In an age where the reigning deities are startups helmed by hoodie-wearing 20-somethings, it’s almost poetic to talk about a 75-year-old company that calls itself a start-up. ALJ, a Saudi Arabian behemoth, is a juxtaposition in every sense. Here’s a company that’s been steering the turbulent waters of the global economy for over seven decades and yet manages to retain the hunger, audacity, and agility of a Silicon Valley start-up.
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The Arabic proverb, “If the wind blows, ride it,” seems almost simplistic in today’s intricate global economy. But if you’ve been following the trajectories of world-shakers like Amazon and Ford, you’d know that they’re taking calculated gambles on new entrants like Rivian, an electric-vehicle manufacturer. The connective tissue here? ALJ. In a brilliant and unlikely partnership, ALJ was the first major investor in Rivian, almost eight years before these giants came knocking.
But let’s not box ALJ into the automobile sector. Their reach spans continents and domains. From being a backbone to a research center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) that saw two of its associates win the 2019 Nobel Prize in Economics, to its ventures in solar energy and even online automobile platforms – ALJ’s footprints are truly everywhere. And it’s not just the diversification that’s fascinating; it’s the way they’re doing it.
When I think of Saudi Arabia, what immediately comes to mind is oil and traditional wealth. But ALJ has moved far beyond this cliché. It’s refreshing to hear Hassan Jameel talk about Saudi Arabia as a “melting pot” of talent. It echoes the sentiment of a modern-day global company that sees its origin not as a limitation but as a rich tapestry that shapes its ethos. They are global, yet deeply Saudi.
Their approach to business feels familiar. If you’ve followed Silicon Valley’s modus operandi, you’d recognize the pattern. ALJ isn’t just throwing money around. They’re investing, yes, but they’re partnering. They’re embedding themselves in the very fabric of the businesses they work with. This is where they remind me of the big tech giants — long-term visionaries with the patience to nurture and grow.
But, and this is where they swerve again, their narrative isn’t all about profits. They talk purpose. At a time where there’s a global call for corporations to be more socially responsible, ALJ’s dual focus on profit and purpose, epitomized by their philanthropic efforts through Community Jameel, isn’t just refreshing, it’s vital.
With ALJ, we’re looking at an intricate dance of old-world values and cutting-edge innovation. They’re a lesson in how businesses can and should evolve, proving you can respect tradition while embracing disruption.