Entrepreneur aims to boost online payments in East Africa

He adds that while Kenya currently receives about 2m tourists a year, there is potential for more than 10m annual visitors.

“Things are changing. We are now going to remove financial borders between the countries in East Africa. This is amazing. There will be more transactions between the countries. Bottom line, if ecommerce grows as I expect, the sky will be the limit.”

Feinstein believes “ecommerce will be one of the main engines that will boost” the region’s economy. He intends to grow his business in East Africa and expand across other regions in the continent.

Doing business in Kenya has not been a walk in the park. Coming from Israel where everything is fast paced, Feinstein says he it was “shocking” to discover that some government offices in Kenya operated in an “old-school” manner.

“It always gave me more energy. I can tell you bottom line, it is not more difficult that in any other place in the world. Yes, there are some things here that you will not see anywhere else. [Like] a month ago I came back from Europe and there was a problem with the power in the airport so they just stopped doing immigration and we stood there for three hours. But still there are things here which are easier than in Europe than the US. Yes, there are some unique challenges here, but running a business is always difficult.”

Feinstein says starting a business here was a different experience and each day presented new lessons.

“This is what made it so interesting. It was challenging, but I decided to be here,” he says. “[In Israel] everything moves very fast for the good and for the bad.”

He urges other business leaders to “respect the different rhythm and pace” in the various markets in which they operate.

“Sometimes the beauty here is the slow pace. I don’t mean that we should go to sleep but you need to adapt to the pace of the market. One day when this market will run, you will be ready. There is no way you can push the market to move too fast and it’s not easy especially for startups which want to see everything very fast.”

The only way to go is up

Staying focused, he adds, is critical to the success of a business.

“I don’t know why there is a trend, especially in East Africa, for a company with a good idea to try and do six, seven things at the same time. After eight years, I can tell you that the companies that remained focused and did one thing very well are the ones that succeeded.”

In difficult times, Feinstein draws motivation from the experiences and lessons he acquired as a helicopter pilot in the Israeli army, such as navigating risks and realising that when one is down, the only way to go is up.

“As a helicopter pilot in Israel I went to some difficult places and war zones. Even business is a risky environment sometimes but if you know how to mitigate the risks and build your shields you will survive. This is something the army gave me,” says Feinstein. “A pilot knows that if he goes down the only way to recover is to go up.”