Angling for success: Fishfishme

When Abdullah Alshalabi cast his net into the fickle waters of entrepreneurship, he caught an idea which has revolutionised the way people fish for leisure in the region

For a region so dependent for so long on fishing to survive, it’s surprisingly difficult to charter a fishing trip.

Where the Arabian Gulf has succeeded in fishing for food and commercial purposes, it is incredibly lacking in sport fishing.

That was the conclusion, at least, of Kuwaiti Abdullah Alshalabi, whose own attempts to organise fishing trips for himself and his friends seemed to run aground on numerous occasions and for numerous reasons.

Rather that complain about it, he decided to do something about it. And so Fishfishme was born.

“I used to organise trips for my friends in Oman and other place, but it was a disaster to find charters or boats to take us out,” he says.

“One time, I found a fisherman to take us out but the waves were so bad that we crashed and nearly drowned.

“When I was in Singapore, it was a similar situation. Nobody spoke English or Arabic, so a Chinese friend of mine organised things for us, but it turned out to be a disaster as well.

“I couldn’t find one place to book everything online, and that’s how the idea started.”

From the nucleus of that idea, Fishfishme now spans 23 countries around the world, offering fishing charters not only in the UAE and other Gulf states, but far-flung corners of the globe including the Cayman Islands, South Africa, Mozambique, Thailand, and Costa Rica.

With ever-increasing numbers of bookings, and two successful rounds of funding under its belt, Fishfishme is becoming one of the UAE’s most talked-about start-ups.

But things could have been so very different for Alshalabi, whose career was taking a very different path a few years ago.

He says: “I was born and raised in Kuwait and studied mechanical engineering at Kuwait University. I wanted to work in the investment field, so worked for a company in the role, did the CFA [chartered financial analyst programme] level two, and moved to Hong Kong in 2010 to do an MBA at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.”

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