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Abu Dhabi Media Summit: When greed is good

Outspoken Rashid Al Ballaa of N2V talks about smart long-term investments

Greed is good but it should be long-term greed.  That was the message from an outspoken Rashid Al Ballaa, the founder and CEO of N2V, at the final session of this year’s Abu Dhabi Media Summit (“The New Great Game.”)

“Making a million today or making a billion in five years. I would go for the billion,” Al Balaa (whose N2V is one of the largest investment companies in Arabia focused on consumer web and mobile ventures) commented.

The N2V boss had some sharp words for short-term investors in the regions. “Unfortunately, most of the investment in the region tends to be very short-term oriented and (about) how to make money the soonest and the earliest. From our experience as a family business, we’ve scaled so many businesses.”

He cited several examples of enterprises that his family has nurtured over many, many years.

For example, the family operates the world’s largest shrimp farm in Saudi Arabia. “It’s 65 km of shoreline. It didn’t happen all of a sudden. It was 1985 to 1999, 15 years of continuous R & D (research and development) till it reached a level where we could stop scaling it.”

The N2V boss called for discipline alongside innovation from entrepreneurs in the region, starting media and internet companies. 

“Unfortunately, most of the entrepreneurs we’ve seen in the region lack that discipline and ability to start scaling this. You need to grow the team, you need to make much bigger investments and you need to deploy and execute faster,” he said.

One of the problems, he suggested, was that major financiers in the region remain wary about supporting young entrepreneurs who’ve “just graduated (from) university a couple of years ago.” In the US, he noted, “you find most people starting companies have worked five years or ten years in big conglomerates. They know how to scale, how to operate. They have the discipline…if you’re learning and you’re young, the focus should be on how to make the business successful. Even if investors take advantage of you, and you can’t raise money without giving away a big chunk of your company, no-one can take away the (name as) the main founder from you.”

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