech companies in the MENA region.

Speaking to Arabian Business StartUp on the sidelines of the event, he said that regional investors were hesitant to invest in early-stage start-ups due to the lack of understanding, and that an educational process was needed to convince them that this is a place that was worth investing in.

He said: “Beyond series A there is plenty of money. It is that seeds stage, early stage, where there is very little money.

“It is easier to raise $20 million than $100,000 because once you have proven your concept, and you’re big enough, you’re going to have a lot of private equity people investing in you.

“It’s that risky stage…It’s there but it’s not that big and it’s just starting to happen. There are four or five funds that are coming up in the region. I’m optimistic about it. We need to prove that this is the place that needs to be invested in.

“The way to actually do it is to have some exits, to have success stories.”

When asked whether it was easier when he was starting, he said: “The big picture is still the same but there’s much more than ever before. When I wanted to raise private money, I couldn’t. That’s why we [Aramex] went public on NASDAQ.

“But today, if a good company is raising money, they will find money. There isn’t enough of it but there is [some]. The good ones will always raise money.”

During the event, Ghandour also spoke about many “myths about entrepreneurship and the Arab world” as well as about his mentoring roles and the work of Ruwwad for Development, which he founded in 2005 and empowers disadvantaged communities.

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