The Year That Was: Alaa Fadan, Co-Founder and CEO, Telfaz11
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Saudi Arabia-based Telfaz11 has long been regarded as one of the leading players on the MENA region’s digital media scene, and anyone who has seen its growth since its launch in 2011 would have, at the start of this year, certainly only expected the enterprise to continue to bolster its offering (and its appeal) in 2020.
And, as it turns out, that’s just what Telfaz11 has managed to accomplish this year- but perhaps not in the way most of us- or even its co-founder and CEO Alaa Fadan- expected the year to unfold for it. Indeed, 2020 has been a year in which Telfaz11 (whose creative content had garnered it more than 2.3 billion views and 24.8 million subscribers) has had to pull the shutters down on some of its productions owing to the effects of the COVID-19 crisis- but it’s also been a year where it inked a multi-picture deal with Netflix (which, in case you don’t know, is the world’s largest streaming service with over 195 million paid memberships in over 190 countries).
“As an entrepreneur, 2020 provided a set of unprecedented challenges that truly upended our business planning,” Fadan says. “The rollercoaster that ensued had its ups and downs, beginning early in the year with a successful move to our new headquarters in Riyadh, as well as the realization of a key milestone- the launch of Six Windows in the Desert, our first series on Netflix. Very quickly after that, we had to contend with the practical limitations that COVID-19 placed on our production pipeline and growth which was halted, creating uncertainties for our business and future. More recently, we did celebrate our nine-year anniversary, and at the same time, closed our second Netflix deal, which is the biggest of its kind with the platform in the region, and that came as a result of a very successful collaboration early in the year. So, despite the lack of stability that 2020 brought on to our business, there were some unique opportunities that presented themselves, and became a big part of the current Telfaz11 story.”
And now, as the world gets ready for the start of a new year, Fadan says he and his team at Telfaz11 are grateful for the silver linings that have come out for the enterprise in 2020, all of which have only served to reinforce their goals for the company in the long term. “Today, I can proudly say that we are in uniquely positioned place, based on the success we had early on in the year when we started our relationship with Netflix, and how we are finishing our year with our expanded relationship with Netflix, and our focus on developing and producing premium series and feature films, to really pounce and seize on the ambitions that we always had- to be the world’s gateway into Saudi culture, as it pertains to entertainment.”
Time for introspection: Alaa Fadan reflects on 2020
1/ Your mission matters “Have a noble mission for your business- it will always be the North Star that will guide you through the noise and the distractions, and it will give you the push to keep grinding when things get rough. For us, it’s about being a catalyst for the local creative culture and economy, exporting our beautiful culture to the world, and affecting our viewers positively in any shape or form through our content.”
2/ Diversify revenues, and be lean “In times of uncertainty, a diverse set of abilities, partnerships, and resources will help you pivot when needed quickly and effectively. We were able to swiftly adapt a digital original show on YouTube when the pandemic hit, and that allowed us to make up for lost revenues in other areas of our business. Similarly, having the ability and skill to produce premium content allowed us to cultivate and lock down strategic deals with the likes of Netflix.”