Kenya: There Is Money in It, and This Is How We Make It

They are ambitious, aggressive and tech-savvy. In their efforts, they’ve shown that one can turn technology into a successful business. Below, meet six ‘techpreneurs’ who have ventured and conquered the virtual world.

Hilda Moraa, 24, Head WezaTele Company

WezaTele is a solutions provider that applies mobile technologies such as SMS and USSD — a technology that is used to send text between a mobile phone and an application program in the network.

She honed her business skills at Strathmore University, where she was a student. After her studies, she set out to take advantage of the many opportunities that she saw in the innovation arena.

“My love for technology and innovation spurred me to look at my school projects in an applied dimension. My curiosity and self-determination also inspired me to become one of the solutions providers,” she says.

The young techpreneur, who employs seven full-time staff, says she hopes her firm will break even by June this year.

The firm now has clients from several companies in Kenya, including Mamamikes.com, a local e-commerce company.

Wezatele has been featured in global circles, and was most recently featured in TedX — a global set of conferences held around the world for thought-leaders and innovators.

‘My-Order’, an application developed while she was still a student, has gained continent-wide attention.

Mbugua Njihia, 28, CEO Symbiotic Media

The technology company focuses on mobile business, mobile entertainment, custom Web and mobile application solutions.

The company, Symbiotic Media, is a leader in this technological field, and its product ‘Sembuse’ was recently named one of Forbes Africa Top 20 start-ups.

Mbugua’s techpreneurial skills were fostered early — since his university days in 2006 — and he says his love for business and technology meant that he would eventually start his own firm.

Among the firm’s achievements is building East Africa’s first mobile social network, which achieved a base network of 250,000 million users by 2009.

His advice to others venturing into techpreneurship is to first seek a niche, and settle where one is most comfortable.

“Will you be a solutions creator or a reseller? Will you develop from scratch or will you support and distribute? Such are the questions that one must answer. A real business means cash flows and margins,” he says.

Kamal Budhabatti, CEO and founder, Craftsilicon

CraftSilicon is a global software firm based in Kenya, providing software solutions to core-banking, microfinance, switching, electronic and mobile payments across four continents.

The company is worth Sh1.7 billion, with an annual income of over Sh500 million.

Mr Budhabatti used to moonlight during office hours, often writing software all night long, until he got his first big break in 2000 when a friend told him of a local bank that needed software.

He grabbed the opportunity. When his boss found out about his side job, he was fired from his work as a data entry clerk and deported to India.

He struggled to raise money to buy a ticket back to Kenya, as he still had to finish the software.

That is how his story in techpreneurship began.

Now the firm has over 200 staff, housed at the Sh420 million Craft Silicon Campus, off Waiyaki Way in Westlands, Nairobi.

It also has offices in New York, India and West Africa, serving over 200 clients.

The company also has an office in Silicon Valley, in Palo Alto California, a feat few African founded companies can claim.

Mike Macharia, group CEO, Seven Seas Technologies (SST)

Mr Macharia founded SST in 1999, aged 25, based on a strong belief and faith in himself.

The company has since grown steadily over the years, evolving from a humble infrastructure-based firm to a full IT services company that has 100 employees and three offices in Uganda, Rwanda and Ethiopia.

Last year, it generated Sh2 billion in revenue. He has steered SST to the heights through innovation, vision, commitment and passion, rising to become one of Africa’s respected technology entrepreneurs.

He has always been passionate about technology and how it can be used to leverage and transform Africa in the way people live, work, play and govern.

SST has won global recognition, including the VMware Africa Channel Partner of the Year in 2011, in recognition of the firm’s cloud computing efforts in East Africa.

Moses Kihumba, CEO Partech Solutions

Partechs Solutions, a firm worth Sh4 million, has found a niche in providing customised software solutions to businesses in Kenya and East Africa.

As an active member of student club activities, the Nazarene University alumni dealt a lot with entrepreneurship and empowering communities through business, where he earned the skills to start his own firm.

“I started exploring what sectors were profitable and offered high growth potential. That is how I ended up in ICT. Though I was doing finance major, I decided to look for some friends who had studied computer science and convinced them to establish an IT firm. That is how Partechs Solutions was founded,” he says.

Last year, the firm was declared the winner of stage one of the Ericsson Application Awards — an annual, global competition for application developers on the Android platform.

Remaining disciplined in personal, financial and social aspects during the first few years of building the company are some of the challenges he faced.

“Mobile apps in the business sphere are the present and the future; that’s why Partechs has already embraced the future,” he says.

Source: All Africa.Com – 23 Feb 2012