What do you learn after running a startup for two years?

Whether you have a success or failure story as an entrepreneur, lessons will always be learnt. After cofounding Cobone, one of the largest daily deals website in the region, then selling it to Middle East Digital Group, Irishman Paul Kenny draws on past lessons and takes off on new journey along with Cobone’s former CTO, James Whelton.

Safarna

The two joined forces to work on Safarna, a website for hotel bookings and holiday packages based in Dubai. After running Cobone for two years, the two left with two key lessons learnt: invest in your team and focus on the consumer.

“You learn that you got to invest in the people. So we have invested heavily in Safarna and built a good team, a great culture that followed true to building a good brand within a year,” said Kenny during an interview at Mix N’ Mentor Dubai.

Focusing on consumers didn’t only help them develop technologies to provide the most optimized user experience, but also gave Safarna an advantage over global players like TripAdvisor and others.

And why create Safarna? “Every week we see a new hotel opening,” says Kenny. “In 2011, the travel market in UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt was worth $35 billion USD a year. That’s a very nice market to go after. And 90% of that market is still consumed in cash. That means only 10% are actually paying online.” With that in mind, and thanks to Expo 2020 and the World Cup 2022 in Qatar, tourism is expected to “grow exponentially,” he says. “This is a huge opportunity for us. We’re going to be here for a long time so the next 10 years are going to be very exciting.”

To know more on how Safarna wants to beat global competition, and which are the two exciting startups Kenny and Whelton see in the region, watch the video above. 

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