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A New Chapter: Ben Locke, Founder, Locke Lifestyle Properties Seasoned corporate executive Ben Locke aims to offer businesses from all around the world a gateway into the MENA region.

By Tamara Pupic

You're reading Entrepreneur Middle East, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

Ben Locke
Ben Locke is the official distributor for Cyberhive in the GCC region, and founder and Chairman of Locke Lifestyle Properties and Lemon by Locke.

In January 2024, when Ben Locke wrapped up his 14-year tenure at Tungsten Automation (previously called Kofax), a California-headquartered global provider of intelligent automation software, he found entrepreneurship to be the best route for him to apply his extensive skills and professional experience he has gained in his career so far. "Being Vice President at Kofax taught me a huge amount about business operations, and the various business industries across the GCC and Africa," Locke explains. "The company was a software vendor who essentially worked in and across all industries and automated business processes as much as possible. This gave me incredibly valuable insight into a vast array of different organizations in many industries, seeing how they worked, where issues occurred, and the best way to implement new methods and practices to improve those businesses. And this was hands-on, identifying issues, coming up with solutions, and seeing those implemented. Every solution implemented for a client was essentially a business lesson and example."

This experience thus laid the groundwork for a new chapter in his career trajectory, which has seen him launch two new businesses in Dubai, including real estate specialist Locke Lifestyle Properties, and the soon-to-be-launched boutique creative agency Lemon by Locke. Speaking of the latter, Locke says, "With so many new companies entering the market, we wanted to bring some fantastic individuals together to help these new companies start up with branding and advertising, or work with existing companies to refresh/rebrand, and keep them current with the ever-evolving landscape."

At the same time, Locke is also an active investor in startups, with one of his latest investments being in UK-based cyber security company CyberHive,where he will also act as the official distributor in the GCC region. "I am to bring them into this market," he explains. "The company will launch in the UAE soon, bringing a new and innovative solution to the cybersecurity space that can protect any device that connects to the internet. It has taken a different approach of hiding entry points– how do you pick a lock that you can't see? I really believe this company can make a difference."

As an investor, Locke says that he is focused on tech companies that are either not yet in the GCC region, or very new to it. "I can add the most value to such companies by utilizing my network to help springboard them into the market, and navigate any potential slowdowns," he explains. "When deciding on whether to make an investment, I ask about their general life experience, trying to get to know what they have done/ lived through, and learn about how they have got to this moment. There should always be obstacles they have to overcome. If that hasn't happened, that could be a red flag, as you don't know if the person can deal with, and overcome challenges and setbacks."

But if you are an ambitious individual, Locke believes that the UAE offers a fertile ground for new business ideas and projects. "You only have to look at the announcement by the UAE Ministry of Economy at the beginning of the year when they confirmed they would be establishing a special entity, the Intangible Assets Finance Committee that is aimed at providing financing to SMEs and startups by facilitating access to financing, supporting their growth, especially during their critical initial years," he says. "In addition, under the National Agenda for Entrepreneurship and SMEs, the UAE aims to create 10 unicorn startups by 2031, and secure a top three position in the Global Entrepreneurship Index. There is clearly a lot of government support, which naturally creates an enticing platform for startups."

Locke considers Dubai and the UAE, his home for the past 14 years, to be a cornerstone of his success, having offered him unparalleled career opportunities, and helping him build a valuable professional network. His seamless adaptation to life in the city, as well as the broader MENA region, including gaining a deep understanding of the culture, and doing business in this part of the world, is now of value to the founders whom he supports. "I've learned to approach different cultures with utmost respect and curiosity," he says. "Never assume you know how anything works or will play out. Act like a sponge, absorbing the nuances and intricacies of each culture you encounter. Another key lesson is to never underestimate the power of personal connections in business. In this region, making a genuine connection with those you work with is not just a nicety, it's a necessity. As successful individuals, our actions and attitudes speak volumes, and the impressions we leave can have a significant impact."

As for the challenges for fledging businesses in the UAE, Locke considers them to be only just a handful. "I advise raising awareness of extra startup costs other than licenses, and the time involved in building or creating something physical," he says. "Getting building permits and sign-off from various entities, the various cost differences between free zones, and completing banking processes can take longer than expected, but then, digital banking helps a lot. I also suggest connecting with the correct Public Relations Officer (PRO) company, and asking for all fees and suggested timelines upfront."

As for his own business, i.e. Locke Lifestyle Properties and Lemon by Locke, the entrepreneur plans to spend the rest of 2024 on enhancing the quality of service that each provides in order to ensure customer satisfaction and loyalty. For Locke Lifestyle Properties, that will mean integrating advanced technologies and improving service delivery protocols with an aim of retaining its current customer base and attracting new clients. At the same time, he will be leading the Lemon by Locke team in supporting ethical and sustainable brands through creative excellence. "We deliver innovative branding and marketing campaigns that amplify the voices of businesses dedicated to making a positive impact," Locke says. "We strive to drive meaningful change through creativity and inspire love for brands."

Plus, for both of his businesses, as well as for CyberHive in which he will act as a distributor to the GCC region, Locke believes that focusing on talent development will ensure that each remains competitive and innovative. "I drive innovation in our line of work by adopting a culture of creativity and continuous improvement within our organization," he says. "Everyone should feel like they are learning and adding value to themselves and the company. We stay ahead of industry trends by embracing new technologies and methodologies to enhance the client experience and streamline operations. By encouraging experimentation and empowering our team to think outside the box, we can identify opportunities for innovation and implement adequate solutions." While Locke expects such an approach to significantly contribute to driving revenue growth for all of his ventures, he concludes by also emphasizing the importance of fostering long-term relationships for the success of any business. "Strategic partnerships and alliances will always play a significant role in achieving our objectives," he concludes.

Related: Charting New Paths: Embracing The Entrepreneurial Boom In The UAE

Tamara Pupic

Entrepreneur Staff

Managing Editor, Entrepreneur Middle East

Tamara Pupic is the Managing Editor of Entrepreneur Middle East.

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