But at the age of 18 years, Tesh Mbaabu, CEO at Cloud9Xp, had already set up and registered his first business. Years later, he set-up one of the fastest growing companies Cloud9Xp, an online marketplace that gathers the best leisure activities to do across Africa, all in one place.
Cloud9Xp was part of the 11 startups that graduated from Google Launchpad Accelerator Africa program in November this year. The company was also awarded the Oracle Innovation Awards -Tourism Category winner at the 2018 Connected Summit by the Kenyan ICT Authority.
We had a quick chat with Tesh Mbaabu, on his career and entrepreneurship journey and here is what he had to say:
NG: Kindly walk us through your career journey?
TM: I self-taught graphic and web design straight out of high school and began a briefcase consulting business. Immediately I turned 18, I registered my first venture, Tesh Technologies Ltd, a creative design and printing agency; turned software company two years later after joining the university to study Computer Science. Months later, we partnered up with a college friend to start Mesozi Inc, a provider of integrated business and technology solutions. This remains an operational and profitable business.
Later in 2016, we got inspired by our love for technology and the enthusiasm to enjoy life to the fullest and decided to change how people discover fun things to do. The result? Cloud9Xp, an online marketplace that gathers the best leisure activities to do across Africa, all in one place.
NG:You are the Chief Experience Officer at Cloud9Xp define your role as a leader and what does the title involve?
TM : At a startup, the CEO is the “Chief Everything Officer”, literally. Strategy, operations, sales, marketing, financing, creation of company culture, hiring, firing, compliance with the law, PR, you name it!—it all falls on the CEO’s shoulders. However, as we grow, the most critical role is building a team that is inspired and constantly motivated to work towards achieving the company’s vision.
NG: Tell us a little bit about Cloud9Xp
TM: Opening the beauty of Africa to everyone is at the heart of Cloud9xp. We help you to discover and book the best leisure experiences, at the best prices, wherever you are, across different locations, categories and styles. We also allow you to create your bucket-list of experiences and save up for them, among other features available through our website and mobile app.
Beyond helping make things easier for leisure seekers, Cloud9xp also enables experience providers and tour operators to tap into an audience of potential customers for bookings by creating exposure for their experiences; and accessing booking management tools to make their work easier.
NG: Walk us through your day at Office?
TM: All my days start and end differently, I think the only constant is that I never eat breakfast. I spend most of my time managing our sales and marketing, operations and product development teams through meetings, calls and email. I also spend a lot of time physically and virtually interacting with other stakeholders; customers, suppliers, investors and the community at large. I specifically love tasks that involve creative and strategic thinking.
NG: What are some of the key highlights throughout your career journey?
TM: Earning my first cheque for developing a website was very eye-opening. I was 17 and that is the day I realized what value creation actually means. Besides being able to solve customers’ problems every day, being recognized as one of the African Garage Top 25 under 25 Entrepreneurs in Kenya in 2015, and nominated Techpreneur of the Year 2017 in the FOYA awards were strong validation points. More recently, Cloud9xp being one of eleven startups to be accepted into the Google Launchpad Accelerator Africa and being recognized as winner at the Connected Oracle Innovation Awards 2018 – Tourism Category, have been amazing career highlights for me.
NG: What was your lowest career point and what are some of the lessons learnt at that point?
TM: Finally accepting to shut down three failed startups were some of the lowest points in my career. With closing each one of them, I took the valuable business lessons learnt with me into my next venture, and always took it as an opportunity to reinvent myself.
NG: What Gets You Up in the Morning/ what keeps you awake?
TM: What keeps me awake is Africa’s overlooked business revolution? Africa is a 1.2 billion–person market with so many problems to solve. The thought the opportunity I have to be part of the revolution gets me up and on my toes.
NG: Who influences you most in your career and life generally and why?
TM: My parents influence me a lot because of their simplicity. My dad reminds me all the time that no matter how much wealth you amass or how famous you become, you will only eat one plate of food at a time.
NG: As a leader how do you achieve a work-life balance?
TM: I try. Nowadays, I do not work weekends unless I absolutely have to. I instead like hanging out with my fiance, friends and family, and engaging in the fun experiences that we sell.
NG: What is your living philosophy?
TM: YOLO – You Only Live Once! I am obsessed by this because it makes me appreciate the value of life, relationships and time; and the fact that we can’t regain time we’ve lost. It leads me to lead a more happy, authentic life.
NG: Which age of your life was important and sort of shaped you and why?
TM: This may change over the years, but for now, my late teenage years were the most important to me. This is when I decided on the career path I would take and generally formulated my values and living principles.
NG: What do you think is your greatest weakness as the Chief Experience Officer?
TM: I am very impatient when it comes to business. Because I like to see results very fast, I end up creating an artificial timeline in my mind. Sometimes when people or processes fail to align to that timeline, my mind runs wild and this clouds my judgement.
NG: What can you say as a CEO at X years tell the younger version of you let’s say you at 20 years?
TM: One thing I have come to appreciate in this world is that nothing of value comes easily. In fact, anything of value takes time, whether it’s a matter of developing a skill, building a relationship, or launching a business. So do your best always but take your time, don’t beat yourself too much especially when things are not going as planned.
NG: If you were to have dinner with one person who would that be? And what would you ask them?
TM: I would say Jack Ma. I find him to be exceptionally humble and wise, so I would ask him what goes through his mind.
NG: If you were to advice the next CEO of your company what would you tell them?
TM: FOCUS! Don’t try to do everything because that’s an impossible task, and no one will notice anything that you do because you’re spread too thin. Concentrate on a few big things that matter to you or the business, that’s the only way to truly make an impact.
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