My Founding Story
Childhood and Dreaming On
My founding story has been spectacular. As many of you know already, Solutech was founded in September 2014, but this has not been a journey of 7 years. From a tender age, I was always fascinated by devices even though I grew up in the dusty outskirts of Makueni County, with limited technology. I loved my dad’s old analogue Canon camera which he would take snaps of my siblings and me occasionally. He would then travel 200 kilometres, to Nairobi to get the film printed. He would then store the print out pictures in a photo album. I was fascinated by his zeal for documenting our growth and keeping history. Looking back and reminiscing on these old golden times from over twenty-five years ago, you cannot but admire that this simple principle is what many tech companies, Solutech included, are bred from; collecting, storing and processing data.
It wasn’t until 2002 when I laid my hands on a mobile phone, a Sony Ericsson model, which my father had recently acquired. He would speak to distant relatives over the phone and every time I would sit calmly beside him amazed by the technology. Right from this time, I knew I wanted to be part of this evolution, but I was not sure how. This was my dream. When I completed my primary education in 2004, as fate would have it, I was very fortunate to have gained admission to a high school that had Computer Studies. This was the first time I used a desktop and even though we had shifts of using the computer lab due to limited desktops at that time, I enjoyed the subject fully. While this demotivated many students to drop the subject, I wanted to be part of it, by all means. In all four years, I scored straight A’s in the subject, which landed me in The University of Nairobi to study for a Bachelors degree in Computer Science.
During my campus years at Kenya Science and Chiromo, I became acquainted with Alexander and Rayyidh, with whom we were involved in numerous study groups. We held each other to the task and graduated successfully in 2013, ready to take the world by a storm, so we thought. We all went our ways to pursue different things in various organisations. Alex landed a role in a non-profit organisation as a Tech Lead. Rayyidh on the other hand joined a tech company as an Android Developer where he worked for four months, before joining Alex at Infonet Africa, to work as a Lead Mobile Applications Developer. Consequently, I had joined a start-up as a Junior Software Engineer, where I worked for 10 months until December 2013. In January 2014, when a tech role came up for a Software Engineer at their then-current employer, Alex and Rayyidh put me through the call and I joined them on the first week of that year, and we were reunited. Same old campus days. There was no greater joy than executing tasks with friends with whom we had spent four years together professionally. A few months down the line, the company started struggling financially but still, we continued to turn up and occasionally in the last few months. Looking back, we just loved what we did and we would not shy away from doing it even for free. This was the most difficult period in our short span in employment, and as Alex and Rayyidh will share during their #FounderMonday series, they spent a fair time of their lives sleeping on the floor, and at some point, had their bedsitters locked up by the landlord.
The Start of Solutech
By August of the same year, we had got so financially drained that we could not work an extra hour without pay. We started having numerous discussions on what steps to take next. Luckily, we had come to know Jinal Savla, an established entrepreneur, who owned a company next door, and shared our vision of starting a tech company. With his vast experience in business, spanning over twenty-five years, coupled with our wealth of experience in tech, we knew we had a solid base to start something formidable, and we did.
On 1st September 2014, we began operations at Solutech Limited.
Unlike many tech companies when they start, we knew we wanted to develop technological solutions to empower business and help them run better, but we were not sure which solutions to develop. We began looking for problems to solve and sales automation was the first. When you are fresh with zero clients, selling is hard, let alone being trusted by clients. Luckily, Kenafric Industries put their trust in us to deliver, and the four of us worked day and night not to let our first client down. We have massively transformed their sales ecosystem from 2014, for the last 6 years, with continuous research and development into the sales force automation tool. To date, Solutech is a trusted brand for field sales force automation for both modern and general trade and empowers 25 leading manufacturers and distributors in Kenya and Zambia.
This growth has necessitated human resource growth to take up the expansion. I have seen many founders fight over who should be the CEO or who should take up which role. Solutech is different. We let our strengths show up, and they did. Over time, we self-realised who was good with what. Rayyidh is good with finances, Jinal took up business development, I took up operations and human resource and Alex is the de facto CEO. We have allowed every co-founder do what they are most talented in, and coupled with the talented team that we have assembled, this has led to the growth of Solutech Limited, from 0 clients to 25 in a period of approximately 7 years.
Whilst I am not professionally trained in HR, I took it upon myself to get acquainted with the Employment Act of Kenya, and various HR practises. In as much as I am responsible for hiring and firing, I am yet to fire any team member, and rightly so. Even though it is inevitable, I hope it is not in the near soon for I would hate to discontinue any of our current team members. I take extra care in the hiring process to make sure we only get team members who share in Solutech’s vision and mission and do not want to join us just for the sake of it. Working at Solutech has to mean more than that.
For one, we do not hire for papers. Everyone has them. We hire for attitude, skills and experience. Everyone has to share the company’s values, in being accountable, responsible, having high moral standards and continuously innovating to provide more value to our clients.
In as much as our team comes first because we are a family, our clients do not come far behind. We care for one another and we strive to show the same care to our clients. We have a very fun working environment centred on making everyone express themselves fully and deliver on their tasks to ensure efficient service delivery to our clients. Our culture is so free such that you cannot distinguish who are the co-founders in the team, and we like it this way, for we are a team, tasked by our clients to provide services to them.
The last seven years have been the most fulfilling of my life, seeing fresh graduates join Solutech and seeing them grow so much career-wise to taking up project leaderships and handling clients on their own. Working with a young energetic workforce has been very breath-taking and the thrill of doing what we love is amazing. Our workforce has grown from the four of us to 20, and even though we would want to add extra team members, I do not measure growth in terms of the number of team members we have, but in revenue and number of clients, because I believe in being lean as much as possible with clearly defined roles to ensure everyone gives 101% to take Solutech to the next level.
With the great team we have, I can only look forward to the next years with a lot of eagerness and enthusiasm to overcoming bigger challenges and rising above them to truly make Solutech Africa’s number one trusted sales and distribution automation partner.
Mutie Mule, Co-Founder & COO Solutech Limited
Originally published on Linked In