Antoun Massaad, the Co-Founder and CEO of Cedar Rose, has been recently installed as a Freeman in the Company of Entrepreneurs. Formerly known as the Guild of Entrepreneurs, the London based organisation is made up of men and women who have invested their own money and time in setting up and then running successful business. The Company of Entrepreneurs are focused on financing charities and projects that support the development of entrepreneurs and help to bring the opportunities of entrepreneurship to young people.
On this momentous occasion let’s look back at Antoun’s inspiring journey and how he overcame the odds during some of the most difficult situations in history to reach this honourable position and the future he envisioned at a young age. Despite the numerous obstacles along the way, the risks that laid in his path, and the sacrifices he made, one thing that Antoun never lost sight of is ethics which has led to the trust that he commands today.
Antoun was born in Tripoli
Lebanon less than four years before the civil war and fled the country two
years before it ended at the age of 18. As his father was a policeman and his
mother a teacher - both government employees - money was scarce so as the
eldest son he began working at the Port of Tripoli at the age of 13. By age 16,
he was trading in second-hand cars.
Having fled from the war first to Cyprus he later moved to Greece where he eventually met and later married his British wife Christina in England in 1992. He worked in London as a Business Researcher & Editor using his language skills in Arabic, French, English and Greek.
In April 1997 when Antoun was just 25 and a father of two, the couple founded ABI, Arab Business Information, with the aim of providing comprehensive credit reports on companies in the Arabic speaking world so that they could trade fairly on a global scale. ABI was later incorporated as Cedar Rose International Services Ltd, using the names of the national emblems of the founders’ birth countries.
The company was started in the Essex Enterprise Centre in Basildon with a loan from The Princes Trust. At the time, the late Dan Doherty who later founded the Guild of Entrepreneurs was also starting a company in the same Centre. Antoun and Christina became good friends with Dan and his partner Neil Fullbrook.
In 1999, Cedar Rose opened a branch in Lebanon initially employing and training his sister Lamia and his brother Michel to give them both employment opportunities.
In 2001, Antoun added due diligence investigations and data batches to the company’s services due to high demand from international clients for more in-depth information on their MENA counterparts.
In 2004 after experiencing two burglaries and two house floodings in the UK, Antoun and Christina decided to move with their children to Lebanon.
In 2006, they began translating corporate data manually employing a team of local linguists and researchers in Lebanon.
The 2006 Israeli-Hezbollah war saw Antoun flee his country once again and he resettled his family in Cyprus.
Due to ongoing unrest, the company moved their headquarters to Limassol, Cyprus in 2007.
Antoun led and continued to grow the company through the global financial crisis in 2008, the Cyprus power station explosion which knocked out the island’s electricity supply in 2011 and the 2013 Cyprus financial collapse.
By 2016 the company started using artificial intelligence and machine learning to rapidly scale up their database and product offering. They introduced API delivery of data, giving banks, auditors, insurance companies, compliance professionals, e-commerce companies and major exporters instant access to data and risk management reports and services.
In 2017, after 20 years in business, Antoun wrote to thank Prince Charles personally for the loan which helped him establish a successful business. Prince Charles responded personally by a letter a few weeks later.
By 2018, Cedar Rose began offering company credit reports and due diligence for almost every country in the world. They also added electronic identity verification services and now offer those globally too.
In 2020, just prior to the first COVID lockdown, Antoun opened Cedar Rose Data DMCC in Dubai and has grown the UAE branch to employ 5 people despite the difficulties of remote working. Later that year, he was also presented with the Special Export Award by the President of the Republic of Cyprus, Mr. Nicos Anastasiades.
In 2021, due to further problems and a major financial crisis in Lebanon, the Lebanon company was closed and 9 of the staff were relocated to Cyprus whilst the remaining staff were kept on as third-party contractors.
Cedar Rose now has operations in Cyprus, UAE, India and the UK with a flexible workforce of around 40 people. The company today holds the world’s largest and most accurate database of translated and linked corporate data for the emerging markets including the Middle East and Africa and provides business information on 168+ million companies and over 4 billion individuals globally.
Antoun’s vision has always been to be the premier source for business intelligence globally and he has led by example. He runs a tight ship - the company motto is “Strive for Excellence” - but he has never forgotten his humble roots. He firmly believes that we rise by lifting others and he goes out of his way to encourage even the most junior members of his team.
The Company of Entrepreneurs, formerly the Guild of Entrepreneurs was established to recognize those who have excelled as entrepreneurs and Antoun was nominated to join by Neil Fullbrook, one of the founders who had known Antoun since the start of his business journey. Through the Company, experienced entrepreneurs can offer mentoring to aspiring business owners and Antoun is looking forward to doing just that.