This is my story..an opportunity to tell you about the ups and the downs, the milestones and the failures that have brought me to where I am today, standing before you by God’s grace as
Mohammed Al Banna
Group CEO, LEAD Ventures & Connect LEAD
My entrepreneurial journey is entirely self-made. My journey hasn’t always been smooth sailing and in all honesty, practically defines every entrepreneurial dream.
At a time when I could have easily joined my fathers thriving real estate business, I chose to experience life differently. Driven and ambitious and hungry to learn from the world, I wanted to experience the corporate world and started my career at the young age of 19 as a salesperson, where I was selected from a group of 200 experienced people.
Today, I can boast that I have enjoyed an illustrious finance & banking career that started with ABN Amro as a trainee in 2002. However the climb to the top wasn’t necessarily an easy one. In two decades I took up various positions ultimately rising to several senior management positions in Rak Bank and Amlak Finance working diligently with perseverance as my moto.
It is during my tenure at these financial institutions, that I was able to focus on building my own network of contacts and managed a lucrative portfolio of several local and international HNI. I was trusted with funds over AED 1.2 billion at Amlak Finance. It is during this time, that I realised the importance of creating and maintaining business relationships and formed my mantras – ‘your network is your net worth’ and ‘contacts bring contracts’ which I proudly stand by till today.
Looking back, I think even my corporate success was because I had a strategic entrepreneurial mindset from an early age, which became so clear at age 17. I had my heart set on owning the car of my dreams – a BMW with no money of my own and no means to attain it. With a positive attitude and future focused vision, I convinced my brother to take out the car loan on my behalf and persuaded my best friend Wael to co share the loan (and the car) with me. Convincing two very different people why they needed to help me get the loan and co-share the payments requires patience, a great attitude and skill. What I did know at that time was that I wanted to take on this challenge without seeking financial assistance from my family and I wanted to prove that I was capable to pay back the loan as soon as possible too! I stayed focused on my goal and with Gods grace, Wael and I were able to pay back the loan within 10 months only !
Owning my dream car was my first taste at goal setting and thinking like a visionary with a win win attitude. I was always future-driven with an extremely curious mind. When the global financial crisis hit in 2008, I was able to broaden my investments and knowledge. While I was still at Amlak Finance, I invested in a restaurant with my best friend to make an additional income to cover my liabilities for the mortgages I took. However it didn’t do well and resulted in a huge financial loss. This was my first taste of failure. After this failed attempt, I still held an optimistic view of failure and used this experience as a learning to spring back and open another restaurant with the same friend – which is now in successful operation for 11 years with 3 branches across the U.A.E. Failure & achievements are just a part of what success means for me and I am grateful for the opportunity to learn from them both!
Hard work and my network finally got me to a place where I was called on to become a strategic advisor to some prominent members of the U.A.E. Royal Family. This experience was tremendous in shaping my career, continuing to build my network as well as to embed myself as a major player in infrastructure of the U.A.E. and help a number of people including my inner circle, friends and family along the way.
The smell of success became my fuel to keep me motivated and trailblazing my way forward. I pushed the boundaries and expanded my entrepreneurial footprint and established LEAD Ventures (LV) IN 2019 that helped U.A.E.’s vision to attract foreign investment as well as be a hub for SME’s. Today, LV supports companies from A-Z; from setup to promoting themselves to business development and building partnerships by leveraging my strong network and market knowledge. At this time, I also started Connect Lead, offering independent advisory services.
If you ask me how I was able to do this, firstly, I am always grateful for divine guidance and the blessings of the U.A.E. government, embassies and other professional cohorts who support my vision. I also leveraged my relentless personality and network into a diverse web of businesses, building and investing in several successful companies – including YMJ EXPERIENCE, Belvedere Art Space amongst others. One of my most notable achievements is launching CryptoArabs, in an aim to educate the Arab world on emerging technologies, and explore the growing Metaverse space. CyptoArabs featured a popular Arabic Cartoon show called “Shaabiat Al Cartoon” that has been turned into an NFT collection consisting of 9,999 unique art pieces and enabling artists / community to exchange knowledge and skills on one platform. As my business and personal networks grow, I believe that I learn, grow and gain access to new ideas, opportunities, and relationships. Such flexibility and adaptability are the reasons that today I can be regarded as a great example of success, exemplary leadership and inspiration amongst business and professional communities.
My drive keeps me fired and to pay it forward, I am very passionate about helping start-ups and budding entrepreneurs succeed – by mentoring, sharing my knowledge and experience with them. I have empowered many to never give up on their dream. In addition, I was selected from many leaders by Hamdan Bin Mohammed Smart University (HBMSU) to mentor and support students by educating them on ways to gain a competitive edge – this includes research, strategy, business development, license, understanding the business landscape, etc.
I am proud that my achievements to date include several awards for my commitment to outstanding work – Some of them include Forbes Middle East, HBMSU, and World Book of Records to name a few. I am currently working on my book, as I gear up to share my remarkable story that will help people draw insight and inspiration from an extraordinary life and career. I believe my journey from an ordinary schoolboy, to a struggling salesman to the top of my growing empire will definitely inspire many.