The 21st century has heralded a change in the way the world conducts business. Through technology and social media platforms, we are able to see more, do more and experience the world in new ways.
One such experience is that we are allowed snapshots of some talented, assiduous and innovative personalities. These pioneers are equipped with tenacity, drive and in some instances sheer genius. They have taken simple ideas and created thriving businesses. What makes them more impressive is that they belong to a school of divergent thinkers who are willing to push the boundaries. Paul Kenny, founder and CEO of cobone. com and Triperna is poised as one of these influential entrepreneurs to watch within the business community of the UAE and MENA region.
In 2007, a very ambitious Paul left his home in Galway, Ireland to assume the role of an intern with the Jumeirah Group (JG). After resigning his position with the JG, he worked his way up through a number of different jobs. Three years later, in August 2010, his first company cobone.com, a ‘Daily Deal’ website which provides money saving offers to online shoppers in the Middle East, went live.
Paul currently wears the hats of innovator, business leader and architect of his own dreams. Still, the underlining message in his amazing success story is that of his unrelenting determination which has resulted in the creation and preservation of his dreams.
Mr Kenny, you have been identified as an entrepreneur to watch in the region. Tell us a bit about your businesses.
PK: In August 2010 my first business, cobone.com, went live. This was a Daily Deal business focusing on providing great offers to consumers throughout the Middle East. What was unique about our business at the time was that we were one of the first Internet companies in the Middle East. We had the challenge to educate the consumers on how to buy online. In fact, many of our consumers did not have a credit card, so we had to hand deliver the coupons to people’s doors and collect cash from them. This was an incredibly exciting business, one that is continuing to grow and has given me many sleepless nights.
My next venture was called Triperna. com. This is an online travel agency where you can book your next hotel/holiday stay. We launched in November and we have hundreds of amazing destinations on our site. We are growing very quickly. This is such an electrifying business to be in as the travel industry in the Middle East is growing at such a fast rate. The market sits at over $35bn and is expected to grow significantly, especially with Dubai Expo 2020 and the Qatar World Cup coming soon.
My 3rd venture is called Emerge Ventures, which is a company that looks to invest in the best technology entrepreneurs in the Middle East. We have already made a number of investments. We not only support them with capital but also with know-how and expertise. It is incredibly stimulating to meet so many great entrepreneurs around the region.”
Who is your favourite teacher and why?
PK: I actually have a few. I would definitely say my Irish teachers in high school. They drove the best out of me and showed that consistency paid off. They always demanded the best, while giving support.
Give us three key things that every entrepreneur should consider before going into business.
PK: There are important questions that you should ask yourself. How big is the problem that you are solving and do you have something unique that nobody else is doing? The third thing would be a bit of advice. Focus on the long term and don’t give up at the first challenge.
Do you have a philosophy that you use to guide some of the key business decisions that you make? If yes, what is this?
PK: Yes. I always hire people that are better than me. In fact, they are ten times better than me. That way, I get the best possible advice for key business decisions that I need to make. It has taken me some time to master hiring the best people. But when you do, you know it because your business just grows so fast. We have an amazing team at Cobone and Triperna and our results show that.
What was your last luxury purchase?
PK: I spent my 30th birthday in the Maldives. It was amazing. I didn’t want to come back!
What gadget can’t you live without?
PK: That would be my Macbook Air.
What do you do for fun? Why?
PK: Travel by far is my favourite thing to do. I love to explore new cities, find new ideas and have time away from my businesses to think and figure out how to grow them even more.
What is one of your proudest achievements to date?
PK: Being able to start three companies before I was 30.
Mr Kenny’s businesses are intimately linked to a common human desire, that is, accessibility to the things we crave, at the right price. He is constantly examining ways of improving his businesses. A key goal on which he is focused is building the biggest online travel company in the MENA region. We anticipate more spectacular achievements from him in the years ahead.
By Carolyn Lee