Kenyan student talks fear, aversion to entrepreneurship in Kenya
Tevin Singei, a student at Princeton University, took multiple gap years before college and worked in consulting and private equity. He joined the 2021 Blueprint Investor Track, which targets Black, LatinX, and Indigenous communities.
As a sophomore in college, how did you learn about venture capital?
I’m born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya. I graduated high school in 2018 and took that time off to try to figure out what I really wanted. During that time, I did work in consulting with private equity, venture capital, and M&As. I really figured that something I’m really excited about is helping entrepreneurs work on projects that can make a difference between themselves and society at large. Doing this from a macro perspective by working with the government in public-private partnerships to drive some of those products that make a difference in society is impactful. That’s the kind of work I want to get involved with.
How does entrepreneurship differ in Kenya and the U.S.?
One of the biggest culture shocks to having an investment in entrepreneurship is the fact that in Kenya, it is not as developed. But in the US, it’s a developed field. In Kenya, there’s still a negative perspective around being your own boss. People have this notion that everything needs to be more corporate. When you step down from your nine to five to run your own business, people look down upon you.
Within the DRF space, people are more daring to take gambles, be vulnerable, and invest in companies with shaky grounds but huge impact. My other friends from home are more risk-averse because there is no room for failure. There are not many fallback options within the Kenyan space, given how things are structured. People are fundamentally struggling with financial stability and being able to sustain lives. There’s more fear of failure within entrepreneurship, so people are more conscious of the ventures that they take part in.
I have friends and family who have gotten involved with startups and entrepreneurship, but fail not because they don’t have the capacity, but because they do not have the capital. They do not have the advice, the people to engage with, or the people to make core decisions. That’s the immense value of venture capital.
There’s still a lot of ignorance about venture capital and entrepreneurship in Kenya. We serve in communities with people less informed about either field, and the recommended paths are teacher, lawyer, engineer, doctor, or a job nine to five.
What parts of entrepreneurship in Kenya excites you?
In Kenya, there are a lot of spaces that I’m excited about. But lately, I’ve been thinking about energy. Kenya has come a long way over the past 10–15 years. Growing up, we didn’t have electricity in my household. It was super expensive. Over the past 10–15 years, this has changed drastically. There are new options for energy, the green future, and solar energy. I feel like there needs to be more deliberate effort to support these systems because one of the challenges that affect entrepreneurship and entrepreneurs overall, is that when there are so many bubbling ideas, but not enough structure to support them, we end up having so many companies doing essentially the same thing. But without agreement on who’s doing what, there’s confusion and scandals that nobody saw coming.