Paul Kenny left Galway for Dubai in November 2007 in the middle of a Masters degree at NUIG and returned six years later a millionaire.
The Sunday Times places him fourth in its list of millionaires aged 30 or under: just behind Rory McIlroy and ahead of One Direction’s Niall Horan.
‘That attracted a fair bit of attention in Ireland and abroad,’ says Paul, ‘although the article seriously over-estimated my financial worth.
How did a self-confessed college drop-out go from a lowly internship to digital media magnate in six years?
‘It wasn’t a straightforward path,’ he says, ‘as I didn’t set out in 2007 with a clear aim to be at the top of this or any other business.
‘One thing I learned early in Dubai was to ask myself ‘What can I do now?’ when faced with a new situation and to not be afraid of failure when deciding what action to take.
‘The answer became apparent very quickly,’ he says.
‘It was – anything I wanted to do. I was unconstrained by background or education, in an environment where people were accepted for their abilities and where there was huge opportunity for personal and business growth.
He was recruited by Emirates as a marketing consultant and felt that he had landed in the right company in the right role. He quickly found that he had a knack for generating revenue and helped bring in almost a half billion dollars income in his first five months.
He also discovered that it was his ability to work at speed, changing direction quickly to adapt to markets and technology which was key to delivering this performance.
But after six months he says that he wasn’t a fit for the company and again found difficulty with having a boss.
‘I was 25, a college drop-out who had spent less than three years in the workplace and had left three different jobs,’ he says.
‘I wasn’t exactly an ideal candidate for another marketing role, so I had to ask myself again, ‘What can I do now?’
The answer this time lay more within his own control.
He contacted some venture capitalists he knew and within four weeks, in August 2010, he had raised €1.4m in equity and had started Cobone. He was now a full-fledged entrepreneur.
By the end of 2012 the company was attracting the interest of investors looking for opportunities in emerging markets and in March 2013 US investment firm Tiger Global acquired Cobone in a deal reputed to be worth $40m.
Paul and key members of the management team were retained and funds were made available for future growth.
Cobone reached profitability in 2013 and he quickly turned his attention to a travel business Triperna.
‘Cobone continues to grow but the market is possibly no greater than $100m in total,’ he says.
‘The travel market on the other hand is estimated at $35bn, so there’s a lot more scope for growth.
Between the two businesses about 80 people are employed and they are experiencing month on month growth in excess of 70%.
When asked what advice he’d give to a start-up entrepreneur in Galway, he says that once they have a working product they should aim to grow quickly. Having ‘early-mover’ advantage in a market is really important he says.
‘If financing is needed and not available locally, then get on a plane and find it,’ advises Paul.
‘There are investors looking for opportunities all over the world.
Looking to the future, Paul says that there is so much that he’s about to do that he will be kept busy for a short while at least.
‘I love trying to do the impossible,’ he says.
In his own words: ‘What can he do next?
The answer would appear to be an awful lot. Watch this space.
Original Article via The Connacht Tribune here
A longer version of this interview and more on Paul’s plans for the future can be found in this week’s Tribune here