Galway-born entrepreneur Paul Kenny has made a multi-million euro exit from Cobone.com, the online daily deals site he had sold to Tiger Global Management two years ago for an estimated US$40m.
Cobone.com, which Kenny founded in 2010, counts millions of customers across six countries in the Middle East who have saved nearly hundreds of millions of euros through millions of coupons sold.
It emerged last week that Middle East (ME) Digital Group bought the Dubai-based company for an undisclosed sum.
According to ME Digital Group’s chief executive Jane Drury Cobone.com will complement her flaghip site ExpatWoman which will utilise Cobone’s e-commerce functionality across the rest of the group while at the same time developing digital advertising for Cobone.
Following the exit Kenny is to focus on his travel deal site Safarma which also sits in the Tiger Global Management portfolio.
Cobone’s management team will move to Middle East Digital Group.
A calculated risk pays off
Kenny cut his teeth and learned his business skills while working in his family’s business, Kennys Bookship in Galway.
A family holiday in Dubai as a schoolboy left an impression on Kenny and after graduating from NUIG he left Ireland, which at the time was still in the midst of the Celtic Tiger property bubble.
In an interview with Siliconrepublic.com last year he recalled it was a calculated risk: “I packed one suitcase and the only person I knew in Dubai was the person I did the interview with. I was 22 and up to that point I had been living with my parents. I was scared. Everybody at home seemed to be making tons of money and I had signed on for a job that paid US$250 a week at the lowest grade doing the kind of things that interns do, inputting data and colour-coding stuff.”
After joining Emirates Group Kenny made use of the working times – 7am to 3pm – to get to know venture capitalists in the afternoons and evenings and by the time he left Emirates Airlines after six months he had funding of around US$2m in the bank to kick-start Cobone.com.
“I was 25, I had money but no idea how to set up a company and the venture capitalists who backed me told me to get moving.
“I realised they hadn’t actually invested in my business plan or model, but the person. They took a huge bet and it paid off. I learned to be quite aggressive when it comes to executing on a business plan and raising capital and now I definitely understand the value of money.”
Kenny, who in 2012 won the Ernst & Young Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year Award and was appointed by Enterprise Ireland as Ireland’s start-up ambassador to the Middle East, is understood to have made several million euros from the latest exit. He is still in his late 20s.