An Analytical Chemist and a Mechatronics Engineer crossed paths in the hallways of Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology a few years ago.
Other than working to complete their degrees, the other thing on their minds was how they would survive in campus. They had to look for ways to make money.
So they learned how to code, and code they did. The analytical chemist was however not content. He had to conquer the world somehow and this would not happen while mixing two ingredients in a lab to create a third. The sneak peek into the world of ICT showed him there was more to be done out there. So in December 2015, he sat down with the Mechatronics Engineer and regrouped on what their next big thing would be.
Cue the birth of Eastpesa.
Meet Seroney Memba, the Marketing Manager of Eastpesa and a JKUAT graduate from the class of 2011, who was gracious enough to sit and allow me to plunder him with enough questions about why he, the Analytical Chemist chose to build this business with Javan Owino the Software developer and Charles Imo, the Business developer. This band of merry men is the brains behind this awesome app.
- How did you meet?
We (Javan and I) knew each other from campus. We formed an ICT company in JKUAT where we mostly did web design. This was our main hustle during holidays. When we got out we decided to think of a product that would target and benefit a huge market. We had several ideas but settled on this one.
- What is Eastpesa?
Eastpesa is an online platform that helps Kenyans living abroad send money home, instantly and direct to mobile. We are 100% Kenyan.
- How does it work?
Let’s break it down. You the everyday mwananchi need some money. Your relative in Diaspora is willing to send you the money you need. You have a working mobile phone and adequate network coverage wherever you are. All your relative needs to do is log on to our online platform or mobile app and send the money. You will receive a confirmation message in 10 seconds and make your way to the nearest MPESA/Airtel Money agent to withdraw your cash. It’s that simple and easy.
FYI, The Android Mobile app is free.
- How Did Eastpesa come about?
We had a client who was selling land and really needed to reach guys in the diaspora. The challenge was getting payment. We identified the idea to provide a homemade solution having identified our niche. We understand the local setting very well. We want to help anyone looking for something as little as lunch money to those looking to transfer as much as it would take to buy a piece of land. Our rates are competitive enough and we are looking to become a Pan-African payment solution. We are gradually growing from serving Kenya to other countries in East Africa like Uganda, Tanzania, and Rwanda.
- How long has Eastpesa been around?
We conceived the idea in late 2015 and got into the market actively in August 2016. That is when the platform was launched for use.
- What else can you do with Eastpesa other than transfer money?
You can make a few utility payments like airtime top ups for Safaricom. We are currently looking into Airtel Money top ups and even the payment of water and electricity bills as well.
- Challenges faced so far?
We had an issue with our bank floats and had to limit our initial transactions to about Kshs 50,000. We have now improved. There is no limit currently, it is open to send or receive as many millions as you may need.
Staffing a startup is hard. People had to work overtime to ensure the business was up and running. Looking for partnerships was equally as difficult but this is now beginning to shape up slowly.
- Why did you choose Analytical Chemistry and end up venturing into this type of business?
I chose to do Analytical Chemistry as Chemistry was my strong suit back in high school but once I got to second year, I realized this was not the path I wanted to take. I had already completed an internship and did not have a liking to the lab. The environment around me taught me a lot.
I met this team and we would spend hours on end teaching ourselves how to code and bettering our skills to help us make money. From then on, my focus was changed completely
- What Do you think most startups should invest heavily in?
Be creative in your innovation, Invest in your networking and always tell the story of your brand.
- Long term goal…say 5 years from now?
Our vision is to go Pan African. Expect us to be a major link between Africans abroad and at home through remittances. We will also definitely among the leaders in the online payments industry.
- Once you go Pan-African will your name change?
Mmmmhh… That has not come up yet, but it is something we will discuss at that time. I will consider your question as a feedback.