From their days in Angani and their present venture called Node Africa, these two folks had their vision well spelt out.
They want to be leaders in whatever they involve themselves in. The story of Kenya’s tech startup community will not be complete without referencing Phares Karuiki and Brian Muita.
With infrastructure hiccups, huge knowledge gap and a wide digital divide, the penetration and adoption of cloud computing in Africa still has a long way to go. However, Phares shared his perspective on the sector and how Node Africa will be changing the narrative.
How would you assess the adoption of cloud computing in Africa?
Adoption of cloud computing in Africa is quickly accelerating. There’s demand for the service but not enough folks are helping customers in the journey.
African companies especially bluechips are slow to adopt cloud services, what do you think is holding them back?
I wouldn’t say that they are slow – I’d just say that there’s a lot of legacy work that needs to be done to enable the companies to move to the cloud. For instance, many companies already have investments in data-centers and IT infrastructure, investments that cannot be thrown away. That’s one of the reasons why we have a hybrid strategy with many of the accounts we are dealing with.
You can’t expect people to get rid of the investments already made, you need to help them realise full value of those investments, while helping them become more agile. You also have many platforms especially with larger corporates that aren’t exactly easy to move to the cloud without rebuilding the applications especially those on RISC based platforms.
In terms of value of the cloud computing market in Africa, what is the worth?
There isn’t much data, but we can infer, on a continental basis it’s assumed to be at around $2-3B USD, though the exact figures are not clear given the disparate nature of consumption.
How has it been to start all over after you both left Angani to start Node Africa?
Well, it’s been interesting. I feel as though we were given a clean slate to work on. It’s difficult, running a business always is, but you make it work.
Raising funds for eCommerce and basic tech startups has been a challenge for founders, how were you able to convince investors to back a cloud startup?
I’m not swimming in capital, we have a few friends who gave us some little seed capital, but other than that, it’s regular debt we’ve been working with. We’ve had to focus on growing revenue from day one.
Are you looking at expanding into West and Southern Africa and how soon will that be?
Next 24 months. I can’t give an exact timeline, several dependencies.
How diverse is your team? Are you attracting foreign talent?
From a Kenyan perspective – we have a diverse team, all Kenyan, though. We don’t really need foreign talent as we have some of the best qualified engineers on the continent. There is adequate local talent to build world class solutions. Charity begins at home.
What is the biggest risk n this business and how have you been able to manage them?
There are several, honestly, but it’s the fact that we have several dependencies.
How many clients have you gained and how are you marketing as a B2B tech company?
We have around 53 customers right now. Cold calling, events etc.
How competitive is the managed cloud market and what do you see as your edge?
We are in the early days of the cloud computing space as a whole, so there’s not too much competition for now, but obviously over time there will be downward margin pressure
Will you be considering selling equity investors approach you for stake?
Depends on the quality of investor. We will work with experienced investors who understand Kenya/Africa well.
Tell us a little about your investors?
Friends & Family 🙂 I can’t really comment. Customer revenue is the best source of capital you can get.
What are you medium and long term plans?
We’ve got certain verticals we are targeting in Kenya, including providing services to banks/insurance companies etc. We want to get other availability zones going in Kenya before dropping a couple in East Africa. Just keep growing and keep our customers happy really, at the end of the day.