If you are ever lucky or unlucky enough (depending on how you look at it) to work at a Kenyan startup, there are a couple of experiences that you will go through as an employee.
The first paying job I had was at a startup when I was still in my second year of university. Ever since then, I have worked in small teams at different Kenyan startups around Nairobi, except for my short stint in government. I have seen and experienced the lows and ups of working at a startup.
Here are the top 5 lessons that have stuck with me to date:
1. You’ll be exceptional at multitasking
The human resources in your company will be limited. Hence you will have to take on as many roles and responsibilities as possible. I have taken various roles under a company including market research, operations, partnerships, digital marketing, and sales. Though you might not be an expert in some of these fields, you’ll learn fast and execute to help your team get more customers.
2. You’ll become very disciplined and selfish with your time
Since your workload is heavy, you’ll learn how to prioritize your tasks and maximize your time. You’ll learn how to squeeze your meetings into two or three days and then, free up the rest of your time to actually work. You’ll be using productivity tools such as Trello and Slack to track your projects and email less. Your time will become precious. You’ll learn what to focus on and what to schedule for later.
3. You’ll read a lot of books
Books like the Lean Startup and How Google Works will come in handy when you are stuck and are trying to look for solutions. They offer great insights on how to optimize your business processes and the importance of failure in your startup journey. Here, you’ll understand a lot of the tech jargon used at work. You might be also interested in reading these: Dead Aid, Nudge,Startup Nation, and Freakonomics. They’ve been useful for my work life.
4. Your parents won’t understand what your startup does
Companies in the tech world especially software development are fairly a new concept in Kenya. So if I would try to explain it to my parents, it’ll be an uphill task. Most of our parents are used to brick and mortar businesses, not software companies. They will also not understand what your role at the company is.
They will also keep on asking when it is that you will get a proper job. By that, they mean one that pays actual money and not equity. They don’t know how equity works.
5. You’ll become an expert at living cheap
I was working at a tech startup when I gave birth to my daughter. We were experiencing cash flow problems at that time, we had just ran out of seed round money (story for another day). We weren’t making enough sales to break even. The new investor we’d gotten ended up cutting us off along the way.
Thus, I had to learn to budget more efficient with the little money left. I had to learn to be frugal. As a company, we focused on the building the product so that it would bring money faster.
Working at a Kenyan startup is fulfilling yet stressful at the same time. You create the business processes as you go along. You’re creating a company that is bound to survive even after you leave. Your ideas are what form the foundation of the company.
This article was originally posted on Startup Grind. A few edits have been made to reflect the current situation.