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How two friends beat biases to build thriving tech firm

WORK LIFE
By Peter Theuri | May 30th 2021
Stephen Mbiyu and John Kariuki, co-founders of Mbitrix Technologies Ltd.

When Stephen Mbiyu and John Kariuki joined Murang’a High School in 2008, they did not know that only seven years later, they would be registering their company and that in 13 years, they would open a school of their own.

At 27, the two run Mbitrix Technologies Ltd, an IT company.

“Mbitrix Technologies Ltd is a duly registered company under the laws of Kenya operating in Nairobi. It was incorporated in 2015 with a vision of providing strategy, implementation, business transformation and operational solutions for managing the information technology complexities of the digital economy,” Mbiyu says.

The company provides IT services in website design, e-commerce web systems design, custom software development, domain registration and hosting, social media management and search engine optimisation.

The company also designs logos and emails and offers IT support and consultancy services.

After secondary school, the two young men proceeded to Kenyatta University where Mbiyu pursued Computer Science while Kariuki went for Economics and Statistics.

Their relationship did not stop at being just friends; they became business partners when they registered Mbitrix Technologies in 2015.  

Eventful journey

Since, it has been an eventful journey, the young entrepreneurs say, with the country opening up to technology by the day.

“As Kenya transitions from the margins to the mainstream of the global economy, technology is playing an increasingly significant role. This has seen our business grow gradually partly inspired by our vision of identifying challenges and striving to provide practical solutions,” says Mbiyu.

They have been keen to hire experts who have helped them remain competitive and able to offer solutions.

“Our company has worked on building a team of experts that are extremely passionate about what they do. We have hired on the talent needed to produce amazing work for our clients.”

The company’s flagship products include a fully-fledged Hospital Information Management System (HIMS) branded Afya Dynamics (afyadynamics.co.ke) which is currently running in several facilities, and a fully integrated accounting Enterprise resource planning software called Inhouse Accounting Systems (inhouse.co.ke) with a subscription base of over 100 SMEs.

“We also have the Kenya Website Designers (kenyawebsitedesigners.co.ke), our domain name registration, hosting and website design arm,” says Mbiyu.

In January this year, the company (Mbitrix Technologies) launched a Full Stack Developer Academy in Juja called Code Nation. Code Nation trains developers both online and physically and links them up with lucrative opportunities in the tech industry. 15 have graduated already.

“We offer courses such as web design, web systems development, mobile app development and graphics design,” Mbiyu says.

Mbiyu says one of the biggest problems that Africa encounters, and one Mbitrix through Code Nation is here to battle, is a sustained belief that Africans cannot be as good software developers as people from other developed regions of the world.

“The biggest misconception we find is that Africans cannot make high quality softwares as their counterparts in the US, India and Europe. That is simply not true as we make softwares at par with the rest of the world,” he says.

At a time when artificial intelligence is taking the world by storm, and with Covid-19 pandemic only speeding up the uptake of technology, Mbiyu says they intend to train a significant number of developers in the next few years.

“In the next five years, we aim to have trained at least 1,000 qualified software engineers for the African tech market. We are extremely committed to this goal as the industry needs qualified professionals in order to grow,” he says.

“We are also aiming at growing our core business, software development, to become the premier software development for the African continent. We are planning to expand to the East African region, Uganda, Tanzania, and Rwanda in the next five years and expand to the rest of the continent, starting with Nigeria and South Africa.

Most of all we aim to impact our African communities with innovative products that will make their lives easier.”

Impact of pandemic on business

It has not been, and will still not be, an easy ride for Mbiyu and Kariuki, with the former saying that the business environment has been extremely restrictive.

“The licences required and tax obligations are a hindrance. Finding qualified staff has also been an uphill battle. The Kenyan curriculum is way behind the rest of the world in terms of software development. This has led to a growth of self-taught developers which is not good for the development of quality products,” he says.

The pandemic helped boost business as technology became more accepted by people who had run out of options and excuses.

“Before the pandemic, not many of our clients had embraced technology and how it can be used to grow their businesses. But since the pandemic and the new realisation that work can be done remotely, we are seeing an uptake in our offerings,” says Mbiyu.

People who acquire a website benefit from a wider reach, possibly getting more business.

“A website will help you target and reach more clients effectively. On www.kenyawebsitedesigners.co.ke, or www.mbitrix.com, from Sh20,000 to Sh50,000, anyone can get a website.”

One can also enroll in Code Nation by visiting their website, codenation.co.ke.

“We help companies cut costs, improve communication, build recognition and release more innovative and attractive products. At Mbitrix Technologies, we believe technology holds immense potential to change our lives in ways we cannot imagine. We want to be a part of this change by providing amazing technological products and services,” says Mbiyu.

These are the solutions that a country that wants to reach the lofty heights of technological advancement that some of the most developed countries in the world have needs, and these two friends might make this possible sooner than we all imagined.

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