Money & Me: ‘As a mother, I am very careful and wise with money’

ScriptDoor founder Jamilyn Segal says her multicultural roots helped instill the value of money early in life

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 20 JANUARY 2021. Jamilyn Segal is founder and CEO of ScriptDoor, an open-market distribution and streaming platform. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: David Dunn. Section: Business.
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Jamilyn Segal is founder and chief executive of ScriptDoor, an open-market distribution and streaming platform that gives content providers greater control over pricing and advertising revenue alongside direct connections to consumers.

Ms Segal left the Philippines, where she worked for Citibank, 23 years ago and moved to the UAE. She joined the hotel industry before working with Dubai’s emerging Internet City hub, then became a full-time mother ahead of launching ScriptDoor.

Now aged 44, Ms Segal lives in Arabian Ranches, Dubai, with her husband, co-founder of a marine consultancy company, and their children aged 15, nine and seven.

How did your upbringing shape your attitude towards money?

I was raised in a multicultural family on a Philippines island. My dad was half Syrian, my mother half Chinese. They had a grocery store and bakery. Dad also had a business buying and selling coconut raw materials for soap and oil.

When it comes to money, my Arabic side of the family is extremely generous. My Chinese side is about saving for the rainy day. My Filipino side is all about the now, enjoying life with friends and family. I have a bit of all those. My father died when I was young, so I’m more influenced by my mum. I’m a great saver, but could also spend it all in one go.

When did you get a taste for commerce?

I was five and mum built a little shack from bamboo outside her store and I used to sell (store) goods from there. I had a hard time counting change, so let everybody pay me whatever they wanted. I had a long queue of people coming to me first. I can’t remember how much I earned, but people put money in a glass jar.

My mum seemed to push us towards business. She wanted me to calculate money. She was able to send us to school and university. I changed from being spoiled when my dad died in a car accident; it was a wake-up call and gave me an appreciation of the value of money.

We believe in various instruments, so stocks or bonds, property, savings (retirement) policies

Can you recall your first salary?

I studied hotel management, then Citibank accepted me from university as a credit officer. I was paid around 8,000 Philippine pesos (Dh612) per month, 25 years ago.

Why leave banking?

When you’re young, you just go with the flow. It was a six-month contract. Mum wanted me to see the world, my aunt was living in Sharjah, so I came to the UAE. I found a job as a hotel guest service officer in Abu Dhabi for about two years. Then I was a service delivery officer in (the early years of) Dubai Internet City. The pay was three times what I had been earning.

How did ScriptDoor happen?

I worked for Tecom media cluster. I’d seen how a certain ecosystem is built, how companies collaborate and wanted to do the same in an online business; a community of digital content providers. There’s a huge gap between the power of a technology company and the media and entertainment industry.

We’re trying to create a readymade solution for them to run their success story. Whether you’re a publisher or movie producer, you are able to upload and price your content, handle your advertising revenue and distribute direct to the consumer, whether that’s an individual or a corporate.

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 20 JANUARY 2021. Jamilyn Segal is founder and CEO of ScriptDoor, an open-market distribution and streaming platform. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: David Dunn. Section: Business.
Ms Segal says she does not buy things for herself unless they are on sale. Photo: Antonie Robertson / The National

Does it help content providers make more money?

Usually creatives don’t care about business. Some had not thought of selling content themselves. We’re trying to change the mindset … you have to balance your creativity with entrepreneurial skills, otherwise you’ll always have to wait for someone else. Our platform enables them to price, market and sell content to hone those skills.

What are your spending habits?

I am a saver but can also spend, not for me but on my family. I will not buy things for myself if it’s not on sale. There’s no point buying full price, especially kids’ things.

Being a mother, I am very careful and wise with money. There are things I did or bought while working, having two salaries, that I now don’t think about buying. When it comes to groceries, I buy bulk, go to Union Co-op or the vegetable market because you know there’s value.

Do you have savings?

Saving is discussed within the family. We believe in various instruments, so stocks or bonds, property, savings (retirement) policies. We bought our home, which has been a good investment, and invested into my company. We don’t usually keep much money in the bank.

What has been your best investment?

My husband’s company, a start-up that is now publicly listed on the Norwegian stock market. That really paid off. They did a reverse takeover. They are UK-based, but listed in Norway.

What is your most cherished purchase?

Our home because we love living here. As long as you live in it, you’re never going to lose. But we also have a home in Florida, 10 minutes from Disney World, so the kids really love that. Investment-wise, it’s not a huge gain, but personally, with children, it’s an amazing gain.

Does money make you happy?

My philosophy is, if money is in the right hands, it can create something amazing. That is power for me. But I also know money alone cannot make anybody happy. It’s how you use it that can make money powerful.

Is there anything you regret spending on?

When there’s a scheme that sounds too good to be true, generally it is. There was a property project in the UK, an apartment overlooking the sea. They said they’d give 10 per cent (returns) every year, but everything went pear-shaped. That was three years ago. We learned from it; we would not buy a property that is not there (completed) yet. There are a lot of owners, court cases and money stuck there doing nothing.

Do you have a financial tip for your younger self?

Don’t just save for the future, have something saved for entrepreneurship; find the purpose and have the capital for that entrepreneurial journey. It is not just the destination but the journey and people that you meet.

What are you happiest spending money on?

The best thing is rewarding yourself. You’ve got to eat well for your health and we love nature trails and travelling, seeing the world’s beautiful places and things, like whales in their own habitat.

Has the pandemic impacted ScriptDoor?

We’ve made huge progress. Before Covid-19, we didn’t have a working prototype. Now, we’re a breathing platform, people signed up and there are more than 1,000 users. It made us have a successful beta launch, we went live in July and plan to fully launch in February. We’re trying to find ways to market ScriptDoor without using (too much) money.

Do you plan for the future?

I will know I’m successful in my venture when I go into philanthropy. That’s where I see myself, making a difference, especially with families in repeating generational cycles of poverty. If I could help impact people’s lives … I hope I will never retire from doing that, wherever that takes me.