Ken Njoroge, the co-founder of cellulant will not be the firm’s Chief Executive Officer by the end of this year
In a statement, Njoroge said 2021 will be his last year as the captain after 18 years of running Cellulant.
He will transition from the role of a CEO by the end of June, and spend the rest of the year supporting all the teams and the new leader in the transition. Njoroge will remain a shareholder and director on the board.
The year 2020 which turned out to be challenging to many businesses across the world due to the Covid-19 outbreak offered him a window to reflect on the next step.
“Such transitions are not easy in any way and require a great deal of growth, thought, and patience. I remember my team and I started 2020 with a clear mission to recover from the past three difficult years. We set out with an airtight vision, an incredibly talented team, the right resources on board, and that hunger for excellence that has now become our corporate identity. 2020 turned out very differently for many people and businesses worldwide, of which we were no exception. However, apart from being a challenging year, it was a season of deep reflection. It gave me a chance to pause, reflect, question, examine, and double down on why I do what I do,” said Njoroge.
Cellulant – co-founded by Njoroge and Bolaji Akinboro of Nigeria – became locally known for selling ringtones to users of basic mobile phones but this proved unsustainable as advanced phones came to market, enabling users to store music and other sounds that they could use as ringtones. It would transit to content provision and later to mobile banking. Through the years, the firm has innovated and is today one of the largest payments and funds transfer fin-tech in Africa. The firm says its digital payments ecosystem connects about 100 banks that have operations in 13 countries servicing 34 countries.
In 2018, the firm was able to raise $47.5 Million (Sh5.23 billion) from TPG Growth’s The Rise Fund, which it said would be used to scale digital payments across Africa.
In an interview he disclosed that the process of financing which saw Private investment firm TPG pays (Sh5.23 billion) started from the foundation but the final leg was a 24-months journey where he went to 60 investors across the world and did 400 presentations and a lot of travels from South Africa, London to US.
“Why we connected with the final investor is that they have experience in technology investment with very good track record globally,” he says adding that the team was interested in Cellulant because the company is in payment business and the firm has connections in different parts of Africa.
“Negations were tough because the investors wanted to get a good value so was our company but in the end we have got a good partnership on the table,” he adds.
He says the company intends to use part of the financing in consolidating its activities and expand into new territories.
“What we intend to do is to invest in people to get much out of our existing customers that we have; we have realized that they have a lot of potential for our business and by investing in the right people we are going to unlock the potential,” he said.
Njoroge likened the 18-year journey of starting and growing Cellulant to that of nurturing a cub to being a lion and riding it, a dangerous affair itself but even more so when dismounting when the rider eventually outgrows the lion and can present all sorts of challenges.
“The journey of being an entrepreneur is often compared to a man riding a lion. People look at you in awe of your bravery and laud your accomplishments yet while atop the Lion, you're constantly thinking of how to keep riding or jump off without the Lion devouring you whole,” he said in the statement where he also refers to himself as a ‘rider of lions’.
“The opportunity to jump off the Lion at the right time and in the right way is one of the most crucial tasks of a founder and it is the test of a journey that ran well. Such a time has come for me.”
Njoroge added that in the coming years, he will be working with innovative entrepreneurs, handholding them in the process of setting up businesses that are geared at solving challenges that African economies face but rarely get local solutions.
“Africa needs Lion riders who can run faster, better, and build world-class businesses that solve fundamental problems in this continent. Most of them will be technology-driven. The next part of my journey is to nurture, build and grow a thousand more lion riders who can run faster, better, and with fewer mistakes than I did,” he said.
Cellulant has operations in Kenya, Nigeria, Zambia, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Uganda, Botswana, Mozambique, Malawi, and Rwanda.