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Meet Kirimania Murithi of Nairobi Capital in Chelmsford

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kirimania Murithi.

Kirimania, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I co-founded Nairobi Capital 7 years ago, with 2 other founders, driven by the strong conviction that Africa is the new frontier for business investments, and the important role of entrepreneurship in transforming livelihoods there. We launched just when MassChallenge Business Competition was starting, and we signed up as one of the startups for the inaugural competition. We were one of the finalists for the 2010 competition. Initially, our focus was business finance for small businesses in Africa, starting with Kenya, by taking advantage of the revolutionary mobile money platform to marry finance and technology (fintech). By so doing, we would bypass the need for bricks and mortar, with agility, efficiency and speed, relative to traditional banking, in offering working capital solutions to small businesses. We raised our seed capital in the US, and started our operations in Kenya in 2010. With time, our business has evolved to focus more on affordable real estate offerings for the emerging middle class in Kenya. Particularly commercial real estate for the rapidly urbanizing Kenya.

The shift in business was informed by more opportunities for growth with higher returns. We have been growing steadily since our founding, and have been profitable every year. We identify prime locations and help our clients acquire plots/lots and/or construct affordable housing. We are also involved in hospitality business, starting with a 108-rooms hotel/guest-house in Nakuru, Kenya, that we hope to commission by the end of this year.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It is never smooth. Raising seed capital in the US was a challenge because of the preexisting concerns about perceived risks of investing in Africa. Then building the right team both here in the US and in Kenya took a couple of iterations to get it right. Since we are tech-heavy, getting the right technology and platforms working reliably and consistently especially in Kenya was a big challenge. And of course, learning the ropes and on-ground knowledge in Kenya from an operational point of view. It has also taken a long time, especially for the impatience in me, for capital and investment sources to take us seriously to fund our growth and scaling roll-out. But slowly but surely, we are getting there.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Nairobi Capital story. Tell us more about the business.
NC specializes in real estate development and management in Kenya, targeting the emerging middle class (the middle layer in the opportunity pyramid). We are also involved in real estate financing and investments with emphasis on land for commercial development. Our embrace of technology, including mobile money platforms, keeps our overhead expenses very low. We are also very efficient, nimble and fast in all our operations, and have a reach to Kenyans in the diaspora, especially in the US, by providing them with a conduit to invest in their homeland. I am proud of the fact that we have continued to grow year over year, with an exceptional team that taps into a wealth of experience and knowledge base to make the right calls and choices.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
Our shift into real estate from pure financial services to small business was occasioned by the realization that most of our customers were keen on getting working capital from us to fund their commercial real estate development needs. And we were just acting as a bridge between them and the traditional banks that took a long time to process their loan applications. So this was pure luck, whereby working on one thing leads to another, which has turned out to have more potential for profitability and growth moving forward.

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