Five Kenyan IT millionaires to watch

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg rose from an ordinary student to a multi-billionaire. Kenya too is by the day producing tech tycoons.

Here are five Kenyan entrepreneurs who have built major technology companies and made some serious money while at it. These entrepreneurs are not only clinching awards but also making deals across the world and are highly respected at home.

Mike Macharia

Mike Macharia – Founder and Group CEO, Seven Seas Technologies (SST)

At the age of 25 Michael Macharia founded SST, a provider of integrated business and technology solutions across Africa in the financial, telecoms, real estate and service industries.

The firm, which started in 1999, today has operations in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. SST has landed several significant deals across the continent. These include last year’s US$700,000 contract to design, install and commission an ultra-modern data centre for Ethiopia’s Bank of Abyssinia and a recent $5.6 million contract to upgrade business information systems hardware for the Zambia Electricity Supply Corporation (ZESCO).

Kenya’s leading telecommunications company Safaricom has shown interest in acquiring a controlling stake in SST.

Ken Njoroge

Ken Njoroge – Co-founder and CEO, Cellulant

Ken Njoroge quit his studies in pharmacy opting for a degree in information systems management. At 23 he teamed up with two friends and started 3mice, a web development firm. Together with a Nigerian friend Bolaji Akinboro, Njoroge later co-founded Cellulant, a mobile commerce company that manages, delivers and bills for digital content and commerce services actualised over telecom networks.

“Founded in 2004 on about $3,000, and a credit card, the vision of Cellulant’s founders was to create a Fortune 500 company in Africa, out of Africa and by Africans,” reads a statement on the Cellulant’s website.

Nigeria’s federal government recently awarded Cellulant, which already has a presence in eight countries across the continent, a four-year $8.9 million contract to run an e-mobile registration and validation system for subsidised fertiliser.

Kamal Budhabhatti

Kamal Budhabhatti – Founder and CEO, Craft Silicon

Kamal Budhabhatti grew up in India. The science graduate later moved to Kenya and in 2000 started Craft Silicon Limited, a provider of software solutions to financial and insurance institutions in more than 40 countries.

Budhabhatti has previously told reporters that he would like to have Craft Silicon listed either on the London or New York stock exchanges. The BBC and Forbes have both compared the soft-spoken software guru with Microsoft’s billionaire founder Bill Gates.

Craft Silicon won the $100,000 grand prize at the 2010 Africa Awards for Entrepreneurship. The firm was feted for being both innovative and inspirational.

Anthony Wahome

Anthony Wahome – Founder and CEO, Linksoft Group of Companies

Anthony Wahome is the founder and chief executive of Linksoft Group. Wahome established Linksoft Communications Systems (LCS) in 1995 as a telecommunications company that offered products, services and network solutions.

The Linksoft Group today has a pan-African footprint with seven companies under its umbrella. It operates in telecommunications, construction, engineering and education. Last year Wahome, together with other investors, purchased Hillcrest International Schools, a leading British curriculum school with over 600 students.

John Waibochi

John Waibochi – Founder and CEO, Virtual City Group

John Waibochi is the founder of Virtual City Group. The firm has won numerous awards and millions in cash prizes, one of them being the 2010 Nokia Growth Economy Venture Challenge award, which came with a $1 million cash prize.

Waibochi’s first job was with a telecoms operator where he was involved in selling ‘walkie-talkies’. He founded Virtual City 12 years ago. Today, Virtual City is a mobility solutions company specialising in supply chain automation, knowledge management and interactive solutions. He also runs two sister companies: VirtualMobile, a distributor of mobile apps, and VirtualSat, which is concentrating on establishing and running contact centres. To take his company to the rest of Africa, Waibochi is currently seeking up to $5 million in investment.