Weza Tele acquisition should only be a benchmark for future Kenyan successes

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The acquisition of Kenyan fintech startup by Weza Tele should be celebrated as a benchmark that can lead to future successes in the country’s tech startup ecosystem, according to co-founder and chief executive officer (CEO) Hilda Moraa.

Disrupt Africa reported in May Weza Tele, which provides a number of value added mobility solutions in commerce, supply chain, distribution and mobile payment integration, was acquired by financial services group AFB for US$1.7 million, the largest acquisition of a tech startup in the country thus far.

Stakeholders reacted with glee at the news, heralding it as a major moment in the development of Kenya’s tech startup ecosystem, but Moraa told the PIVOT East event yesterday, at which she was keynote speaker, the acquisition should be noted as providing a benchmark for even bigger successes by Kenyan companies in the future.

“These kind of successes are not just to remind us of history, but to remind us that we need to share lessons to to build better ecosystems in the years to come,” she said.

“Celebrations aren’t just fun, they are crucial to motivation. We need more startups getting acquired at a better price than we had. We need more startups having exit strategies better than we had.”

Moraa advised entrepreneurs to believe in themselves in order to get other people, especially investors, to believe in them.

“You have to stand here and say that you believe in your idea, even when you don’t,” she said.

“I was so sure that what we were going to do was right, even when I knew that at the moment we were not.”

She said empowering young people to solve the problems in Kenya and across Africa was crucial to developing successful startup ecosystems.

“We need to stop building “nice to have” projects, and build “must have” projects. We need to go out and understand the user’s needs, because that is where the battle is,” Moraa said.

“If you understand the user’s needs you are on the right track to building a great startup. Be flexible to your customer’s needs.”

Focusing on people is also important, with Moraa saying the best thing Weza Tele did was invest in talent.

“It is about the people, everything that happens right it is the people,” she said.

“I believe AFB invested in the people, not in the product that we had built over three years.”

Persistence is key, according to the Weza Tele CEO.

“I can’t tell you the number of times we wanted to give up. The growth stage was the toughest of them all. I sat down one day and told my co-founder we needed to close the business, but we did not,” she said.

“The harsh reality is that you will not get acquisition offers on your doorstep, you will not get customers on your doorstep, you will not get big mobile operators looking to partner with you, you have to go and look for them.”

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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