Kennedy Nganga, the founder of Safi Analytics, a cloud-based platform that provides simple real-time energy data, alerts, and recommendations to dramatically increase businesses’ ability to diagnose and solve energy challenges has allegedly been ousted by his expatriates’ co-founders.
In a video shared online earlier today, the entrepreneur has narrated how his other two co-founders, i.e. Lauren Dunford and Weston McBride whom he met back in 2017 prearranged his ouster from the company they had founded.
Kennedy Nganga, a graduate of Geospatial Engineering who after working in several geospatial firms became a tech entrepreneur in 2017 when he started a company involved in smart metering of electricity. It was then that he met his first co-founder Lauren Dunford through a mutual friend in the same year.
“I was told that there were some people in town looking to partner up with a tech-preneur to work together.” narrated Kennedy Nganga.
Both Nganga and Dunford who was by then an MBA student had the same interest in working together and went on to found Safigen in August 2017. Safigen initial idea was to generate clean electricity. But it was later renamed to Safi Analytics, as they were now using data analytics to manage energy and monitor electricity consumption. Between August if 2017 to mid-2018, the two founders had entered into an agreement to have Kennedy Nganga run the company full-time (developing the technology and setting up pilots) in Kenya while she would finish her master studies at Stanford University.
“We were able to build a prototype and set up in factories, it was a success and all our clients were pleased.”
It was then that Lauren Dunford suggested that they bring in someone to help with raising venture capital – in this case, Weston McBride who now become the third co-founder. In 2018, they managed to successfully raise US$2 million in venture capital and this time with Lauren Dunford as the company’s CEO.
Then everything started going south. After the fundraising, the plan was for Lauren Dunford and Weston McBride to come back to Kenya and start building a team together with Nganga as they seek expansion.
But instead, they came up with a plan to eject Nganga from the company. According to Nganga, there was a lot of cajoling and pressure for him to resign from the company and give up his shares in exchange for a separation offer.
In an email copy dated 21st August 2018 shared in the same video, Nganga is being directed by Dunford to surrender all the company materials. The email also directs Nganga to either resign or be terminated and other information pertaining to the release directive.
While it’s not clear why Dunford did this, Ken alleges that Lauren Dunford trumped-up charges against him in a bid to dismiss him from his position.
“She had given me a separation offer, which I rejected because it was poor in relation to the worked I had done for the company.” And it was on that refusal, that Dunford decided that I will not receive any severance pay from the company.
Kennedy Nganga, was ultimately dismissed from his position without any due process being followed. While he has sought the court to intervene in his situation, he believes that he was unfairly treated despite the time and energy he gave in bringing the product into success. in 2019, Safi Analytics secured undisclosed funding from local investors Chandaria Capital.
The case of Kennedy Nganga is not an isolated case. In 2015, local founders behind Angani, a cloud infrastructure company were also ousted from their company by their board (investors) which was predominantly expatriate-led. Brian Muita and Phares Kariuki were accused of irresponsible management and bad governance when running the company.
The conversation and narrative of white investors/co-founders unfairly dominating the startup scene in Kenya has been active for the last 4 years. Several reports have highlighted how white-led startups in Africa tend to attract more capital than the ones led by black/Africans. This was further reiterated by the Village Capital which found that 90% of the capital invested in East Africa in 2015-2016 went to a very small group of expatriate-founded businesses. This has led to a growing backlash against impact investors among local entrepreneurs in Africa, who are becoming increasingly frustrated at the bias investors have shown in favour of expatriate-founded business.
Kennedy has also underlined how the narrative has been shifted to suggest that local founders are not innovative enough and tend to be pushed to scramble for lower cadre positions in startups.
This is a developing story…(Any further leads regarding this story can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org)
Cover Image: Sema Ukweli