By Prudence Minayo
Dennis Makori was brought up in a humble family but always had big dreams of being an entrepreneur. Founding his first company at his Moi University hostel, he went on to form a multi million VAS company in Kenya. Some of their top clients include: government agencies, commercial banks and media houses.
Here is his career journey from his humble Moi University hostel to becoming the owner of a multi-million company as told by WoK.
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Background and Education
Makori was born and raised in the Kisii region in a family that could barely make ends meet. His father worked as a matatu tout. For kindergarten, they studied under a tree since there was no classroom. He struggled through both primary and high school. After completing secondary education at Kisii High School, he joined Moi University for a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical and Communication Engineering.
Dennis is a self taught computer programmer. He saw a computer for the first time while undertaking a computer unit at Moi University. He developed great interest in the computer and immersed himself in knowing all he could about it. He studied programming late into the night and discovered he could come up with codes.
Together with his friend, Andrew Mbuya, he founded a software development company in his hostel.
After graduating from university in 2003, he earned a living through writing custom software applications for companies. At the beginning, his company was named Comb Soft Developers. At the time, he encountered a lot of problems including his lack of experience which prevented him from knowing what would work and what wouldn’t work. Makori also had a difficult time convincing clients to spend money on what at the time was just the concepts of a young man. He also struggled raising the capital that would catapult his business’ growth. From 2003 to 2005, the business was operated at his home and on a good month he would make about Sh9,000.
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His big break came when he got a contract with a logistics firm to come up with a fleet management software application. The company wanted a scheduling algorithm to assist them to correctly predict transit times for cargo. He got $120 from the deal but believed it was one of the most important jobs in his career. Not only did it give him confidence as an entrepreneur but it also showed him how the world of corporate operated.
In 2006, the idea to transform the company into Ofnon Media was born. This followed a discussion with his former college mate, Andrew Mbuya. Their goal was to develop an SMS advertising platform that connected companies to clients of their products and services. They were registered by the Communications Commission of Kenya a year later with Mbuya becoming his partner.
Dennis Makori told Business Daily that to form the company, they needed about Sh110,000, which they did not have at the time. It took them a while to raise the money and have the company registered. Since they lacked enough money, they did most of the work themselves and even came up with a DIY network server. In their initial stages, their download speeds of the WAP were very slow. Customers would spend a whole night downloading 5 megabytes MP3 files. This limited the sale of their content. However, as they grew, they were able to address this hiccup.
They partnered with Safaricom and developed a revenue sharing module. In a past interview with BD, he said their turnover rose from Sh1 million in 2007 to Sh30 million between 2008 and 2009. Between 2009 and 2010, the turnover rose to Sh86 million even as their products increased. After introducing banking solutions, they got deals with K-rep, National Social Security Fund, Africa Investment Bank, and Consolidated bank.
By 2015, they had about 10 million subscribers in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria. They were also able to increase their offered services from bulk SMS and short codes to caller ring-back tunes, digital signage, media production, banking solutions and ERP Systems. In a Forbes 2015 interview, Makori revealed that music content was their most successful service. The same article revealed that the company was making $5 million in annual revenues
With the success of his business, Dennis Makori has been able to give back to society. In a past interview, he revealed that he paid school fees for orphans in Kisii and worked with 5000 artistes in his home turf on a ring back tone project.