My UAE: the many faces of the entrepreneur Hassan Al Sayegh
At the age of 28, Hassan Al Sayegh has already finished a doctorate, worked as a consultant and started his own business.
Having grown up in Dubai, studying at the British-curriculum Rashid School for Boys, he relocated to England – moving from an undergraduate degree to a postgraduate degree in chemical engineering at the University of Nottingham.
“During this time, I had a really cool opportunity to do a research PhD – researching what was basically a renewable energy project, creating biodiesel from forestry wastes.
“I pushed it from lab scale to pilot scale, and they built a plant in Norway.” It took three years to research and a year to write – and Al Sayegh realised that he enjoyed the commercial side of the project the most.
He then completed an internship with the Boston Consultancy Group as a management consultant, before joining the company full-time – focusing on projects in Saudi Arabia.
“It was a brilliant time there, because there was a very, very steep learning curve; especially for me, having a very technical engineering background, being surrounded by MBA graduates.
“So many skills,” he says, “were directly applicable to management consulting – the whole aspect of breaking down such a big problem into little chunks and then solving them in a topical manner, in a very logical way.”
Al Sayegh later decided to join his former colleague Idriss Al Rifai’s e-commerce startup, Mena360, as a co-founder.
“I saw the big gap between the e-commerce experience in the UK, where I lived for eight years, and here in the UAE. When you buy stuff online in the UK, it’s guaranteed you’ll get it next day; here, you buy something online and you don’t even know if you’re going to get it.
“For the past month-and-a-half, I’ve taken myself out of the picture, so it’s all growing by itself now – which is really satisfying.
“The plan now is to take a couple of months off, possibly do some travelling and just relax for a bit. But it’s been about a month now and I’ve already gotten bored.”
What are the most important things that you’ve learnt at each of your three key life stages?
Doing the PhD taught me perseverance. From the consulting, I would say how to position information correctly to get clients or your peers on board with your ideas. From the start-up experience, I would say the soft skills I learnt.
Have you had a consistent philosophy throughout your life?
I look up to my brother – he’s my role model, and he always tells me: “There’s no growth in comfort.”
Who is your biggest inspiration?
All my siblings have been very successful in their professional careers or whatever they choose to do – and it’s all thanks to my mum.
Do you travel much?
I have done a lot of travelling in the past – every summer my parents used to take us on a tour of some part of the world. It’s a very important aspect of someone’s growth as well: travelling, experiencing other cultures, being comfortable with other cultures.
What renewable-energy projects are you especially interested in?
The Government here, especially in Abu Dhabi, has done a great job building up Masdar as a renewable-energy centre of the world.
Have you had time for any hobbies at all?
I have a dog called Ralph and I love spending time with him. During my downtime at the weekends, I spend a lot of time taking him for walks – it’s one of my favourite things to do.
Are you into sports?
I’m a massive Chelsea fan; I watch every single Chelsea game. Whatever I’m doing gets dropped for that sacred one-hour-and-a-half of football every Saturday.
What films do you like?
I go through phases. I’m into Quentin Tarantino movies; they’re fantastic, but he hasn’t done a “proper” Tarantino movie in ages.
Do you have a favourite actor?
It’s got to be Robert Downey Jr.
How did you spend your Eid?
Last year I was in Sri Lanka, so this Eid I really wanted to spend time with my extended family here in Dubai.
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Updated: July 31, 2014 04:00 AM