Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 19 September 2019

Bayt.com to expand further as it mulls IPO, CEO says

Exclusive: Middle East’s largest online jobs marketplace will invest Dh92m over the coming year to widen reach

Rabea Ataya, serial entrepreneur and chief executive of Bayt.com is considering taking the largest online job site public. Pawan Singh / The National
Rabea Ataya, serial entrepreneur and chief executive of Bayt.com is considering taking the largest online job site public. Pawan Singh / The National

Bayt.com, the Middle East’s largest online marketplace for jobs, may go public in the next couple of years, depending on market conditions.

Bayt, which raised $3 million (Dh11m) from an undisclosed fund in Jordan in 2000 – its only funding round – plans to spend $25m in the next year to expand operations.

“We are self-sustainable and profitable since then [2000],” Rabea Ataya, chief executive and founder of Bayt.com, told The National.

“We will invest in expanding our reach in the Mena region while continuing to build and grow our innovative technology solutions. Besides, we will also focus on expanding in North America.”

An “IPO is a possibility but it depends on market circumstances to a large degree”, said Mr Ataya. Timeline and modalities have not been decided, but he said that it is “reasonable” to say it would be within a couple of years.

“Things are changing, legal structures are transforming. We are evaluating things very closely,” he said.

Born and raised in Kuwait to Palestinian parents, Mr Ataya, 47, founded Bayt in 2000 with only four employees after graduating from Stanford and working briefly at an investment bank.

The company today employs 400 people with 13 offices across the region and serves more than 35 million professionals and 40,000 employers.

In the first eight years of business, Bayt recorded year-on-year revenue growth of 100 per cent. Revenue growth dropped to about 40 per cent a year from 2010 to 2016. In the past two years, growth has averaged between 10 and 20 per cent, according to Mr Ataya.

Last year, around 16,000 jobseeker profiles were added on the platform each day, amounting to about 6 million of them in thyear. Nearly 185,000 jobs were posted in 2018.

“Jobs and CV figures grew by almost 20 per cent year-on-year in 2018 and we are expecting the same growth this year,” said Mr Ataya.

In the last fiscal year, Bayt increased its human resource technology business revenue by more than 50 per cent.

Foreign investors have expressed interest in acquiring Bayt but Mr Ataya is not contemplating selling the company.

“Many people have knocked on our door, asking us if we were willing to sell. We are here to build, buy, survive and add value to the region. Selling and disappearing is not in our vision,” he said.

The UAE, the Arabian Gulf’s second-largest economy, accounts for about 40 per cent of Mena’s top exits – the point at which an entrepreneur sells his stake in a company to another business or investors – according to a Google-commissioned report released last month.

In 2017, Amazon bought e-commerce platform Souq.com for $580m, the largest acquisition in the region of a start-up by a foreign entity.

In 2012, the finance and industry news portal Zawya was sold to Reuters for a reported $40m, while in 2009, Yahoo, then the second most popular internet search engine, bought Maktoob.com for about $165m.

Mr Ataya, who also founded InfoFort, the region’s first data management company that was sold to Aramex, serves on the board of several start-ups in the Middle East. He has invested in 20 regional start-ups and also co-founded Gonabit.com, the region’s first crowdfunded purchasing website.

“We are around for 18 years and have seen the majority of internet companies [in Mena] either going bankrupt or being sold to foreign investors. Unfortunately, after being sold, they were shut within 12 months as international investors were not interested in continuing,” said Mr Ataya.

This takes value away from the region, he said.

But Bayt’s aim is to build an institution in the Middle East that will be globally recognised as a major company in the industry, said Mr Ataya.

Updated: March 5, 2019 07:27 AM

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