Meet your moment of luck with preparation

October 12, 2020

“I don’t believe in this thing where if you have a good idea, people will buy into it. If you have a good idea, you have a good idea. Period. It all comes down to how you execute it.” says Julian Kyula, founder and former CEO of MODE, a well-known company specialising in mobile financial technology such as providing airtime credit and micro-loans to millions of mobile phones users across Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. 

These thoughts were inspired by his failed attempts to pitch his idea to Safaricom back in the day. This was right around the time after the post-election violence in Kenya in 2007 and the country was experiencing a recession. At this point, he decided to form a business partnership with a friend and pursue the idea independently. 

At first, his friend was not 100% for the idea but Julian showed him his presentation and sold him on the potential that lay there. “A few days later he called me at 1 am and he was more excited about the idea than I was. He was so excited, more excited than I was about the potential of this business.” Julian Kyula said nostalgically.

At the time, his friend was working for Renaissance as an investment banker but due to the recession the country was in, he was not sure whether had a job or not. He was still getting a salary but no one was calling or contacting him about anything. Despite this, he decided to get the money that they would need to start MODE from the investors he worked with and surprisingly enough, they secured a funding round.

The deal, however, came with terms. The terms were, if Julian and his friend could get a huge company to take up their idea, they would get the first half a million dollars.

“Okoa Jahazi was already happening at Safaricom but Airtel didn’t have it.” Julian Kyula remembers. Through his connections, he was able to secure a meeting with the CEO of Airtel at that time. “I have a million presentations similar to yours, why should I bother with you?”Julian recounts what the young Airtel CEO asked in response to his pitch. “Because my tech system will be free and I will buy half a million dollars worth of Airtime from you upfront.” Julian said in response.

After that, a deal was struck and according to Julian, he had to come up with a name for his company after that. This was the beginning of MODE.

Julian Kyula was a guest at Unthinkable Roast in April 2019. Click here to join other leaders for inspiring monthly conversations on leadership and innovation

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