Many times we vow that we will never do something only for life to prove us wrong. Take my case; if you had told me I would one day work in an edtech startup I would have laughed straight in your face. Fast forward to April 2017 and I now work for Eneza Education as the Head of Product. There is nothing more edtech than Eneza Education! How did I get here? That is the same question I have been asking myself over the last 3–4 weeks.
When I left the iHub at the end of 2016, I was determined to work either with a startup or a young company as that would allow me to leverage the most on what I had worked on at the iHub for the 4 years I was there. More precisely, I wanted to do more product design and product management: it is something I am particularly passionate about. With that in mind, the only job opportunities that I looked for were product related in startups or young companies based here in Nairobi. I was surprised at the demand that was there for this specific set of skills. This is a fair indicator of growth as product managers are hardly needed when startups are not mature. Typically, at a younger stage the CEO is the product manager. As the company or startup grows the CEO can’t do this and still discharges his/her other duties well. In such a scenario, the company has grown enough to require more specialized roles and a product manager is one of those roles.
In total, I talked to six companies who have products in growth-stage and are either based here in Nairobi or have a huge presence here. Each opportunity was exciting and challenging but ultimately I ended up joining Eneza.
Started in 2012 as Mprep by Kago Kagichiri (the techie) and Toni Maraviglia(the teacher), Eneza has moved from a scrappy startup to a young company operating in four African countries (Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana, and Zimbabwe) with about 1.91 million users. I first met Kago and Toni back in 2012 when they were under incubation at Mlab East Africa. Then, J2ME was still a thing and Kago wanted to contract me to build their J2ME app. We never got around to doing it and this was actually a great thing. Soon after Android quickly took over the market and so Mprep (now Eneza) saved some money. Our paths have crossed more than once since then as Kago is an active member of the tech community.
Eneza Education provides a modern virtual classroom to both primary (class 4–8) and secondary (Form 1–4) school students available on any type of a mobile phone. With Eneza, students can take topical quizzes, ask teachers questions, access Wikipedia and a dictionary offline all on mobile. Eneza aims to make 50 million students in Africa smarter. Eneza is available on SMS, USSD, mobile web, web, and on Android. In Kenya, you can access the SMS platform on Safaricom by dialing *291# and it will cost you only KES 10 a week.
Interestingly, Kago wasn’t among the first CEOs I talked to when I was looking for my next challenge. If you have met Kago you probably know how convincing he can be. Kago can sell you a vision. Luckily his vision is sound and he has a great plan to achieve it. With the Eneza team, they have proven that they have a solid product that can scale across Africa and positively impact many lives. By joining the team I would be key in helping Eneza reach the 50 million smart learners they are targeting. I found this particularly exciting. Eneza also has a great team and a good culture. Kago’s last words during our conversation still ring in my ears:
“Do it for the kids” — Kago Kagichiri
The swinging factor — my mom is a teacher — I working on what she cherishes makes her happy! Who doesn’t want to make their mom happy?
What will I be doing?
As Head of Product, I will be responsible for leading Eneza in research for new products, product enhancements, and product redesign. This will require me to delve deep into our usage data and use the insights to carry out product changes and develop new products. Additionally, I will spend a lot of time talking to our users and customers to understand how they use our product and how we can make it better. My role will require that I coordinate with different teams across the organization such as the Dev team, Business Development & Sales, Marketing, Strategy, and Customer Support to ensure that we have a shared vision and that we are executing to our best.
I am quite excited about this new chapter in my life and I will regularly share my learnings as I delve deeper into product management.