The next chapter in the East African business journey began on the morning of Monday 23rd January as I woke up in Nairobi and walked to “the office” to go “to work”.
At the end of 2016 I concluded the tour of the East Africa region by meeting an entrepreneur named Hilda, who was introduced to me through an investor I went to lunch with.
Hilda is building out a new venture (last one sold in 2015) and was on the look out for a co-founder to share responsibilities with to help get cracking on making the business happen. This is what I was walking towards.
Try before you buy (again)
My nature of taking big, consequential decisions slowly extends not just to where to live, but also where to work.
Last December, Hilda and I met up a fair few times to sense each other out and see if we would be compatible in working together. Early signs were positive after discussing the vision for where Hilda and I were interested in making an impact in Kenya.
We thought, why not give it a go, but also agreed it felt a bit premature to be discussing vesting schedules and contract-binding targets after only meeting for a week, and so we decided it would be preferable to work together for a bit before locking in to anything too legal.
For the first 3 months of 2017 I’ll be taking on the responsibilities that a co-founder would. If things are agreeable at the end, we’ll crack on like normal, and if not, no-one is caught up in heaps of messy paperwork.
The business is around opening up financing to small enterprises.
After the success of her last venture, Hilda has done an excellent job of securing funding for this one (called Pezesha).
We have a tech team, local investors and office space to crack on and find the best fit for deploying capital in a smart way to (for starters), small kiosk owners.
The main overlap with what needs doing/ I have experience in is around building up processes and systems to help things scale. Three days in, and there are already post-it notes on the wall…
As a side note, the picture was posted by The Baobab Network. They’re a couple of guys who place teams from the UK and US into startups in Sub-Saharan for short-term projects. Cool company. That’s Tom, the founder, on the right who is helping us with the financial model.
Outside of work
Having been in Nairobi for four sleeps I’m still getting orientated to what the rhythm of things will look like. I’m staying with a very friendly New Zealand family (who run an NGO about water) who have been most welcoming.
I’ve tried to become a bit of a morning person and fit in some exercise before breakfast because going for an evening jog is off the cards: everyone warns against walking the streets in the city at night.
Interestingly, I think that is the only material behaviour change I’ve experienced so far.
The rest of my activities have been underwhelmingly similar to where I’ve been elsewhere. I did cooking on Sunday, will be catching up with some friends towards the back end of the week, and going for a run at the weekend somewhere green. It’s in one of Nairobi’s forests with someone who was introduced to me as “an athlete”. I’m slightly worried my “I quite enjoy running” has been overestimated and so I may to use “the altitude card” to save face.
From the way things are panning out, I’ll continue to have building up Pezesha as the primary focus of my time.
There are plenty of interesting things happening around, and so I will likely distill some of them into the next blog post when the time comes.
If you’d like to stay in touch with what’s happening, then you can add yourself below to the regular email thingy I send out