By Prudence Minayo
Martin Kiarie is the CEO and co-founder of Bean Interactive, a digital marketing company that offers various services to corporates. He got into the digital marketing space at a time when it was relatively new in Kenya. Today, the company makes millions of shillings in revenue and has an enviable client portfolio to its name.
Here is the story of Martin Kiarie as told by WoK.
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He attended Mang’u High School followed by St. Mary’s, Nairobi for an international Baccalaureate diploma. The entrepreneur joined the University of the West of England from where he graduated with first class honors in computing and information systems.
Career and getting into business
Before venturing into the unpredictable world of entrepreneurship, Mr Kiarie worked at Microsoft and the Royal bank of Scotland.
The businessman gave up the job to return to the country. He had seen how bluetooth functioned in the UK and wanted to replicate the idea in Kenya. He recalled how he once saw an advertisement prompting him to turn on his phone’s bluetooth so he could receive free potato chips.
This enabled him to see what technology, such as bluetooth, could achieve.
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When he came back to Kenya in 2009, he partnered with his friend Allen to found BEAN (Bluetooth Enabled Advertising Networks). Allen Allen Kambuni had graduated from USIU with a BSc. in Information Systems and Technology Networking. The two raised Sh600,000 capital and started operations.
“I don’t believe that you must have some money stashed somewhere to start a business. The biggest investment you need is an idea and a ruthless work ethic. Once you have these two, you can always look for someone to finance your ideas to fruition,” he shared with Business Daily.
A new Direction
Most people at the time, failed to understand their idea. The business was a flop despite the fact that they had enticed big clients, like, Access Kenya, Nokia, and Cadbury Kenya.
Rather than give up, they transitioned from bluetooth marketing to digital marketing. This was a relatively new concept in the country and at times people thought their work was solely based on Twitter and Facebook.
However, this was not the case. The entrepreneur believes that google and not social media is the first place people go to look for information about companies.
Hence, they began creating online advertisements and optimizing companies using frequently keyed in words. This ensures companies appear on the first page of a search. They also identify who a company’s customers are and how to have better access to them.
Growth and recognitions
During the 2017 AVA Digital Awards, Bean Interactive won a platinum award in the information experience category. This was due to the exemplary work they did on the Safaricom’s Blaze website.
Martin, who was once a nominee for the top 40 under 40 Business Daily awards, advised those venturing into the tech space to be ready for a long term commitment.
“To everyone who wants to venture into tech or into any other business, have staying power. Success is inevitable. If you do your work well, and you do it persistently, you will eventually find success,” he was quoted by Capital FM in a past interview.
Bean Interactive joined forces with Fieldstone Helms to form BFH. This was just after they had lost business with one of the telecommunications company. Through sharing resources, experience, and working space, they have cut costs and overcome difficulties together.
In 2022, they were ranked among top 100 fast-growing mid-sized companies by Business Daily and KPMG. These are companies that have an annual turnover of between Ksh50 million and Ksh1 billion.
“This has doubled our business because of the joint efforts from the two brands. Collaboration doesn’t just improve science but also culture because you borrow the culture from the other collaborative entity,” he told Business Daily in a recent interview.
A father of two, Martin is married to Kitt, a sleep training coach and content creator.
In a past interview with a local daily, he revealed that his parents separated when he was three and he lost his father at 20 through suicide. This motivated him to work hard and carve a different path for himself.
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