What started as a satirical tweet by Truehost Cloud has ended up as a Tweet with a life of its own. It has drawn anger and amusement at the same time from thousands of people.

The tweet was a fake advert for a CEO position, listing some eyebrow-raising requirements such as the required height, gender, skin color, and age of the candidate along with the desired experience, as well as some usual traits such as being team player.

A reflection of the startup ecosystem

The initial reaction to the tweet was just laughter and amusement among the people who know Truehost Cloud and the tone of the twitter account. However, as soon as the tweet was shared by more people, anger started showing up.

What was wrong with the post?

Or better yet, what made some people angry?

The CEO was supposed to be white.

While this was supposed to be a joke (and Truehost Cloud is not hiring a CEO), there is another side of the Kenyan startup ecosystem that comes to light. An analysis of Kenyan technology startups that received funding from global VCs brings it to light.

Kenya's startup ecosystem

The year 2018 was a great year for Kenyan tech startups. This is observed in how Kenyan startups led Africa in terms of investment funding raised.

In total, Kenyan digita technology startups raised approximately $348 million. This is more than their peers in Nigeria and South Africa.

The list of some of these startups are:

  1. Tala (Sh5bn)
  2. Cellulant (Sh4.75bn)
  3. Dlight (Sh4.1bn)
  4. Branch (Sh2bn)
  5. Twiga Foods (Sh1bn)
  6. MKopa (Sh1bn)
  7. Africa’s Talking (Sh862m)
  8. Lori Systems (Sh617m)
  9. Mobius (Sh600m)
  10. BitPesa (Sh500m)
  11. WeFarm (Sh500m)

One of the striking features in all these start-ups is the presence of white CEOs or founders in all but two of them (Cellulant and Africa’s Talking). Have a look at these visuals.

The team at Tala.
D.Light team.
Branch team.
Twiga Foods team.
M-KOPA team.
Lori Systems team.
Mobius Motors.
BitPesa team.
WeFaem team.

While there could be many ways of explaining this, it is a poorly kept secret that money always follows white founders and CEOs in Kenya's startup ecosystem. A running joke among startups is that all you need to make it rain money is an office in one of the posh Nairobi buildings, and have a white co-founder/CEO.

It is for this reason that a white CEO requirement might not be a far-fetched idea for startups in Africa.

Make of all this what you may, but I think racism lives on.

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