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HomebusinessMutethia 'Tesh' Mbaabu: Kenyan Entrepreneur who Made His First Million At 19

Mutethia ‘Tesh’ Mbaabu: Kenyan Entrepreneur who Made His First Million At 19

Tesh Mbaabu is the Chief Executive Officer of a B2B ecommerce and Fintech marketplace called MarketForce. The entrepreneur made his first million at the age of 19.

Through his hard work and an intrinsically flair for entrepreneurship, he has been able to build a company and was the only Kenyan listed in this year’s Forbes Africa Top 30 under 30. 

Here is his story as told by WoK.

Background and Education 

Born to a middle class family, he was an average student. He grew up in Ngong with his father and mother working in the CBD. He would then join Mitungoni Academy in Athi River for high school.

Initially, he wanted to study architecture but at the time he found out about Facebook. It was a new concept and while people exclaimed and rushed to use it, he asked himself questions. He wanted to know the ingenuity behind the application.

This made him switch careers and he pursued Computer Science at the University of Nairobi. 

Businesses 

Since he knew about programing and coding, he looked for gigs while in university. Companies started paying him and he wound net between Sh8,000 to Sh30,000. With time, his income grew that he nearly dropped out of school.

He was making money and another company even paid him Sh200,000. He felt school was not as important since he was already earning but his father tactfully convinced him to complete school. He graduated in 2015.

The techpreneur joined forces with his university friend Mesonga Sibuti to establish a company. The two built a consulting business graduating from developing websites to building software applications. They began getting deals worth millions of shillings.

An NGO paid them Sh2 million, then a parastatal paid them Sh6 million and a micro finance gave them a deal worth Sh10 million. All these were gotten at a time when they were fresh out of university.

The deals were gotten through tender applications and networking. The friends also established a travel technology company, called Cloud9xp that they later sold. They then founded MarketForce. 

MarketForce 

MarketForce has grown into a platform that services more than 200,000 merchants across five countries. It helps them order, source, pay for inventory, access financing and resell financial services in their communities.

Started in 2018 in partnership with Mesonga Sibuti, the company whose headquarter is in the US operates in Kenya, Uganda,Tanzania, Nigeria and Rwanda. 

Detailing what the company does, Mbaabu said in a past interview that they focus on dukas, who use their rejareja to source, order and pay for inventory at any time through interactive mobile channels.

It then gets delivered to the store by the nearest distributor within hours saving them time and money they would have lost if they closed the shop.

They also give FMCG companies access to thousands of informal merchants to advertise to. 

To date, the company has raised $42 million in both equity and debt funding. 

Challenge 

Their major challenge is balancing growth with profitability. 

“As a business, the core challenge we face is balancing growth with profitability. Over the past two years, we have blitz-scaled, growing from 300 merchants in July 2020 to 100k by November 2021 and, notably, from there to 200k merchants in the following 6 months, by May 2022. We’ve had a focus on customer acquisition. Now, we are transitioning to an emphasis on a path to profitability which requires a different set of business operations,” Tesh told Africa Business Communities in a September 2022 interview.

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