10 years ago this month, I founded Diligencia. I had no particular grand strategy at that stage, and certainly no formal business plan that I could have presented to potential investors, even if there were any. All I had was a firm belief that there was a need and a demand for high quality business information on emerging markets and that access to such information would promote stable economies and provide the bedrock for growth.
Perhaps by being in the right place at the right time, Diligencia has been able to capitalise on public information made available by governments in the Middle East and North Africa, and we have presented it in a way that helps inform decisions and affirm relationships. Since our foundation in 2008, we have provided support to over 10,000 client assignments across the entire region.
Diligencia’s development was characterised by trial and error along the way, of course – initially we tried to cover the whole globe, before realising that the Arab world, the region I understand best and where I am from, is also the part of the world where reliable information is least accessible and most sought after. At times I have been distracted by opportunities to play in ultra-competitive markets, but which only result in adding noise to the MENA information landscape – instead of focusing on reliable facts that are the basis of sound decision-making.
Quite early on I realised that maintaining records of all the searches we were doing would not only provide valuable historical insights, but also unlock the relationships between the companies, individuals and families that underpin the economies of the MENA region. These were the humble beginnings of what is now our online platform www.ClarifiedBy.com – a key information source for 75+ professional services firms, representing thousands of active investors, not to mention all those who access Diligencia data via our partners Lexis Nexis and Arachnys.
Diligencia started with just two desks on the outskirts of Oxford all those years ago, but has since become unrecognisable in other ways. We now have more than 60 employees, over half of whom sit in the vibrant hub of Tangier in Morocco. I have been joined by two fellow directors and we now have many of the formal structures and processes that are to be expected from a professional services firm. Our latest recruits are a Product Manager for our online platform and three analysts who are starting to look at new markets in sub-Saharan Africa, with the ultimate aim of covering Africa as a whole.
Many of you have also been part of our evolution, sharing your wisdom through feedback and the growing demands of your own projects; it’s also through these relationships that we have been able to add more shape to our services – thank you for your support.
So, although we may have a little more in the way of grand plans these days, some things have not changed: a strict focus on the reliability of our sources and an unshakeable belief in the power of that information to bring clarity and to enable business growth.
In Part 2 of this post, Nouri shares his highlights of the last 10 years – the cases and events that shaped the MENA region as it stands today.