I was hacked earlier this year. Websites that friends had asked me to help set up lost their files on a host I had advised them to use. The host didn’t seem too concerned on what happened despite their proclaims of daily and monthly backups. I felt let down. Especially since I was a very strong proponent of Kenyan domains and Kenyan webhosts.
As I was on the process of moving out of Sasahost, someone suggested Angani, a new Kenyan cloud service company. They talked nice things about them. And by nice things I mean techno jargon. I am not a techie so those things flew past me. I just wanted to know how much it cost. It was more per month than what I was paying Sasahost per year. The high cost was justified by a high commitment to online security and 99.9% uptime. But that is what also what Sasahost had promised, and here I was, trying to recover a site that was now inundated by pictures of Doge in place of really cool science posts. I decided not to go with Angani; not because it was expensive, but because it was Kenyan.
Now such unpatriotism is very unlike me. But somehow from experiences from Kenyan banks, Kenyan retail services and now tech services, I have learned to check my patriotism. I no longer go for stuff purely based on the fact that it is Kenyan. I am all for Kenyan stuff, but I want you to try it; not me.
Anyway, I now moved to Hostgator. Not all that good but way cheaper than the Kenyan options. It cost me 3 years hosting what Sasahost cost me in 1. So for now, let’s just say I am settled until maybe 2018. I am willing to move if something better comes but I am not holding my breath.
Apart from the high cost, I was all for Angani; I even imagined myself using them if I ever were to be serious about this blogging thing. But all that changed when reports started coming in about Angani’s fall. It all started with some ambigous tweets about how the founders have been ‘washed’. How the founders were kicked out of their companies. How they did not let go and the new takeoverers tried to hack the systems but failed; leading to all the Angani customers getting a black out. All their sites went offline for days. People who could afford Angani were not just kawaida food bloggers like me, they were people who were making a living off of their sites so that was definitely bad for their business too.
Brenda Wambui’s story was the first real attempt I saw to really explain what happened. In it she talked about how the two Kenyan founders were kicked out of their own start up and replaced by immigrants in great detail. At one point she writes:
How does it look when white investors team up with a privileged non-black Kenyan against the black founders of the company?
This was the only phrase highlighted in bold and it gave the feel of racial overtones.
One of the accused board member, Erik Hersman aka @WhiteAfrican, earlier today gave his side of the story where he warned against these overtones. He writes that Angani’s founders were overwhelmed with the new investor money so they had to step their inexperiences asses aside and let real professions like him show them what to do. There’s nothing about race. Just inexperience versus professionalism.
Granted, I see how the talk is being marred by racism but I agree with Erik. It has nothing to do with race. But I guess people feel it does, especially when you realize that no great Kenyan start up can make it without a white person on the team. Think about it, which are the biggest Kenyan startups that are mentioned worldwide by others? What percentage of these have an all black team/board?
Social start ups in Kenya can't make it (big or fast) without a mzungu in the team. Discuss.
— Dexxe (@Dexxe) September 19, 2015
Most people are still trying to come to terms with the fact that MPesa is not Kenyan. It sounds like it is but it is not. It is British. The spenders are mostly Kenyan though.
Now I do not know Erik personally. Nor he me. I am also not saying that he might not be a racist (his username is WhiteAfrican, come on guys) but even if he were one, not everything a racist does is racist. Make sense? Let me try again. These guys did not take over Angani because the founders were black. They MAY think little of black people in general but this is not why they took over. If everything else was constant but the founders were white, this would still have happened, I believe. Because it all comes down to money. Or greed, I dunno which one sounds better. They are not in business to help you unless it helps them make money. And if you start losing them money, they will do everything they can to get back to profit quickly, if it involves firing founders, no problem. Money first. Feelings later.
You probably know of the story about Steve Jobs getting kicked out of Apple. This guy had to invent the iPod to get back in the good graces of the new management. This is a common thing in Silicon Valley and therefore I am not surprised that it has come to the Savanna. The MPesa guy is a good example, but there’s always disputes about who really came up with the platform. Thankfully, now Angani is a better example. I am interested in what will happen next, will the founders come up with a better strategy to regain control and profits? Will the new management make Angani better without the founders? What should I cook for supper? Is there a predatory scene in Kenya’s technoshpere? Will people continue believing it is about race?
I really hope that they fix this soon. I hope they are loud about how they fixed it because it would be nice to regain some faith back into Kenyan products. But as for now, I keep cautiously away, but curiously monitoring progress. Until I hear of new evidence of how this take over is racist, especially from the founders, I maintain that this is just good old capitalism. Make the most money you can regardless.