The mobile phone is easily the most significant invention of our time. Small slabs of glass and plastic that magically connect you to anyone, anywhere in the world.
"For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return."
- Da Vinci
Software is eating the world. In the information age, programs play a more critical role in our daily lives than ever before throughout the history of civilisation.
Fresh out of high school, with no knowledge of how the real world works, I stepped into the light. I landed my first few jobs around this time, doing small websites and computer maintenance for close friends and family.
I started out on a journey that would change my life forever. When my friend and I developed MwTunes, it was the first website of its kind in Malawi, and the technology we were using was far ahead of what everyone else was using, so much that it took nearly three years for the rest of the industry to catch up. That's when I knew that I wanted to design and develop more things and become one of the best at it.
I got accepted into USIU Africa in Nairobi, Kenya. After I left my hometown in Malawi to pursue a BSc in Information Systems Technology, I soon discovered that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life: to use technology to solve problems and make better things. During this time, I gained a lot of graphic design experience, working on artwork for school events and other odd jobs.
Working with Computer Plus Peripherals Ltd, I got the very rare opportunity to lead the design of a website for a pretty big government entity: the Malawi Police Service. It was tough work but I gained a lot of experience designing systems in a multi-user environment and also discovered that I was good at training non-technical people on how to use technical systems.
Turning down a few lucrative internship opportunities, I took a risk and co-founded a technology startup. My co-founder Hungai had a genius idea and model for a solution to help solve a business problem that had plagued me many times. And so we created Djuaji Research.
I graduated Magna Cum Laude on a cool and windy day. It may not seem like such a big deal, but for me, it was validation that I was ready to tackle new challenges and put my 3+ years of serious learning to work.
Nothing can really prepare you for the reaction from a product launch. We took Djuaji live with a prototype survey application that I hacked together in PHP and HTML5. It wasn't perfect, but it worked!
I had learned my lesson. Speed is everything. A month into my new role, I had already gone back to Malawi to setup a local AT office and close deals with 3 telcos. A week later, I was at the GSMA 360 in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania pitching Africa's biggest telcos.
The Malawi office wasn't going to build itself, so I packed everything I owned into a few bags and boxes and moved to Lilongwe. It was showtime. But how were we going to build an API company in one of the poorest countries in the world?
I met Tim - he's one of the smartest people you'll ever meet. We decided to work together and it took six months of non-stop effort, but we finally started to see a lot of traction and demand for the services. We were still in the red but things were looking up.
A few months later, we were making national news. APIs were becoming hot and all the biggest technology players countrywide were getting interested. I gave the keynote presentation at the ICT Association of Malawi Innovation Forum in 2017 - pointing out how fundamentally broken Malawi's ecosystem was - and all the things we could do to fix it.
We suddenly had more customers than we could effectively serve - the structures we had built could not handle the volume of demand. Tim and I needed a team, so Wusigala and Abdul-Swamad came on board to turn the startup into a business.
The whole team, the rest of the team in Nairobi, Dar-es-Salaam, Lagos, Kigali and Kampala was working just as hard - we'd closed an $8.6m Series A round led by the World Bank's International Finance Corporation - yes, that World Bank. With an all-star team running the show in Malawi, it was time to pack my bags and move back to HQ in Nairobi.
Leading the International Expansion Team at Africa's Talking, we figure out how to grow the startup into all 54 African countries. Also learning French and Portuguese in my free time, and sharing from my experiences so that Africa can have more stories like mine.
\wē-zä • jä-läkä-sē\
I was born and raised in Blantyre, Malawi, but I live in Nairobi, Kenya. I'm always looking for challenges and adventure, and don't worry, I won't get upset if you mispronounce my name. I like people, technology, aviation, cooking, road bikes and well-written TV series. I was the Google Student Ambassador at USIU Africa where I studied Information Systems Technology (and nailed it! - 3.67 CGPA) and while I was there, I co-founded a market research startup called Djuaji Research, we raised some venture capital too but I had to resign (long story).
Now, I work with another startup called Africa's Talking, where I successfully setup the Malawi office and achieved product market fit in less than one year. Turns out we were on to something with this API business as Africa's Talking ended up raising $8.6m from the IFC, Orange Digital Ventures and other partners. Now I lead international expansion as we scale APIs for infrastructure (SMS, USSD, voice, airtime, banking and mobile money) across Africa. I write a bit on Medium and have been republished on Quartz Africa.