Jadeite’s Proposals Portal to Empower Passionate Entrepreneurs Globally: An Interview with Hasan AlMatrouk

Hasan AlMatrouk presents exciting ventures, a proposals portal by Jadeite Group created to invest and empower passionate entrepreneurs globally. Jadeite Group is a private equity and alternative investment company which focuses on real estate, food and beverage, consumer products, e-commerce and technology.

Interview with Hasan AlMatrouk, Business Development Director at Jadeite Group

Hasan Almatrouk, Business Development Director at Jadeite Group

What is the history and overview of Jadeite Group?

Jadeite Group started in 2016 after my grandfather’s company, Mezzan Holding, went for an IPO. We started the company mainly to develop and own properties. Of our portfolio, 80% are properties we own and 20% we call stocks and exciting ventures. We know these exciting ventures can be very risky. But, for us not to be lazy and just develop and not do much, we need something that keeps us alive. So, we created this program called exciting ventures. Now, some people are approaching us and we have already committed to two projects. That started because we had a subsidiary called Porter Express which was on the verge of bankruptcy. One of the managers at Porter Express left the company for a bigger company. A year later, right before we went bankrupt, he came back with a high caliber team. He brought two colleagues that had formerly worked at big companies, and they said they wanted to revive Porter Express and make it a very big company. We were reluctant. We did not know whether to go bankrupt, shut the company down for good, or give these people a chance to make it work. We met with the team multiple times and we decided to give it a shot. They have the expertise, they are reliable, and when we talk to them, they seem really knowledgeable about the industry because they have been in the industry for decades. We decided to give them a chance and now, it is our biggest company. This is where we got the idea that we can do a lot with people because there are many people who are really passionate, who want to do something, but no one is giving them a chance. In Kuwait, there is a common practice where when people work in a business, they are not given any shares or equity in the business. You are just an employee. It is not like the US where an employee can eventually become a partner. That is rarely the case here. We would like to partner up with people and support them and have them support us. People need someone that they trust. We like to be very active with our partners. We do not want to be the type that is not doing anything to contribute to the partnership.

What is the climate of doing business in Kuwait and the region and how are you trying to change that by starting this program?

At Jadeite Group, we are constantly empowering dreamers across the world. We invest in visionary, energetic, and ethical entrepreneurs.

The climate is extremely challenging here in Kuwait. First of all, figuring things out is really difficult. Even if you do the same thing, for example, opening a restaurant, that procedure every single time is different. It changes with the employees and the ministries. Many people do not have the time to go through all these different processes every time; but we have a team that goes to the ministries to figure things out. In the past, it used to be us. Then, as the company grew, now we go only when it is necessary or if we as the owners are requested specifically. For those starting a new business, it is more challenging. In the US, your office can be your home. Here in Kuwait, you have to have an office in a commercial tower. You need a permit to hire people. On top of that, you still need help with other things such as banking because if you want the good banking systems, you need to have certain amounts with banks. We help with that as well. You need people to assist you with the accounting and finance. You need people to assist you with the legal because you might be signing documents that you are not knowledgeable about or that might be hurtful down the road. You need help with the technology. All of these are barriers of entry for people to operate. We came up with the exciting ventures so we can support people and let them focus on what they do best. We can take care of all the things that we can help with from our side because there are lots of things that do waste your time here. We want them to focus on the business instead of losing time.

Do you think the fact that it is such a long and complicated process is stopping a lot of new ventures from having the opportunity to get off the ground?

Definitely. Some people do not even dream of starting a business from the very beginning. This complexity of getting everything off the ground is not worth it. But when they have a partner that they know can handle all of that and they focus on what they do best, it becomes a little bit easier for them.

What was the impetus to start the proposals portal? What was the inspiration?

It happened because a lot of people started approaching us after hearing about what we do and about our reputation in the market and asking if we were open for a partnership. This is when we started to hear about their ideas, their vision, their passion. We decided to start the portal because we want everyone to approach us, not just people who actually know us in person, but anyone in the world. We are open to people from Kuwait or outside Kuwait. A lot of people did initiate that topic with us because they think of us as a partner that they can rely on.

So, the Jadeite reputation really started this program and made it possible?

Exactly. It comes from the reputation of the company and the reputation of us as a family as well. They know that we will not cheat people. If something goes big, we will not do something to take it away from them. For example, my grandfather started a partnership with the Kitco Company who have been our partners for more than 70 years. We want to be that kind of partner. We do not want to be the ones who are just chasing money and as the project grows, we stab them in the back and take the whole company. That is not the case. A lot of people do fear partnering with some large companies because they have heard of these things happening in the past. We care about our reputation because we do not want to be the type of people who come to this world and just chase money, have a bad reputation, then go away. We want to leave a good legacy behind.

Why have you created the proposals portal?

The first thing is that it opens our eyes for new visions that we have no knowledge about or that we were never aware of. For example, Porter Express opened our eyes for the logistics industry. Once you see the opportunity, you realize that there are a lot of things that we are not even looking at. Another very big thing for us is supporting dreamers and those who are passionate. These guys do something very specific really well and they are passionate about it, so we would like to be supporting them. Once they succeed, we would like to be part of that success. For example, recently, one company approached us and when they talked to us about the latest trends in the industry, we realized that in that particular industry, we are not up to date at all. There are new things coming on a weekly basis. They help us keep up to date with these industries. The most important thing is meeting new people. We have a bigger network and the connections have really helped us with a lot of things. One person reached out to us for a project and he became a connection. Afterwards, we needed something completely different from another company and that person was the link because the person we needed to reach was his roommate by coincidence. We have realized that in many different ways, people are the most important thing.

How does the proposals portal work? If I am an exciting venture looking to partner with Jadeite through this program, what are the steps?

At Jadeite Group, we are constantly empowering dreamers across the world. We invest in visionary, energetic, and ethical entrepreneurs. In order to take part in this program, the first thing you need to do is go to our website to the proposals tab. There, you can submit all the information needed. We ask about the stage of development of the company, such as whether it is a seed capital, startup capital, bridge, pre-IPO, etc. Then they can give us a brief about the company, the product that they are selling, the opportunity in the market, and more information about the competition so we can understand their vision more. Then, we ask about the capital that they are trying to raise, their proposing evaluation, if there is any funding history and what round of funding they are on and how much they were evaluated at during that time. The most important thing for us is the people behind the concept, the management team. We care about the people that we are partnering with in terms of character, in terms of knowledge, in terms of behavior. We check their work history, their education, and we talk to the people and interview them. After we like the people, we look at the industry that they are choosing and the potential of their idea and we see whether it is disruptive or not. Then, if we like everything, we review their business plan and their financials. If we agree, we decide on the capital and the equity required. This is where we do the partnership and then we support them with everything from technology to legal, accounting, banking, and any ministry work using our network and connections.

If you bring on one of these new ventures through the proposals portal, what are you hoping to accomplish with them through this relationship?

It can be either a startup or expansion. Of course, the reason we want to partner with these people is that we want to be part of this success story. Also there has to be a financial gain for us as well. I also see other gains, such as meeting new people, expanding our network, expanding our connections, even expanding us as a company to other regions because some of the people approaching us are from other countries. When they want to start in other countries, this is when we see other opportunities that we can both benefit from. Now, if we want to expand to a specific country, we will have a partner that we can rely on.

Who exactly are you looking to attract to this program? Are you looking for specific sectors or specific regions?

There are no certain industries in mind and there are no certain countries in mind. It is very open. It is mostly about the idea and the team behind it. That is the most important thing for us. It has to be people like us or we will not be able to operate. I care about someone having that passion. Ethics is the most important thing for us. Sometimes, there are people who are passionate, they are visionary, but they are weak on execution. So, it is a recipe of being ethical, passionate, being dreamers, visionaries, and the ability to execute. All of that combined is what we are looking for. It can be in any industry because we believe that every industry has potential. But we want to see something that does have a future rather than a dying industry.

Would you say then that you are looking for a long-term relationship with these proposal companies?

Definitely. We look at a minimum of 30 years. We are not thinking about creating this company and trying to exit as soon as we can to make money. We think of this venture as a company to start and then later on the kids of the founders can work there one day in 10 or 20 years. It becomes somewhere like a safe haven. Even for us as a family, our kids can take an internship in another country and another industry and they learn from it. So, we see this as something very long term.

Would these exciting ventures, once accepted into the proposals program, be considered as part of the Jadeite parent company or are they their own individual entities?

The management do own a percentage in the company, but Jadeite is their partner. We as the management team will support them. For example, there is a company called Woodex and a few years ago, they approached us and asked if we would invest in their company and become their partners. We were able to partner with them last year and things are going extremely well right now. We made a lot of changes in policies and procedures, accounting, revamping their technology, and we are working on a new website. So, that was beneficial for both of us. As a real estate developer, they are helping us with anything dealing with wood and they take that part of the project, and we help them with the client base from our side. That was the first time that we joined a family business. Woodex has been operating since 1994 and since that time, it was only a family business. So, coming into a partnership with us was a big deal, because they were used to this company being 100% theirs. But once we entered, they agreed that this is the best decision that they have ever made.

What is your long-term goal of the proposals portal itself? Are you hoping to change the business climate? Are you hoping to change Jadeite?

We want to be part of a lot of businesses, a lot of industries, and different countries as well. Now, the portals process is helping us get ideas in industries from all over the world.

What drives you to do what you do? What inspires you?

We want to bring change, make the world a better place, and leave a legacy behind when we go away. That is the most important thing for us. It is very simple.

For more information, please visit: https://jadeitegroup.com/proposals.


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