Orphaned At 10, Turned Down Harvard At 17, Millionaire At 19 – Meet Kenya’s Very Own Mark Zuckerberg
There is hardly any doubt that the African tech scene is going through what could be described as a renaissance. And interestingly, it is some young, ambitious entrepreneurs that are leading this charge.
Mubarak Muyika; a 25-year-old Kenyan entrepreneur, is one of such individuals who has been at the vanguard of the action in recent years. In 2015, Mubarak Muyika was named one of Africa’s most promising entrepreneurs in Forbes 30 under 30. He has been recognised by Yahoo who named him one of nine “Mark Zuckerbergs” of other countries.
His beginnings could be traced back to earlier times in Kenya’s Western Province, where he spent his formative years. Muyika’s father held a position in the civil service while his mother was a high school teacher. Things seemed pretty much stable well, up until tragedy struck. And not once, but twice.
First, Muyika lost his father when he could barely form words – he was only two-years-old when the old man passed on. Just before he turned ten, life dealt Muyika yet another lethal blow. This time, it was his mother who passed on under tragic circumstances.
From his high school days, Muyika showed glimpses of promise as an immensely-gifted student. It was, in fact, during those early times that he made his first breakthrough in tech – something he called the “Enhanced Petrol Tracker.” He was only a 16-year-old high school student when he built a tracking database designed to curtail mismanagement of oil resources by cataloguing and monitoring the movement of oil tankers, as well as keep an eye on oil flow and the demand for the product.
Essentially, his creation promised better management of petroleum resources, which apparently, was a solution that had been long sought after by stakeholders of the industry. So, it was quite fitting that his tech-driven solution was well received and he earned some acclaim, having emerged Best Student in the Computer Exhibit Category at that year’s annual Kenya Students Congress on Science and Technology.
And that was just the first of his many exploits in tech. Muyika’s next move was to build a functional website for the book publishing and distribution company owned by his guardians.
He took on the project as a way of boosting the online presence and by extension, the productivity of the company, and cutting down on costs, that was after he convinced his aunt and her husband to sever ties with their website manager who he discovered was doing a botched job of managing the company’s web presence while taking home a fat paycheck that he scarcely deserved.
His adoptive parents decided to put their faith in him and by the time he was done teaching himself PHP, Java, and HTML, he had designed a highly-functional and interactive website for the business.
Those newly-acquired skills opened the floodgates for what has shaped into a career in tech. He honed his skills further and on the backs of his self-taught skills, he launched his first business, Hypecentury Technologies & Investments Ltd., in January 2011. Part of the company’s offerings was website design and management, hosting services, and domain reselling. He hired two of his friends to join him in the business and together, they got it up and running.
By May 2012, the company already had nearly 2,000 domains which represented clients in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, South Sudan, and Congo DRC.
It was about this same period that Muyika crossed paths with one of Kenya’s richest businessmen, Chris Kirubi. The young Kenyan techie had appeared on the radar of the tycoon and having been impressed by the young man’s work, the millionaire was willing to throw his weight behind the youngster. Kirubi recommended Muyika for a full scholarship to one of the world’s most prestigious Ivy League schools, Harvard University. The idea was to have him bred under the same roof as some of the world’s best and it seemed like a no-brainer.
After several months of hushed conversations, the big decision came in 2013 when he sold his 60 percent stake in the company in a lucrative deal that turned him into a millionaire at only 19 years of age. On his decision to move on from Hypecentury, he had this to say; “I had the feeling that I was not maximizing my potential. I opted to sell my shares and develop a new venture.”
And that new venture came in the form of Zagace, his newest project which was launched in Kenya soon after he walked away from his first company.
Zagace is known to provide a completely integrated, online business management toolkit for small and medium-sized companies. The product allows users to manage human resources, inventory, accounting, and communications via a series of well-designed, integrated apps.
Although the business has since set up shop in California, USA, the Kenyan tech entrepreneur has not shifted his focus from developing and leveraging some of the best African tech talents available.