We had this privilege a couple of weeks ago when Bruce Lule hosted an #AfterOfficeHours at our Spring Valley location on a warm Thursday evening.
The event was our first in-person event for the year, after running all events last year virtually. So there was a little apprehension if people would come, and when they did, if they would keep masks on, engage with the speaker, ask questions, learn, and connect with each other.
Lucky for us some attendees streamed in an hour before time and engaged the speaker well past our 1 hour allocated time slot.
The stage was set and the conversation with the Founding Principal of Chandaria Capital started in earnest. We gleaned 4 lessons from Bruce Lule’s life story that we’ve shared here:
Bruce Nsereko-Lule describes himself as an East African born & brought up in Kenya to Ugandan parents. He explained how from an early age he always had an interest in business, stemming from his father being a Doctor with his own practice and his mother running a few businesses of her own.
He recalls how the 90s were a vibrant time in the country, with the city of Nairobi experiencing rapid growth in the economy. The range of goods increased with snacks, cosmetics, and other international exports starting to flood the market.
Mobile companies KenCell and Safaricom were starting out. Dial-up-internet was available to Kenyans through cyber cafes and for the select few in their homes. There was growth in Capital markets with the Nairobi Stock Exchange (NSE) hitting record turnover year on year.
In the rest of the world, the dot.com boom was rising with companies such as Google, Apple & Amazon starting to take center stage. There was also the emergency of countries like Dubai who were making a major shift from an oil producer to the world’s largest work and leisure destination that we know today.
There is something we can all learn from our younger years, from what our parents told us, to what we could observe around us. Being introspective today might help one realize their unique understanding of the world and what they can offer. In Bruce’s case being surrounded by all of these activities led Bruce to feed his curiosity & foster a strong interest in business and finance/financial instruments from a very young age.
Bruce was raised in a Baganda household made up of 7 intelligent & Christian-believing family members. He shared how that taught him to be principled and skilled in the art of negotiation. Bruce also defines himself as a book-smart, logical thinking, hard-working, and adventurous person open to trying new things.
He defines himself as a disciplined person, a trait that showed itself when sports did not come to him naturally but he took up the challenge never-the-less & played games like rugby to good levels. Bruce fondly remembers how his parents had taught him to not only give something a shot but also the importance of doing it with excellence.
He honed these traits which helped his younger self to successfully study a Bachelors in Economics with Politics at one of the UK’s top ten Universities, Loughborough University. Six (6) months before graduation Bruce got a job offer from Credit Suisse, one of the world’s premier investment banks & a Fortune Global 500 company.
He would go on to work at Credit Suisse for about 6 years, where he would help clients via various investment banking businesses. At the height of flourishing his career, Bruce would resign to study an MBA at Strathclyde Business School focusing on finance.
Being in a foreign country away from his family would have been tough but he took a little bit of home with him. The lessons taught to him to desire excellence and achieve it no matter what evidently kept Bruce going in his formative years.
It led him to get the most out of the educational opportunity as well as contribute greatly to a leading institution in a big way. All of which led him towards leading one of Africa’s innovative Venture Capital companies.
While at Credit Suisse he started out at the Back Office (BO) – where all apprentices start out – but in a short period of time was able to move to the Middle Office (MO) and then the Front Office (FO). The transition wasn’t without challenges. Bruce cites one of the difficulties of moving between BO & FO being the need to consistently perform well as you moved up through each office, dealing with a diverse set of responsibilities and stakeholders at each stage.
It wasn’t as easy as it seemed & when put in concept many had gone before and not succeeded. BOFO manipulator – Jerome Kerviel (SOC GEN) moved from MO to FO & supposedly lost billions of dollars in trades in 2008. While Kweku Adoboli (UBS) also started in BO moved to FO & also supposedly lost billions of dollars in trades through questionable means. Further, at the time, with the credit crunch, all the big banks were aggressively tightening their staff count.
However, Bruce in his time in FO assisted in the management of multi-million-dollar trades, setting him up for the work that was up ahead of leading Africa’s growth and destiny in improving the quality of life for its inhabitants.
Bruce learned to show up, roll up his sleeves and get to work. There are many challenges ahead for those who want to achieve great success, and there are many that have seemingly failed, but one must be equal to the task to overcome each and every obstacle set out in front of you.
Bruce got to the point where he was sure that he had learned all he could, so he made plans to move back home to Kenya.
One would wonder why he chose to say goodbye to a renowned organization that offered him the great potential for him to be even more successful; but as Bruce shared, ‘there are only so many ways you can help a client invest’. He knew time was up; he learned what he needed to make an impact at home and he followed his heart.
Once on home ground, Darshan Chandaria tapped Bruce to join his new outfit Chandaria Capital in 2017. Bruce shares that although the organization was founded upon the success of the very successful Chandaria family, it was truly a start-up in the full sense of the term. He was given a laptop, a room and told to go forth and conquer the world.
As a well-exposed financial expert and a fresh MBA grad, Bruce at the time thought he had 30% of what was required to run any business. Bruce had know-how in marketing, financials, and operations.
It truly doesn’t matter where or how you start, what matters is what you do with the challenge presented to you. Bruce closed his first deal within a few months and under his leadership, Chandaria Capital has been able to grow its business portfolio to support local startups such as Sokowatch, Safi Analytics, Carry 1st, Ilara Health, Savannah Brands, Kobo360, among many others.
The team also grew from just him four years ago, to a team of 4 handling a growing portfolio & almost 20 applications a day from across the continent requesting business funding. The same amazing team has led Chandaria Capital to be the current holder of the small-cap, East Africa Private Equity, and Venture Association award.
We remain grateful to Bruce Lule for making time to come share his life story & lessons with us. Looking forward to the next #AfterOfficeHours session, keep it locked right here.