A tiny seed germinates to a cutting edge ICT firm that is being guided to prosperity by a committed pair of hands
By Catherine Kuria
Jacob Bigelow in 1829 defined technology as principles, processes and nomenclatures of the more conspicuous arts, particularly those which involve applications of science and which may be considered useful, by promoting the benefit of society, together with the emolument of those who pursue them. Technology has helped develop more advanced economies (including today’s global economy) and has allowed the rise of a leisure class.
Innovations have over the years influenced the values of society and raised new questions of the ethics of technology. Examples include the rise of the notion of efficiency in terms of human productivity, and the challenges of bioethics. Philosophical debates have arisen over the use of technology, with disagreements over whether it improves the human condition or worsens it. To some, technology may be the undoing of mankind but to others, like Godffrey Ngotho, technology is life.
Godffrey Ngotho is an Information communication technology (ICT) fronted developer. Kipacha Technologies was started by Godffrey, his twin brother and a friend while they were still in campus in 2008. In its early days, Kipacha was just a briefcase company. After campus in 2013, the trio decided to register the company and it was incorporated in 2015. Soon after, the company kicked off and it started doing web design, web hosting, and web and software development.
Growing up in the village, Godfrey was always fascinated by electronic hardware. He humorously recalls when his dad would beat him and his twin brother because of operating his tiny transistor radio. Godfrey and his brother pursued a degree in information communication technology (ICT) at Mount Kenya University.
The course gave them the hands on skills they needed to kick off their business. “After campus, I ventured into business while my brother was formally employed. We have heavily invested in software development because we are passionate about it,” he says.
The Kipacha team engages with clients and directs them on how they can make their business go digital. In that regard, it develops software for them in order to assist them in establishing an online presence that will boost their sales and visibility. The team also integrates social media platforms on websites so that the client can reach a large number of audience hence generating more income. At the beginning, it was difficult to convince clients to install software. But nowadays, given that most processes have gone digital, the business has grown. One of the biggest challenges that the business has been facing is the dynamic changes in ICT. Softwares keep on upgrading. “What is current today will have an upgrade tomorrow so there is a lot of pressure exerted in trying to keep up with the market trends,” laments the young entrepreneur.
Currently, the company has majored mostly in software design, web design and hosting. In the next two years, it is planning to make its e-learning platform more visible by marketing it and developing off-shelf products. It is working on creating an e-learning platform that will serve as a triple threat (voice, video and content that is able to talk to the client). Kipacha will phase out processes where people have to write and print out pdf’s which not user are friendly.
“Our biggest success came from a contract we obtained with Africa Water Association (AWA). We developed software for them to manage delegates who were coming for a conference in Nairobi. This project gave us an insight as to what was lacking in the market. As a company we were able to feel the pressure of working with a big client and this helped us blossom,” he fondly recalls.
Godfrey has gone through the Graduate Enterprise Academy (GEA) programme courtesy of Mount Kenya University and Equip Africa. The training he received has made him grow as an entrepreneur and he has consequently invested more time and resources to the company. He credits GEA for moulding him into a better entrepreneur and manager. He was also involved in an entrepreneurship and leadership programme with Rapid Africa.
The company is currently working on improving the experience of its customers. Its aim is to make them happy and content with the products they receive. Well, as Steve Jobs once said : “Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me. Going to bed at night saying we have done something wonderful, that’s what matters to me.”
One of the greatest challenges that the company encountered when getting started was insufficient capital. The young entrepreneur for instance remembers approaching a local bank seeking about Kshs. two million to fund the business. He pitched the idea to the lender and after listening, one person said that the idea could not be monetized. He was so frustrated and vowed that when the business finally kicked off, he would invite them to see it.
In addition, convincing people to buy his idea was not an easy task since many of them didn’t have faith in him. Unlike today, at that time, the company didn’t have good systems so playing a demo to a potential client was an uphill task. Potential investors were looking for a well structured business that they were confident in and most of them considered his venture a ‘risky gamble’ and were unwilling to take a chance with him.
Kipacha Technologies has also ventured into another business – The Crux Gaming Lounge and Cyber which targets the youth who are aged between 13 to 25 years. Mr. Ngotho describes these millennial clients as ‘jumpy’ because each has a different taste from the other. “How to make them understand your model of business is a constant conflict that we have been facing.” He credits his wife (who has studied psychology) for helping him iron these issues and bringing the clients closer home.
Advice to young people
He puts emphasis on the value of focus. He attests to this by saying that as a child he was raised to be perfect in everything from school work to home chores. The elders wanted him to focus on things that did not necessarily interest him but he chose to focus on what his heart loved – technology.
Collaboration is another important element he values. He encourages the youth to be open and speak up about their ideas and desires in life. One should not be afraid to speak up because somebody might steal his or her idea according to him.
“Take advantage of the resources your parents provide you with. Watch, listen and learn from those around you. Have fun if you must but avoid alcohol and drugs. Shun bad company but most importantly love each other and keep up the faith,” he concludes.
If you are young and entrepreneurial, one of your greatest assets is your age. What they fail to tell you in school is that being older doesn’t necessarily make you better. What it makes you is different. When you are older, you see things through a lens created through the years by other people’s experiences. Take charge of your youth and make something great out of it – something that will inspire another young person when you are gone.