Our Founders Series is a bi-monthly event series about people in our community and the organisations they have built. Our first event in the series took place on Thursday 13 December 2018. Over a little food and drink, we mingled and watched the sun go down before we settled down to hear Munyutu Waigi share his Founder story.
About the Series
Our Founders Series is a bi-monthly event series about people and the organisations they have built. Over a drink and a little food, we gather to hear one founder share real, open and unscripted stories of their journey. The series celebrates the entire journey, recognizing achievements and success, but also unpacks and reveals the failures, personal sacrifices, fears and enduring faith that are part of every founder’s journey.
The series features founders with their hearts and oftentimes organisations firmly in this beautiful part of the country. Mostly Mombasa, but always the Coast region. From people who have been inspired by and gotten their big break here – like Munyutu Waigi our first guest - to people whose organisations are synonymous with the region.
Founder No. 1 - Munyutu Waigi
Our first event in the Founder Series took place on Thursday 13 December 2018. WOW Beverages generously filled our glasses with lovely wine, we mingled and watched the sun go down before we settled down to hear Munyutu share his Founder story. There were no formalities or protocol and we had only one goal, to have an open and honest discussion about the realities of building an organisation.
It’s difficult to communicate in words the richness of the discussion, the interest and mindfulness of the audience, and all the raw and personal insights Munyutu shared about his entrepreneurial journey. But we’ll try with a few highlights.
On fundraising. Munyutu – who has in the past been somewhat awkwardly labelled a “black guy with a white guy CV” – has raised millions of dollars for his companies. In the startup world, this in itself it a huge success. But these investors want exponential growth, huge revenues and quick exits. Would he do it again? Probably not, he’s more likely to run away from venture capital money now. In his own words, $2 million dollars in equity is good. But it brings $2 million dollar problems.
Having experienced 2am calls from investors to discuss missed targets, nearly losing it (figuratively and literally) after he launched Rupu, and having his integrity questioned by his investors, Munyutu now believes that bootstrapping is the way forward. Organic growth, incremental returns and space to leave a real impact.
We discussed a lot about the Western origin and culture of startups, particularly fundraising for a startup. We thought about the degree to which venture capitalists’ expectations and the general startup culture are aligned with our culture of working here in Kenya and the wider continent. Have we been conditioned to the start, grow and sell at such rates; to the rapid changes in ownership and succession in startups? We’re still debating this one…
On exiting. Munyutu was candid enough to share that he did not voluntarily leave any of his companies. He generously talked us through each exit, a raw deal here and difficult circumstances there. They were painful, but they taught him that companies are not children. You don’t have to see them graduate and you definitely need to let them go sooner rather than later.
“You can choose the type of entrepreneur we want to be. We check in [to life] alone and we check out alone. Leave an impact.”
On opportunity in the Coast region. “Mombasa is a different beast” he said. Mombasa is unlikely to ever by like Nairobi, and it shouldn’t aspire to be. Entrepreneurship is a lifestyle, of risk-taking, challenging status quos and ultimately being comfortable in one’s own skin. This will look different in Mombasa than it does in Nairobi. He left Mombasa and his first start up MoComm Wireless because the opportunity to develop Rupu arose, and the market in Nairobi was a better fit at that time. Not because Mombasa lacked opportunities.
On what it takes. Munyutu has learned from experience that a good support system is crucial to keeping your sanity as an entrepreneur, but also cautioned against trying to make everyone like you. “It’s ok to have just one real friend” he said.
We were curious to hear what role he thought luck played in his achievements, vis-à-vis hard work. He attributed 40-50% to luck, and a lot of stubbornness.
Munyutu was so generous in sharing his story, and we are immensely grateful. The discussion was moderated by Aaron, forever curious and always thoughtful.
If you would like to be notified of future events in the series, please join our mailing list. If you’d like to be a guest founder, we’d love to hear from you! Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.