Geoffrey Mulei is the Founder & CEO of Tanda, a FinTech startup working to bring essential digital financial services such as utility payments, banking and insurance closer to the unreached through micro-retailers
Company Name: Tanda
Year Founded: 2017
Geoffrey Mulei is the Founder & CEO of Tanda, a FinTech startup working to bring essential digital financial services such as utility payments, banking and insurance closer to the unreached through micro-retailers.
Geoff leads Tanda’s product development and strategy. He is responsible for creating and expanding strategic partnerships with service providers and aggregators as well as developing new markets in line with Tanda’s Pan-African vision.
Prior to Tanda, Geoffrey started his first business, INKISHA, a leading supplier of low-cost eco-friendly packaging. Before getting into business, Geoffrey was at HELP University pursuing a bachelors degree in International Business, where he eventually dropped out in his first year to start INKISHA.
What in particular drove you to venture into entrepreneurship / starting your own business/company?
After joining university back in 2014, I came across an article talking about the massive unemployment problem among educated youth in Kenya. This put me in a dilemma, whether to take a chance on the traditional ‘Get a degree, then find a job’ path and hope I don’t end up unemployed or try out something new, create my own path.
I eventually dropped out and started my first business dubbed INKISHA, a supplier of low-cost eco-friendly packaging. I knew it had a less than 5% chance of succeeding but it’s that slim chance that kept me going.
Current impact/milestones reached for the company.
Since we launched in July 2018, Tanda has achieved excellent customer validation through sales in Airtime & utility payments for amounts over US$350,000, and recently secured a partnership with Interswitch to become the first 3rd party agent network for 22 Banks (Eg KCB,NIC & Equity) and 2 MMO’s (T-Kash and M-Pesa).
The company has won substantial customer validation with an impressive 7,000 agents in 12 major towns and strong agent pipeline amounts to 78,000 in qualified prospects within the next 18 months.
How do you know if your tech startup idea is good or not?
These question hit particularly close to home at Tanda, because the value proposition has evolved over time. We started out as an inventory management platform for merchants and eventually pivoted to financial services vending through the same merchants.
Most startups fail because their ideas haven’t met a real market need. Even the most valuable companies in the world like Google and Amazon have graveyards littered with failed ideas.
In short, there’s no crystal ball. So, after you stumble onto the big idea, my thought is you won’t know it unless you get market validation. To get market validation, I have learnt to do a lot of research using surveys & publicly available data.
I wouldn’t even build the product until the data I collect points to a market gap. Then once market research validates your product, build it and test it across various customer segments until you find a good fit.
What kind of a mindset should a first-time entrepreneur have?
A mindset that I’ve seen works for people is putting oneself in a sink or swim situation with no plan B. Since there’s a very high chance your first attempts are going to fail, with this mindset you’re going to keep going because there’s nothing to fall back on. Its that level of desperation that I’ve seen gets people through the failures.
Most startups fail because their ideas haven’t met a real market need. Even the most valuable companies in the world like Google and Amazon have graveyards littered with failed ideas. – @GeoffMulei
What sort of general advice would you give to an aspiring entrepreneur in Africa?
I’m not sure I am qualified to give advice to aspiring entrepreneurs yet, but something I’d tell my younger self is don’t be afraid to take that first step. Don’t wait until you have a perfect idea or plan, step out of your own head and start out.
Secondly, don’t be afraid to ask for help or feedback. Share your ideas, spread them like vermin, you’ll be surprised how many people are able and willing to help you succeed.