It is another Wednesday and time to meet one of the men who works and plays in Nairobi. Today’s Man Around Nairobi is Martin Gicheru. Martin Gicheru is the Managing Editor at Techweez, one of the biggest tech media establishments in East Africa. Martin has an IT background but in his early days wasn’t sure if he wanted to be in IT or Media, thus tech blogging to him is the perfect fit where he can interact with tech daily and also tell stories. He says he has a great team over at Techweez that makes the blog the great thing it is. He loves great food and music.
1. Did you grow up in Nairobi?
No, I grew up mostly in Nyahururu. In his line of work, my father got a house as part of the package, so if he was transferred to Nyeri we’d go stay there for the holidays. We’ve lived in that setting in Nyahururu, Nyeri, Ngong and Laikipia. Growing up in Nyahururu in a village setting was great, although it was cold. So you know the things that come with that, taking care of livestock, swimming in the river among other things.
I came to Nairobi as a young adult, right after high school to join college. I had a sample of Eastlands life at my uncle’s while I attended evening classes at Kenya Polytechnic. Around that time I was also a shopkeeper, distributing doughnuts to shops at 6 am as my hustle to get some pocket money. I then got a job as a Systems Admin when I completed college. It wasn’t exciting and I exited for blogging which made me meet more people, interact with “humans”, attend social events and learn more about Nairobi more than I ever would dealing with hardware.
I wouldn’t call myself outgoing but I’d loved the product launch cocktails and breakfast events as they have filled my socializing void for the larger part. Ever since I started blogging, my life has been mostly been about that. For a long time I have worked for long hours, sometimes 16 hours a day. To write a lot you have to read even more which is good nourishment for the brain. I have gone from a one man team at Techweez to an 8 person team. Much of the growth has been realized in the last one year after I got an investor, after which we got an office and expanded the team.
2. What you love about Nairobi?
Nairobi is at the centre of most of things. As someone in the media industry, being in the capital city of the biggest economy in East Africa is quite something. So you’d expect that if a multinational sets base in Kenya it would be in Nairobi. Nairobi also plays host to many regional companies for East Africa and Eastern Africa. It means a lot for me especially since with business comes news and news is our fodder at the plantation.
Another thing I love about Nairobi is that it’s a lovely city with great weather, people, food and a relatively good business environment. Plus we have WiFi, and a good name in the innovation scene.
3. What would you change about Nairobi?
Well, first and foremost I’d overhaul the transport system so that the middle class would not feel the need to own cars for their daily commute. Public transport efficiency would be priority. I envy cities where you can be sure your commute is 20 minutes by either train or rapid bus. That means you avoid wasting precious time in traffic. I hate wasting time in traffic.
4. As a professional how is it working in the Nairobi? Is Nairobi open to what you do or what could be better?
Nairobi is great, you are able to hit the road running. Start a business, get a co-working space and you will look professional enough to trade with a multinational without much initial capital. You just need to prepare yourself as a person to look and act the part of dealing with corporates. If I was to change something it would be the way finance institutions look down on non-commodity start-ups. It feels bad that a salon with a quarter value of your business is able to access financing only because they have some salon equipment and bankers barely understand online businesses.
5. If you had a tourist friend coming in from outside the country what three things would you say to sell them the idea that Nairobi is worth visiting.
First and foremost I’d ask them to make a trip to places they can interact with the history, culture and heritage of Nairobi. These are the Nairobi National Museum, the National archives, Nairobi National Park, Bomas of Kenya and Giraffe Center.
Then they’d need to sample various local cuisines at Amaica, get fed nice cuts of meat at Carnivore and spend a great night at numerous great restaurants in Nairobi.