independent

Friday 18 April 2014

Irish tycoon, 26, dominates the Gulf with Cobone.com

Twenty-six-year-old Galway man Paul Kenny -- part of the famous Kenny's bookshop family -- is on the cusp of making his fortune in the Gulf.

Kenny founded ecommerce and discount voucher firm Cobone.com in Dubai in 2010. It has since grown into one of the three biggest e-commerce sites in the Gulf region.

Observers believe the firm may have revenues topping €31m in 2012 -- less than two years after being set up.

"This really is a new market," he told the Sunday Independent. "There are no internet companies out here. You can't even buy books online. It's the first time people have been able to do something like this, it's changing the landscape of e-commerce."

The young tycoon moved out to the Gulf aged 22 after dropping out of a masters degree. He worked as an advisor to Emirates in online sales presence before deciding to branch out on his own.

"I got very frustrated at not being my own boss," he said.

Having raised "several million" from investors including early Facebook backers Klaus Hommels and Oliver Jung as well as the Tiger Global-backed Jabbar internet group, Kenny helped build Cobone.com into one of the fastest growing sites in the world. Mr Hommels and Mr Jung are involved in voucher and ecommerce firms from Brazil to Turkey and Australia.

Cobone sounds not unlike global voucher firm Groupon "but Arabs have difficulty pronouncing the letter P," he adds.

A number of major online players are looking at Cobone as a pathway into the lucrative Gulf market.

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