African Women in Tech: Hilda Moraa

Hilda Moraa, Founder, Pezesha – Kenya

Hilda is a Kenyan Fintech entrepreneur. She is the Founder and CEO of Pezesha, a peer to peer micro-lending marketplace for Africa that provides access to affordable financial services and credit scores to low income borrowers. She previously founded WezaTele, which in 2015 became the first African tech startup to be acquired by another business. In 2016, she was named one of the 30 Most Promising Young African Entrepreneurs by Forbes. Here she speaks about her entrepreneurship journey and her passion to make an impact through technology.

Excerpts below are from her interview with Eunice Baguma Ball, author of the book, Founding Women.

When I think about all the young Africans who don’t have jobs, I’m driven to use the knowledge I have acquired to inspire more young people to be entrepreneurs, create jobs and to do even better than me.

How did your interest in technology and entrepreneurship develop?

My interest in technology started back in school. I fell in love with mathematics and physics and I knew I wanted to do something related to engineering. I enrolled at Nairobi University to study Electrical Engineering. We were a handful of women in a class of about two hundred students. This was very discouraging and we had to stick together to stay motivated. I later got a scholarship to Strathmore University in Kenya where I studied business and information technology It was here that my interest in entrepreneurship developed. I started my first business providing printing and computer services to students after I observed that these services were not readily available. Computers were very central to our course and yet at the time computer costs were still too high for most students to afford a personal computer. I started the business with money I borrowed from my parents even though they didn’t think it was a good idea for me to start a business while at University. Like most African parents, they wanted me concentrate on my studies, but I managed to convince them that I would focus on my studies and that this problem of a lack of computer access for students was one that I was passionate about solving. The business grew rapidly as it was solving a real problem, and making money at the same time. However, when the University started offering the same services a few years later, I couldn’t compete as I had limited resources as a student and that was the end of that business. But the whole experience made me realise that my passion lies in helping to solve challenges and improve the lives of people around me.

Are there any mistakes you made that you would advise aspiring entrepreneurs to avoid?

One of the mistakes I made was bringing my friends into the business. They agreed to join me because they were my friends, but looking back I realise it was not really their passion or where they wanted to go with their careers.This ended up creating tension because they were not able to execute the way I wanted and were not motivated about the business. It became a lot of work for me, constantly having to try and give them that drive. In the startup environment, with all the uncertainty and limited resources, you really need people who are passionate to be able to push through. Running a startup is challenging and you don’t always have the funding to keep people incentivised. In the end, they left because they wanted more stable jobs and careers, and I don’t blame them because, ultimately, any business needs to build up the resources to develop and retain talent. I had to get mentors to help me put this foundation in place. These mistakes have taught me a lot for my second venture and now I am able to consider these issues and set the right foundation from the start.

Founding Women shares the inspiring entrepreneurship stories of 20 African women and how they deal with the challenges that can often come with navigating the male-dominated world of tech. Filled with practical advice as well as words of encouragement, this book speaks to anyone who has a dream but fears the odds might be stacked up too high against them.

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