PAUL Kenny, a 29-year-old Irish entrepreneur based in Dubai, has opened a new online business that hopes to shake up the package holiday industry in the Middle East.
Called 'Triperna', Mr Kenny's new online venture is part of Cobone, a daily deals business he sold earlier this year for $40m to Tiger Management Corp, which is better known as the Tiger Fund.
Mr Kenny said the decision to launch the new firm was agreed with Tiger last March as part of its buyout of Cobone.
Tiger is the majority shareholder in Triperna, with Mr Kenny having a minority stake in the business which is targeting the $32bn travel market in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
"Internet space is still completely underdeveloped in the Middle East," Mr Kenny said. "There are no real online travel companies. Bookings.com are here, but that's about it."
Cobone, he said, already had experience offering people holiday deals and discounts in the Middle East so it understands the sector. "We'd probably be the third biggest travel website already," Kenny said, "if we broke the business out of Cobone."
Mr Kenny said market research showed people in the Middle East looked for deals online 50 per cent of the time but only 10 per cent of people were prepared to purchase over the internet. Triperna will use Cobone's existing structures to take payments online or allow people make bookings online before paying for them later in cash.
This was because he said consumers in the Middle East still used credit cards relatively little. Mr Kenny, a former Ernst & Young Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year, is chief executive of Cobone as well as Triperna.
Tiger Management Corp, which is better known as the Tiger Fund, has invested successfully in travel websites. It was an early investor in MakeMyTrip.com, an Indian hotel and flights booking website, which has a market cap of over $500m on the Nasdaq. It is also a backer of Singapore-based travel meta-search engine Wego.com, which has raised $36m from private equity to date.
Mr Kenny also has a private investment portfolio, with stakes including Carve Cases, which makes hand-crafted wooden iPhone cases, and Box of Awesome, which delivers top brands to the hard-to-reach 13- to 14-year-old market.