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Australian businessman Rob Semaan moved to the United States after finishing law school to launch an Internet service provider in St. Louis, Missouri. Known as Access US, the ISP thrived under Rob Semaan’s direction as CEO with an annual growth rate of 300 percent over a 5-year consecutive period. Access US spread across the Midwest eventually offering service in 250 communities. Deloitte & Touche named the company the fourth fastest-growing business in the region and 200th out of 500 of America’s quickest-growing private companies. As part of his expansion plans, Rob Semaan acquired several competing ISP’s including Habanero, a web design and development company also based in St. Louis. In 2001, at the height of the company’s growth, Semaan decided to leave the company in his business partner’s capable hands and instead embarked on launching another start-up company, 321 Studios.
321 Studios was a software company which specialized in a suite of DVD backup, repair, and recovery products. Its signature product was DVD X Copy which allowed consumers to make personal backup copies of their DVD movies. This product was the first of its kind and after being launched online it took the retail market by storm breaking sales records of every kind on store shelves. As CEO, Rob moved pre-emptively to establish the legal legitimacy of 321’s products by filing a law suit in US Federal court, as the plaintiff, against nine of the world’s largest Hollywood movie studios including Time Warner, Disney, MGM, Sony and Universal Studios. The lawsuit sought a declaratory judgment affirming 321’s right to manufacture and sell its software. What followed were three years of intense legal battle, multiple law suits in several countries while the company grew at blistering speeds to become a major software publisher with over 10 software titles in virtually every major online and brick & mortar retail outlet in North America including Best Buy, CompUSA, Wal-Mart and amazon.com, 400 employees, offices located in North & South America, Europe and Australasia and annualized revenue in excess of $100MM. The law suits with the Hollywood movie studios ended amicably with a mutually agreeable settlement contract in 2004 where for a cash settlement 321 agreed to remove its products from the market and close the company.
Ready for another challenge, Rob co-founded “fig.” a company which became the national leader in medically supervised body shaping, a relatively new industry category largely created by the company. One of fig’s largest shareholders was Bessemer Venture Partners (“BVP”) – www.bvp.com - one of the oldest and most reputable private venture capital firms in the United States - who made a capital investment of $11 million. At its peak in mid 2007, the Company operated 15 treatment centers in 8 major markets - St. Louis, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Scottsdale, Houston, Dallas, Atlanta and Orange County, California with locations under construction in several new markets – Louisville, Columbus, Cleveland and Tampa. The company employed 500 people including 200 doctors, nurses and medical technicians and enjoyed annualized revenue exceeding $85MM. In late 2007, with two years of operating history, a substantial investment partner, 15 treatment centers in operation and a dozen more in the pipeline the company went to the capital markets seeking an additional $15MM to fuel current commitments and growth plans.
Unfortunately, the global financial made raising funds by fig. near impossible and company revenues which were largely based on capturing patients’ discretionary incomes declined significantly as consumers around the globe began tightening their belts bracing themselves for what many economists considered to be the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Like many key businesses in the US economy, fig.’s inability to raise financing for its next stage of growth led to a cash flow crunch which ultimately led to the company’s closure in early 2008. In 2008 Rob Semaan sought a change in lifestyle by moving his family back to the South Pacific where he now sits on the board of several successful companies managing private investments.