Tarek Kabrit: Accelerating in the auto business

Tarek Kabrit is co-founder and CEO of Seez App. During a recent interview, Tarek reveals how he launched his AI-driven startup, what he has learned so far, and what excites him most about the future.

What initially drew you to Strategy&?
I had just graduated from the London School of Economics and I knew I wanted to join a top-tier, global professional services firm in the Middle East. I hoped that getting diverse exposure across marketing, finance, strategy, and operations would help me build a solid business base for the rest of my career—and Strategy& really gave me that exposure.

Reflecting on your time at the firm, what makes you feel most proud?
Ironically, the thing I am most proud of wasn’t exactly work related—it was setting up a “movie night” in Riyadh. But I think it does show the importance of building relationships, and knowing how to unwind. So, at the time, there was a big group of consultants in town, but most nights after work, each person would just return to their villa and do their own thing. I remember thinking that it would be great to have an organized group activity, so we could do something together. With that in mind, I organized a movie night in our villa and invited people to join me. We ordered food and watched a film and talked about it. It ended up being so much fun that we did it once a week after that, and it kept going on for years after I left the firm.

You left to start Seez, which you describe as an AI-driven, data-first automotive platform. Tell us how you came up with the idea for your company.
I was just walking down the street with a friend one day in Lebanon and we passed by a MINI cooper, and I admired it. I had always wanted one, so I asked my friend how much he thought the car cost. But he didn’t know. Then I wanted to google it, but I didn’t know the model or the year. So I remember thinking, there should just be in app where you snap a picture and you get all the car details and it then shows you all similar cars for sale around you. I went back to the office and researched that concept, but I didn’t find anyone doing it, so I thought I would! From that point on, there was a lot of “brainstorming.” I spoke to anyone who would listen and picked their brains.

Cofounder and CEO, Seez
Venture Partner, Nuwa Capital

Former office: Dubai
Alumnus since: 2007

“I spoke to anyone who would listen and picked their brains.”

After launching Seez in the UAE, you started looking to expand in Europe. What were some of the challenges you faced with expansion?
We started our European expansion in Denmark, and building a team there was quite tough at first because we weren’t on the ground and we didn’t have a deep network of contacts there. But once that was in place, the rest followed surprisingly smoothly. Of course, as we’re introducing the idea of “online car buying” to Denmark, there is always that initial hurdle to get people to engage as it’s a totally new product/category for them. But I think that finding the right partners and marketing channels and messaging has been key. Recently, we delivered the first “fully digitally bought car” in Scandinavia.

When you think about the company’s growth over the next 10 years, what’s your vision?
I think in that time we will have made it extremely common and easy for people in Europe to buy their cars online. Just think about the fact that ten years ago, nobody would buy shoes online and now everyone does it! We believe the same will happen with cars. It’s the last $3 trillion industry that is still fully offline — we want to change that!

Is there a trend or movement in your industry that you see as a game changer?
There is definitely a trend toward online car buying. The global leader in that space is a company called Carvana, which was the fastest Fortune 500 company ever; it went from zero to $72 billion valuation in 8 years. Similarly, in Europe, the fastest Unicorn growth comes from a company called Cazoo that is also focused on online car buying.

“Just think about the fact that ten years ago, nobody would buy shoes online and now everyone does it! We believe the same will happen with cars.”

What would you say to a young professional starting at Strategy& on their first day?
This will be one of the most challenging jobs in your career (just not quite as challenging as founding a startup!), but what you will learn in terms of technical skills, business acumen, and work ethics will serve you for the rest of your life.

What advice would you give young people on taking career risks?
Do it! Take the risks! And do it early. Every day you wait, your opportunity cost gets higher.

How do you want your future career to unfold?
If we eventually exit Seez, I’d like to go back into investing – particularly as a venture capitalist. I have stayed in touch with the VC world through various board and venture partner roles, and I’d like to get back fully into that at some point.

Any final note to your fellow Strategy& alumni?
Work hard in your earlier years — that work will shape you for life. But also find your “movie night” and leave a mark. Finally, remember to take risks; things are rarely as scary as they seem before you start!

“Do it! Take the risks! Every day you wait, your opportunity cost gets higher.”

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