Randa Ayoubi started Rubicon Group Holding from scratch eighteen years ago. Today, the Jordan-based digital content production house has become one of the industry’s greatest success stories on a global scale, with an IPO expected in the next two years
It takes a while, but eventually Randa Ayoubi gives her secret away. “Young people can work out of Amman in Jordan for a company in Holland and never travel to Holland. All they need to do is be well-educated to understand what the world needs, provide a good service at a competitive price and be ethical.”
If anyone deserves to write the book on how to do the above, it should be Ayoubi. Nearly 20 years ago, she quit her day job at a local bank to create a company with “a soul.” Today her Amman-based firm has 500 staff on the payroll, boasts revenues in excess of $40m and is partnering with some of the biggest names in Hollywood to co-create feature length films and cartoon series such as Postman Pat and Pink Panther.
From multi-platform digital production, to educational content and location-based themed entertainment, Ayoubi has turned Rubicon into one of the world’s most sought-after digital content production houses. Rubicon offices and studios have sprung up in Dubai, Manila and California, as it lines up strategic partnerships with giants including Sony, MGM and Turner Broadcasting.
“I started Rubicon in 1994 but it didn’t really start until 2004 because it took ten years to raise capital. Without money you can survive but you cannot thrive,” she says.
Eighteen years later Rubicon is thriving and it is little wonder the firm is also ploughing ahead with plans to sell its shares to the public in an initial public offering within the next two years. Ayoubi admits that letting go of the company she spent so many years building up could be one of her toughest challenges to date. “We’re currently in the phase where the investors [which include the Bahrain-based private equity firm GrowthGate Capital] are discussing what the best option is,” she says.
“I don’t want to be unfair to them, they have some emotional attachment to the company but nowhere near my emotional attachment,” she adds. “I don’t think it’s a long way off, I think its maybe a year and a half to two years of mainly preparation but where [we list] wouldn’t be chosen by me.”
One of the company’s highest profile projects is the design and project management of the $1bn theme park in Aqaba, in the south of Jordan, which was announced last year. The 184-acre Red Sea Astrarium resort will include a Paramount-produced Star Trek-themed attraction, as well as a series of other attractions that will feature Jordan’s Nabataea, Babylonian, British and Roman influences. The project, which is partly being funded by the King Abdullah II Fund for Development (himself a Star Trek fan), is slated for completion in 2014.
Working on such an ambitious project in Jordan not only enables Rubicon to be involved in a project that will help boost much-needed revenues for tourism in the country but has also helped open doors for Rubicon in countries as further afield, says Ayoubi.
“Every company needs validation in its home country,” she says, adding that the firm has since been asked to create pre-concept designs for theme parks in Perth, Australia and China.
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