February 10, 2011 - Phil Hodgen

Jell-O Shot Number 014 – The Riyadh Venti Mocha Frappuccino Edition

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Travel is fun. Opportunities are everywhere. I return to Blackberry-land.


I’m in Riyadh at the moment. To be precise I am enjoying a venti mocha Frappuccino at the Kingdom Centre as it is a trifle dusty outside. My next meeting is in two hours.


I first spent several busy days in Dubai meeting people and wrestling with jet lag. Did some business. Met Twitter friends. (Hi @pkgulati!). Hung out. Didn’t ski this time. Once was enough.

For all of the complaining (by some) or smirking (by others) about the state of Dubai’s economy, business still looks good to an outsider (that would be me). Malls full (Carrefours at the Mall of the Emirates — wow). Construction continues (apparently projects that were in the pipeline anyway but still…). The new Ritz opened in the DIFC after being mothballed for a while so that must mean something. (Nice place. Stayed there). Yeah I heard complaints about the real estate market etc. Complaints are normal. They’re all hanging in for the long haul.

I figure Dubai will continue to thrive as a regional magnet for capital and talent. I know I could live in Dubai. Don’t tell my wife and kids!


Just a quick warning. I will be winning a Maybach soon. I bought what will undoubtedly be the winning ticket in a raffle at the Dubai airport. AED 1,000 for a 1/6,500 chance at a US$1.6M car Why not?


Now I’m in Riyadh. Meeting some of my contacts. Making some new friends. Missed three people because I somehow scheduled my trip during the school holidays. Did my pilgrimage to La Vida Havana (a cigar club) last night to catch up with Turki (aka @Saudi on Twitter). He’s engaged and will get married in May. His mom is on him already for grandchildren. 🙂 Moms are the same everywhere.

I’m staying at the Intercontinental. Let me just say that it is redolent of ’70s architecture in the best possible way. You could shoot a Roger Moore era James Bond movie in here. Fabulously archaic. And unfortunately being heavily renovated. But it has free wifi!

(The interruption in this prose came because I was kicked out of Starbucks for prayer time. Back in 25 minutes.)

OK. I’m back.


Surprising: much interest in the topic of giving up US citizenship. Memo to Congress: wealth comes from people. Don’t chase them away with dumb tax policies.

Inbound opportunities to the region? They’re good. I see opportunities for U.S. companies and investments. Don’t believe what you see on the TV news. Especially what you see from the U.S. mainstream media and cable channels. Yes, things are happening in Cairo and elsewhere. But the interpretations you’re being fed on TV are almost certainly wrong. When I watch TV it’s hard to hear what’s going on because of the din of ideological axes grinding. The region is a great place to visit and do business in.

Outbound investments? I’m not seeing too much of this at the moment. There are opportunities here. There is uncertainty in the U.S., and for those of my clients who had money in hedge funds and the like, well, the experience still burns. 🙂 This will change. For the moment, though, there is caution.


Sold the MacBook Pro. Bought a MacBook Air. The 11 inch model. Best laptop ever.

AT&T will own my soul when I return. International roaming charges — especially data — are killer with the iPhone.

So I bought a Blackberry. I’m sticking local SIMs into it. Call me in Saudi Arabia at +966-54-855-1522. Despite being a total Apple nerd I like being back on the Blackberry. Recommended for travel. @Saudi mocked me for the Blackberry. He is a bigger Apple fan than I am.

Twitter qualifies as tech. Notice anything in this Jell-O Shot about Twitter? Get on it. Make new friends. I’m just saying….


I’ll be back in the region in a couple of months. If I missed you this time, let’s get together on the next trip.

As always, call/email. I’d love to hear from you.


M +1-626-437-2500

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