5 Questions with Jesse Muraya, Community Leader

Jan 26, 2022

Jesse Muraya is an entrepreneur and technology enthusiast with interests in varied sectors such as enterprise ICT, construction, health tech, and e-commerce. He is one of four founders of Startinev, a vibrant community for startups in Africa through the creation of a nurturing environment where they can learn, interact, and grow. He is also a facilitator and community builder for Techstars Startup Weekend in Kenya. Jesse sits on the board for the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry-Nairobi, which is working toward enabling a better business environment for local businesses and startups. He has hands-on experience in entrepreneurship training, business development, digital transformation, operations, and finance. He holds a Masters in International Financial Services from the University of Buckingham (UK) and is an alumnus of the Strathmore Business School (Kenya). Jesse is a firm believer in how technology can be used to positively impact lives and businesses around us with a special focus on Africa.

01. How did you get involved in Techstars Startup Programs?

My first interaction with a Techstars startup program was through Techstars Startup Weekend. I was invited by a friend to support and help them run a Startup Weekend in Nairobi in February 2021. I went on to organise a second event together with a team of three dedicated community leaders in Nairobi in July of the same year and also sought to train and become a facilitator. Later on in the year, I also volunteered as a facilitator for the Startup Weekend Global held in November 2021. This enabled me to interact with the global Techstars fraternity as well as contribute to the global startup community in the best way I knew.

02. How have Techstars Startup Programs impacted your life?

The concept from the very beginning was very intriguing to me. I did not believe you could hack the startup journey till I participated in the program. Because I believed in the impact and value of Techstars Startup Weekend, I wholeheartedly decided this would be something I would love to give my time and energy toward, with the aim of impacting that one entrepreneur who would go on to build a business that would employ several Africans while positively impacting the community they serve. Organizing and facilitating Startup Weekends has also renewed my passion for innovation and entrepreneurship in Africa, giving me hope that we can solve our own challenges by coming together to provide solutions. I have also opened up my mind to other community engagements within the Techstars fraternity.

03. Why are you passionate about entrepreneurship?

My love and passion for entrepreneurship is closely related to my enthusiasm for technology and its impact on our society. I have always believed that technology can be used for good, to ensure that people and organisations are able to communicate and connect effectively in ways that wouldn't be possible without it. I, therefore, have aligned my personal and career goals toward developing solutions using technology to help solve today's challenges.

To move it closer to home, Africa, there are several structural challenges facing the continent. Entrepreneurs have a way of identifying these challenges and turning them into opportunities through innovation. I am keen to use every opportunity I get to advocate for the private sector and prove that it is possible for entrepreneurs to support economic growth in spite of the challenges. The economic benefits accrued henceforth are huge.

04. How else are you involved in your community's startup ecosystem?

In Kenya, we pride ourselves on having one of the more advanced startup ecosystems in Africa. This however does not mean we are perfect and we do not have a lot of room for growth. Within the Kenyan startup ecosystem, there is a gap when it comes to supporting ideas and very early-stage founders/startups. In order to help solve this, I have been involved in running a community of startups called Startinev (dubbed StartNerds) with the aim of nurturing young and very early-stage entrepreneurs in order to get their ideas off the ground and match them with opportunities. Together with the StartNerds, I have supported various activities like hackathons, meetups, and online conversations (Twitter Spaces).

I have also been involved in various activities within the local Chamber of Commerce around supporting and advocating for startups in Nairobi. Within the Nairobi Chamber of Commerce, I sit on various committees supporting several sectors such as manufacturing, e-commerce, youth-owned businesses, etc.

05. What's next for your community's entrepreneurship ecosystem?

This question may not be answered in a few words on a blog, but I will try my best. I am keen to play my part in solving the various challenges facing the startup ecosystem in Kenya and Africa in general.

As a community leader, I believe there is still insufficient support for idea-stage entrepreneurs in the region. They are considered high risk and not 'bankable'. However, I do believe that the best ideas come from this side of the world, and by virtue of these being young markets, there are huge opportunities for growth and return on investment for those who take a risk on this segment. Through harnessing capital (financial and human), we can create an impact on these early-stage founders and enable them to reach stages where they are able to scale and attract greater support.

There are also various policy changes that have taken place both in Kenya and Africa that will see startups growing to greater heights, such as the recently ratified African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) seeking to improve integration of trade amongst African countries. We have also seen Kenya and other countries legislate startups through various bills to ensure they are recognized and supported by governments. I believe these initiatives will seek to open up markets and attract larger chunks of global capital toward supporting growth in Africa.