Risky Business: How the Arab Spring Changed an Investigations Firm
The protests in the Middle East tested Jeremy Kroll, son of investigations entrepreneur Jules Kroll, and his expansion of K2 Intelligence into the region.
00:07 Jeremy Kroll: It makes you, frankly, second guess what you're doing. Am I doing the right thing? Am I taking the right path here?
In 2009, Jeremy Kroll co-founded K2 Intelligence with his father, Jules Kroll, the corporate investigations pioneer.
K2 Intelligence focuses on investigative and risk consulting.
00:28 Kroll: So, when we started the business, we opened in London and New York and an office in Madrid. And at the end of the first year, one of our very good clients had asked us to open up in the Gulf, in the Arab region. And, it was essentially a business decision as to whether we're going to open up in a new market, how much investment we're going to make in opening up this new office, and we were going to be putting our own people and country into the Gulf region. So, it was a big investment decision for us. We were probably 20, 25 people at that point in the company. It was our first full year in operations. It was 2010. It was the fall. And we opened our doors. Within approximately 60 days, Arab Spring exploded.
In December 2010, protests broke out in Tunisia.
A month later, protests sprang up in other countries across the region, including Yemen, Syria and Egypt.
01:34 Kroll: I remember when I had heard from, in the middle of the night, from one my specialists who focuses on doing business in the Gulf and for Arabic clients, and he said, "I just got word that there are major protests in Egypt, and we have to think about what does this mean for us." The next day we all sat on a conference call trying to understand whether this was really going to impact our little office in the small Gulf state that we operated in, and it was one of those moments when, here we are in the risk management business, really not advising a client, but thinking about it from our perspective. What are we gonna do to manage this risk? We had made the financial investment, that's one thing. What about the physical security of our people? How are we going to protect them? How are we going to continue to serve the market? So, we decided to monitor it carefully, and there was probably a period of 60 to 90 days where we had our people in country. We continued to work, but it was incredibly insecure.
In late 2011, Jeremy began pulling his staff from the Gulf.
02:51 Kroll: Luckily we had pulled our people out at the time of greatest uncertainty. Eventually, we put them back in. But the financial results for that office were, frankly zero. So, it was a very, very stressful time. You're really forced to think about that moment when you first conceived the business, and you took that opportunity to recruit a great team, to recruit top talent. And you go back to the basics; what was it that sparked the idea of this company? Why was this business founded? And you always have to go back to that single moment or that single kernel, because when things are difficult, it tests everybody and it tests everything. And I think when you go through these moments, you really look back, to look forward. And as long as you're with the right team, as long as people can trust each other, can count on each other and know that you're in this together, then you have the recipe for success for your business.
Today, K2 regularly shuttles staff into and out of the Gulf. (For security, K2 does not disclose the exact location.)
K2 now has hundreds of clients including public and private companies, litigators, and bankruptcy attorneys, and private clients.
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