I first met the founders of Amprest Technologies, Alvin Kaburu and Brian Kariuki back in 2016, when I needed a little bit of IT work done and it was almost ‘love at first sight’ as a client. Their charisma, charming nature and high level of professionalism had me drawn in, hook, line and sinker. That was two years back. I caught up with the dynamic duo recently and had a chance to pick their brains on their experience in business, the IT space and got them to shed a little bit of light on their company.
Here’s what they had to say.
So, tell me a little bit about yourself guys. Who are the people behind Amprest?
[Alvin] In a few words, I am a simple, slightly pensive young guy who loves life, and all it has to offer. I am a 4th-year student at the University of Nairobi, pursuing a degree in Computer Science. I love making friends, discovering new stuff, making money and being extra, and yes, this is actually a thing (laughs). I am head of operations at Amprest Technologies, meaning I mostly deal with the up and downs, lows and highs and ‘merries’ and mellows of trying to get our business to its feet.
[Brian] I’m an entrepreneur and co-founder of Amprest technologies. I enjoy seeing the world for what it can be and I work towards it. I have been developing for the last 4 years as well as pursuing Computer Science and my degree course. I like Jazz music and will always pick it in my free time (chuckles) and a positive mental attitude is my mantra.
How did you start your company? I’m sure there’s a pretty interesting backstory to this.
[Brian] Actually, in the beginning, we hadn’t planned on forming the company, at least not together. We both had set out to form our own software development companies. Alvin’s was called Amplified Technologies and mine was called StartUp Forest. This was around second year before we became great friends. So, at some point, we realized that we both share the same visions and ideas, and so we decided to merge our companies. That sounded really fancy at the time (smiles). But the problem was, we didn’t know what to call it. It needed to be new and not any of the old names. So, we decided to take the Amp from Amplified Technologies and Rest from StartUp Forest to make Amprest Technologies as a temporary name. Well…let’s just say we stuck to it.
What exactly does your company do and what makes it different from all others in your chosen field?
[Alvin] We are a software development company with growing interests in business and marketing tools, big data and the Internet of Things (IOT). As we were starting out all that we knew for sure is that we desperately needed to use technology to change the world – this has always been our goal. One thing that makes us different is our deep interest in problem-solving. Making money is important to us, however, solving business problems is of bigger importance! We believe that our clients are our friends. In addition to this, within the next one year, we shall have completely shifted our focus to the high potential, grey area that is IOT. This shall eventually be our primary and unique problem-solving technique that will completely separate us from all others in our field.
What are your opinions of the Kenyan IT Space? A popular notion is that it’s flooded. True? What are your opinions on the matter, especially with you guys being on the inside?
[Brian] Yes. It’s crowded with a lot of freelancers and start-ups that offer the same services and products. This has its downfalls in that it makes certain areas of the field very difficult to compete in. However, some areas/domains are completely unexploited, and it’s these domains that are highly lucrative and it is where true development agencies flourish.
What are some of the highs and lows that you have experienced while being in business for as long as you have?
[Brian] In the past two years, we faced a lot of interesting challenges. One particular instance was when we did a job for a client who insisted on paying for their software after development only. So we built the system for a couple of months and as we got close to completing the project, the client just up and decided that they didn’t want their software anymore. So we went for a loss for the entire duration of the project. Despite that though, we’ve had our fair share of success. Some projects that went really well for us, and double up as some of our best work, are Ides of March, Cake Universe, Nice Digital City and many more projects that have been well received by our customer bases. We’ve been hitting the ball out of the park so far and we intend to continue doing so.
Do you currently have employees or is your company purely a two-man band?
[Alvin] Yes. We do have employees. However, our company employment model is currently contract based. To put this to context, this simply means that our team is a made up of sub-contracted developers.
What vision do you have for your company and where do you see yourselves in ten years?
[Brian] We see ourselves making IoT driven business home and business solutions that change how people and technology interact with each other as well as financial systems that target the youth and start-ups. Start-ups are chances for young people to grow into more than they can imagine and we really try and support such initiatives. We believe that Africa has a lot of potential for growth and we want to capitalize on the opportunities for change that we can bring to our country and continent. So, the plan is continuing to go big and hopefully going global before a decade elapses.
Also, you guys are still in school. How do you manage to balance the obligations that come with school and running a business?
[Alvin] Well, to be really honest, for a very long time, we struggled to find a balance between running a start up and concentrating on school activities. Business adventures could easily brew a conflict of interest when it comes to concentrating in school. However, with time we realized this and managed to find a lovely and effective balance. I can confidently tell you that both Brian and I have several A’s under our names on our student portals (laughs). In addition to this, we do have a great team behind our back supporting and handling things on our behalf once in a while.
Finally, what advice would you give to young entrepreneurs or people who are just thinking of venturing into business?
[Alvin] Well, first, not everyone can start a business. We are all differently abled. If we all start a business, who will accomplish all other equally important tasks that come with employment? Secondly, I believe success in business comes from solving a customer need. Many entrepreneurs go wrong when they create their own problem and try to force it on a client at the client’s expense. This sounds hilarious to think about yeah? So to really solve an actual need, entrepreneurs should put themselves in the shoes of clients and potential clients. Eventually, clients will appreciate the business cause and pay up with no hesitation. Lastly, to build a business empire, you do not need to come up with something new. You just have to be open minded enough to do something differently.