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.
\wē-zä • jä-läkä-sē\
I was born and raised in Blantyre, Malawi and I currently live in Nairobi, Kenya. I've been writing code since I was 11 and been starting companies since I was 16. I'm always looking for challenges and adventure. I studied Information Systems Technology at USIU Africa ('15), nailed it! - 3.67 CGPA and I was the Google Student Ambassador that year.
For several years, I was part of the team that built Africa's Talking, an international mobile platform API business that generated over US$ 10 million in annual revenue in 2018.
Right now, I am part of the team at Hover Developer Services, Inc, where I lead the global BD & strategy team, serving developers and enterprises all over the world. I am also a Google for Startups Accelerator Africa (Launchpad) mentor, as well as a venture scout for two early stage VC funds: Ventures Platform and Microtraction.
Need to tell me something important right now?
Send me a message on Telegram: @wizaj
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.
The 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 figured out how to scale into 15 African markets, including some interesting ones like South Africa, Zambia, Ethiopia and Côte d'Ivoire. With a headcount of close to 100 at AT, and over $10m in annual revenue, I figured things would be okay and it was time for me to find a new adventure.
Got a Twitter DM from one of the coolest CEOs ever, Ben Lyon and I joined the team at Hover, a startup building democratised infrastructure for developers and enterprises connecting to mobile financial services. By Q1 2020, we had thousands of users from over 80 countries using our software.
Oh, and we're only getting started.