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THE START-UP KING Aramex founder Fadi Ghandour tells GC why he supports an Arab common market and why Brexit won’t work BY BEN FLANAGAN

ou do not need to know much about Fadi Ghandour to guess where he stands on the UK Brexit debate. The Jordanian, one of the Arab world’s most storied entrepreneurs, made his name as founder of the logistics giant Aramex and now heads Wamda Capital, a prominent regional venture capital firm. Much of Ghandour’s career has been about either crossing borders – his courier delivery firm has a presence in more than 60 countries – or transcending them, given his recent focus on online start-ups. So it does not come as a particular surprise to hear Ghandour favours Britain voting to remain in the European Union when the country goes to the polls on June 23. And just as Ghandour does not welcome barriers going back up in Europe, he wants them to come down in the Arab world, both in terms of open trade and on wider issues like encouraging more women into the workplace. “If you create barriers, you’re in trouble,” he says. “Aramex has a big operation in Europe, particularly in the UK and we have seen the benefits of an open EU market.” Ghandour founded Aramex in 1982, taking on the likes of DHL and FedEx. Fifteen years later it became the first company from the Arab world to trade on the Nasdaq stock exchange

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in New York. The logistics firm later went private before embarking on another listing on the Dubai Financial Market. Ghandour stepped down as chief executive in 2012, although he remains vice chairman of the company. He now devotes much of his time investing in regional start-ups, with Wamda’s current portfolio including stakes in the regional car booking service Careem and online retailer The Luxury Closet. Ghandour has an impressive track record in this field, notably with his early involvement with Maktoob, the Arab web portal acquired by Yahoo for $165 million in 2010. Ghandour, who is speaking ahead of his appearance at a Young Presidents’ Organisation network event, is certainly enthusiastic about Dubai’s growing status as a hub for innovation. “Dubai is experiencing an explosion of start-ups,” he says. “I am an investor and the floodgates have opened.” Ghandour cites the relative political stability of the UAE, a strong infrastructure and geographical location as factors behind the boom in high-tech businesses in Dubai. Wamda Capital – which makes investments of between $5 million and $10 million in businesses – interviewed 260 companies looking for funding last year. Its Dubai office now sees about two companies a day. “This is not Silicon Valley yet. It is about 10 years behind what


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