A successful entrepreneur
Few people have impacted the MENA entrepreneurial ecosystem like Fadi Ghandour has. Stemming from a Jordanian-Lebanese background and educated at George Washington University in the US, Ghandour is the founder and chairman of Aramex, a Dubai -based courier company that went on to be the first Arab company listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange. If you want to hear the full story about how that unfolded, check out Ghandour’s interview with NPR here. In the entrepreneurial world, he gained respect not only through the success of Aramex, but also through his particular vision of business. Indeed, Ghandour changed the Aramex company culture to adopt a decentralized decision-making structure rather than the traditional large, centralized “headquarters” structure which caused endless bottlenecks. He explains inspiration for that switch came through an article he read, which made him realize Aramex had to act like a “federation”, in order to hyper-localize its operations and gain a decisive advantage over its competitors. Check out this Harvard Business School video to watch him explain the concept more in-depth.
Kickstarting the MENA start-up world
Being a pioneer in the Arab entrepreneurship world, Ghandour has taken on projects and created initiatives to boost the region’s start-up ecosystem. Most notably, he is the Executive Chairman of the Wamda Group, which is “a platform that invests, nurtures and builds entrepreneurship eco-systems across the Middle East and North Africa.”. The Wamda Group is quite exceptional in the sense that it centralizes everything potential and current entrepreneurs in the Arab world need. The Wamda blog, or Thought Leadership, showcases editorials and articles about the rising stars and respective pioneers of the Arab start-up world. In-depth research projects such as “the state of pre-seed start-ups in MENA” are an essential resource for both regional investors and outside investors interested in entering the Arab market. Wamda X is a grant-based fellowship aimed at supporting innovative Arab entrepreneurs at the earliest stages of their ventures. Evidently, Wamda also boasts an investment fund, Wamda Capital and Wamda Seed Ltd, which is described as “The most active, multi-stage, sector-agnostic investment vehicle, focused on partnering with high growth technology or technology-enabled startups across the MENA, Turkey and Sub-Saharan Africa”
During his time at Aramex, Ghandour insisted on instilling Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) fundamentals within the company culture. That desire to make business a force for good led to the subsequent establishment of Ruwwad Al-Tanmeya — The Arab Foundation for Sustainable Development. The foundation’s goal is to work with other private sector actors in order to support initiatives in low-income communities, in sectors such as Youth Organizing, Child Development, Community Support and Community Led Campaigns. Ruwwad places a big priority on youth development, as they believe (rightly so) that they will be the main protagonists of a better future. Started initially in Jordan, Ruwwad is now active in Palestine, Lebanon and Egypt as well. Check out their website here to see their work. True to his entrepreneurial core, Ghandour also launched the Ruwwad Micro-Venture Fund, “an equity-based fund providing seed capital and support for microbusinesses and micro- entrepreneurs.”
An example to follow
Fadi Ghandour’s life and accomplishments can serve as a template for any ambitious young person out there. Having created a highly successful company from scratch, he went on to share his experience, network and ideas towards the betterment and development of his local community. Rather from shying away from the difficulties linked to a nascent entrepreneurial ecosystem, Ghandour effectiviely kickstarted it through relentless creation of initiatives. On a personal note, I think what Ghandour’s success and social impact boils down to is the following: the continuous creation of opportunities for talented youth and visionaries.
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