Hiruy Amanuel is an innovative investor who strives to bring both economic and technological greatness to Ethiopia and Africa as a whole. He has spent the better part of his life in pursuit of enabling those in Africa with development progress in the IT world. Mr. Amanuel has gone on to co-found Gebeya Inc—an online marketplace that trains and subsequently matches Africa’s IT professionals with the global business market.
Tell us about yourself?
I love empowering entrepreneurs and investing where I can see the impact. I’m very excited to continue to explore other countries on the African continent to see what other countries have to offer as far as technology services in the respective sectors. I’ve been investing in startups for the last seven years, and I’ve been investing in African startups for the last three.
What makes you different than other professionals in your field?
A lot of investors and VCs in Africa are foreigners, so there is a big gap and a lack of understanding of the landscape with respect to the traditional model of VC or investing. That’s something that I’m trying to bridge; it’s a lot easier for me to integrate and understand these cultures, and also help these companies because I have a better understanding of how things work, being an African Diaspora. What makes me different from other professionals on the landscape is that I’m actually an African angel investor.
How much potential market share can you achieve in the next 3 years?
With respect to Ed-tech in Africa, the market share is huge because outside of Gebeya, there are only a few other Edtech companies that are Pan-African, and are actually located in Africa. When you think about the continent as a whole, you can look at the population of Africa, and how many developers have been trained – the market is pretty much untapped compared to other continents. Although there may be other Ed-tech companies and other capacity building and training companies that continue to build and have a presence on the continent, we have a first timers’ advantage as we’re the most visible, we’ve been here the longest and we’re still making an impact.
I would welcome all potential investors and anyone who wants to build technology companies in Africa to come and do that, especially concerning training because it just brings more foreign capital and more investment toward our continental sectoral growth. It’s good for all of the collective parties involved when new companies start up because it just adds more visibility to a place in the world where there hasn’t been any before.
What was the most important part of your professional journey?
The most important part of my professional journey was people not believing in me. The hardest times are the most important parts of your journey because that’s what really tests you. Either you will rise to the occasion, or you will just fold your cards and go home.
think the failures I’ve endured over the years and the challenges that we’ve had in building our entrepreneurial ventures have definitely made me even more steadfast in the idea that I had in my head about where we could go. Deep down you want someone to validate it, and when you don’t get that validation early on, it becomes time to make a decision. Whether you push forward or stop to re-assess things, and you change your model, you can change your mind, and change things around you, it’s all part of that personal growth in building something great.
To see things and build things that no one has ever seen or built before, you have to go to places and do things that no one has ever done before. That’s exactly what we’re doing here. No one can tell me what to do because no one has ever been on this path. No one has ever been on this road before.
What takes up too much of your time?
Traffic. Traffic in Addis Ababa and Nairobi is horrible. Currently, traffic is taking a lot of my time, unproductively at least.
What advice would you give to college students/new startup business owners who want to become entrepreneurs?
The first thing is to try and get as much work experience as you can in the field that you want to pursue before graduating and jumping into that field. Another thing I recommend is to travel as much as possible so that you can gain experience with other cultures and people, which is what most people lack when they graduate. It allows you to get to know yourself a bit better too. How can you choose what you’re going to do as an entrepreneur or decide whom you want to work for without knowing yourself and what you truly like? And without traveling and without working in different fields, you’re not going to have the proper exposure to succeed. That’s a part of how to develop your personal growth much more quickly and definitely translates in business.
Who has impressed you most with what they’ve accomplished?
I admire Ma Huateng for the way that Tencent was able to shift its focus and capture the market through mobile gaming and messaging. To turn themselves into a full-scale Internet company in such a short period of time, is very impressive. I also respect Pony Ma as a businessman and as a CEO, and for his strategy development and how he’s been able to navigate Tencent and turn that company into a billion-dollar brand. I like the way he’s been able to maneuver through some of the regulatory hurdles that they had to jump over with Tencent.
What drives you to keep going when it’s really tough?
What motivates me is the people around me; the other entrepreneurs, the other African software developers, and the people on this continent that wake up every day with much less and they have to make something happen every day just to live; they still make time to come to Gebeya and take classes.
What motivates me is the raw talent and the raw passion and the spirit of my fellow African entrepreneurs. That’s what keeps me doing what I do and giving my time.
How should people connect with you?
This Interview is exclusively conducted by “Haris Siddique”
Haris Siddique is an entrepreneur and investor based in Pakistan. He is a co-founder of Artimization (A global branding and marketing company) which already served more than 500 businesses around the world. Haris is one of a board member of Vizaca Media Company and currently serving as a Head of Global Marketing.
You can connect with Haris on the following mediums: