This 22-year old CEO Says Tech Hubs are Techies’ Way Out

Gift N. Mtambo is the founder and CEO of Rogim Designs, a creative agency that believes in tech hubs. He is also an Administrator at Sote Hub – the first tech hub in the rural areas of Kenya. Gift started practicing entrepreneurship at 17, while in high school (Secondary school).

He started by founding a virtual company called Mshindi KCB which provided financial literacy to the students and people within the local community. He co-founded Rogim Designs with Robert W. Robert Mburu who studied in one of the secondary schools (High schools) under Sote ICT project.

Robert Mburu also used to work in a virtual company called Kenslov, they deal in design, web development, and branding services. He finished secondary school (High school) in 2014 at 18. He also Joined Sote ICT project as an intern and later got employed as a UX Designer.

I was opportune to interview Gift N. Mtambo, discussing how he scaled the hurdles within the rural areas of coastal Kenya. Not many people can do the same, but you know that already, right? He encouraged aspiring entrepreneurs and techies to visit tech hubs to achieve their goals. Below is an extract from the interview, but before that…

What are Tech hubs?

Tech Hubs, as defined on Quora are social communities, workspace, or research centers that provide subject-matter expertise on technology trends, knowledge, strategic innovation management, and industry-specific insights.

These hubs enable active knowledge transfer between researchers and business experts, on the one hand, and industry, government, and representatives of academia, on the other hand.

It is an environment where decision makers can meet to brainstorm with scientists and business experts to discuss their complex business challenges.

Back to the interview…

Gift, can you brief me about your background?

Well, I am a 22-year old who was raised from a humble background by a single parent (mother) in the rural areas of coastal Kenya. I joined provisional high school called Dr. Agrrey Boys in 2010 for two years, and thereafter, got a transfer to a rural district school called Marungu due to financial issues.

But before I joined the second school, I stayed out of school for approximately 3 months hustling for daily wages to sustain my personal needs. Nevertheless, I managed to finish my secondary course and later joined the Sote ICT project which mentored and advanced entrepreneurial skills.

What was your first entrepreneurial experience?

In high school, my friends and I formed a Virtual bank named Mshindi KCB. Mshindi is a Swahili word meaning ‘a winner’ and KCB is the initials of Kenya Commercial Bank, a popular bank in Kenya.

I came up with this idea because I saw a problem in the community. Our parents had to walk from the interior rural areas to a small town which was 15km away to pay school fees. To reduce this stress, we decided to partner with KCB to open a nearby agent that will favor our parents and they agreed.

To strengthen the partnership, we volunteered and gave financial institute literacy. We also marketed the bank to the community.

Were you intending to start a company before joining Sote Hub?

Yes, I wanted to advance on the virtual Mshindi KCB but it failed because some bank policies were introduced shortly afterward and this made us drop the whole idea.

What led to Rogim Designs? How did the whole idea start?

The idea came up after we noticed that businesses and companies in the region are trying to increase their sales but to no avail. Through our research, combined with the national metrics, we observed that 70% of the businesses in Kenya lack branding and marketing.

We saw an opportunity therein to start a branding and marketing company. But not limited to that, we also work with startups during the prototype stage, hence creating a strong relationship and preserve them as our future clients.

You said you work with startups during the prototype stage, how?

Well, we work with them when they are about to be awarded seed fund. Usually, the seed fund takes some time to be transferred to the startups’ accounts due to contracts and agreements with the donor or investor.

During this period, we render our services through sale contracts and agreement forms. We offer them the services till they receive their funds. This creates a good relationship between us and them, builds trust, and preserves them as our potential clients in future.

How did you meet your co-founder?

Well, I met Robert Mburu in high school. We interacted during ICT symposiums and workshops. Then we reconnected in 2015 when he interned for Sote ICT project. I proposed starting a creative agency together and he agreed.

techies tech hubs
Gift N. Mtambo sitting on left and Robert W. Mburu on the right

What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?

Firstly, we didn’t have enough technical branding and marketing skills but we overcame that through Sote Hub. We also spent time in Slovakia with our partner — Azylo Agency who helped us with the problem.

It was initially hard to get clients because we were new to the industry. We overcame this by networking with people at Sote Hub and other hubs in Kenya.

In addition to that, we try to improve the reputation and face of our company both offline and online to build trust in our clients.

Are you saying you owe a part of your success to Sote Hub?

Yes, approximately 40% of Rogim Designs’s Success is owed to Sote Hub. Through Sote Hub, we advanced our skills, built our networks, nursed good relationships with our partner and won 2000 euros seed funding during a “Startup Pitching Competition” in July 2016.

pitching tech hubs
Gift and Robert pitching at SOTE Hub

In short, Sote Hub is our great and special partner, and we really appreciate them.

How does it feel to receive a seed fund? I guess that’s the presumed problem facing some aspiring entrepreneurs

I don’t know how to express my happiness towards the fund and Sote Hub but it feels great. The seed fund will drive our company to greater heights — in terms of making more sales, increasing our brand’s popularity, and also in production.

Do you still go to Sote Hub?

Of course yes! 🙂 Apart from working in my Company, I am also the Assistant Administrator at Sote Hub. I coordinate daily administrative tasks and work closely with incubated startups to improve their ideas. I also coordinate and run Sote ICT program and outreach in high schools.

Wow, that’s awesome! So, how far have you gone, I mean Rogim Designs?

We have grown to better levels, though we’ve not achieved our aim. We have handled more than 20 clients, 59 projects and we have partnered with 2 companies and 2 NGOs.

Our sales graph is increasing gradually. Apart from that, we have also started a charity program that helps rural high school girls acquire photography and design skills. Recently, we initiated Explo the Lens campaign to raise more funds for these girls. It kick-started last week.

girls tech hubs
Rural high school girls during one of the training sessions

Would you advise aspiring entrepreneurs or techies to go to tech hubs?

100% Yes! To anyone who has an idea and wants to be a good entrepreneur, please use these tech hubs. Luckily, they are now sprouting all over the world.

Through these tech hubs, you will get advice, and be exposed to the different approaches towards idea or innovation, a lot of resources like the internet, different technologies like 3D printer machines, etc. You will also be opportune to network with like minds and business-oriented personnel.

Thank you for your time Gift, but before we round up, what advice do you have for our listeners and readers?

Quoting a Chinese proverb, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the next time is now”. Get started now, and start acting on what you believe in.

The best thing ever is to do what you love and love what you do.

Final Thoughts on Techies Going to Tech Hubs

Gift has said it all. If you’re a techie or an aspiring entrepreneur, it’s high time you honed your skills and improve your chances at becoming the next CEO through available tech hubs. Don’t forget to hey me when you become one. 🙂 Trust me, it’s fun filled! So, what are you waiting for? What challenges are you facing? Tell me in comments.

PS: If you find this post useful, kindly use the share button(s) to help someone else out there. Cheers!

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