David Henia Finding Impact

FIP 82: Building an Iterative Product Testing Platform with David Henia

David Henia has been the Lead Developer at Eneza for the last two years and is in charge of product, technical and back-end development. Prior to his role at Eneza Education, he held a variety of roles at different technology development and software firms in Nairobi. David has a BsC in Computer Science from Africa Nazarene University. Eneza Education is a comprehensive virtual tutor, that provides universal access to affordable, quality, lifelong learning through dumb and smart phones. 70% of its users are low income students in rural areas. It has 4.9 million users and is Africa’s leading mobile online learning platform.

On this episode, David walks us through Eneza’s products tests and and how to design and run experiments on product features, pricing, and marketing campaigns, etc. The goal of this episode is to teach social entrepreneurs how to build their own product testing methods.

On this episode you’ll learn:

  • A product testing platform is essential for any startup organisation because the startup is like one big experiment, so you need to keep your learning organised.
  • Any organisation will surface many ideas about what to do – they come from your customer, yourself, your team – but without organising these ideas, they’ll soon slow you down or even move you backward.
  • Establishing an iterative product testing process also builds autonomy within your team, so team members can discern which ideas to park and which to take forward.
  • Ensure you’re collecting all the ideas that the organisation surfaces, and with the team, try to find the root problem that the idea is addressing or relating to. Then determine the time involved, the cost and the effect on profit and/or impact.
  • With a good handle on the problem, then you can start to build experiments and test ideas that can solve the problem.
  • This process is managed by the product team, who is led by the Product Manager. They work with all departments and are the representative of the customer.
  • To prioritise projects, you can use the RICE framework, which means Reach, so how many customers will the product or test reach, impact to the business, in terms of profit and/or impact, how Confident are you about the results, and how much Effort in terms of time, money and people.
  • Then come up with a hypothesis, e.g. if you do X then you guess Y and Z will happen, because of what you’ve observed. And success will look like A, B and C. And it will be measured by S.
  • Then you build a Minimum Viable Test to get some quick feedback over a week or two, independent of any other teams internally.
  • The engineering team isn’t involved until the tests have been conducted and the decision made to build the product or feature (although the engineering team leadership is involved in this decision).
  • General indicators exist which can help you benchmark your organisation against industry standards, such as customer lifetime value, customer acquisition cost, unit economics, etc.

Links to resources:

Connect with David:


FIP 045: Product design and validation for the urban poor with Simon Dixon

In Nairobi alone, 1.4 million people live in informal housing settlements. The individual structures’ are built using meager resources, often poorly constructed, and are prone to fire. In 2015, Simon Dixon co-founded Kwangu-Kwako, a social enterprise that builds safer, healthier homes for families in informal settlements.

On this episode, Simon takes us through the ups and downs of Kwangu-Kwako’s journey to the sale of its first unit. We specifically talk about the following:

  •  How to get genuine feedback on your product.
  • The importance of diverse customer feedback at various stages of production.
  • How can you incentivize people to partner with you when you have very little to give?
  • When starting a business there is always risk involved. Can you capitalize on opportunities to pass some of this risk on to third parties?
  • The importance of attracting well respected and influential members of the community as you grow.
  • Getting referrals? This is often a sign that you’re doing something right.
  • Bridging the gap – You may have interest in your product, but what if customer’s can’t afford it? What next?
  • Why its important to celebrate the little milestones along the way – help to boost morale and keep people focused.
  • The importance of being agile – can you change focus when things aren’t going according to plan?


What was your favourite lesson from this episode? Let me know on Twitter by clicking here!

paygo fausto finding impact

FIP044: Product Prototyping with Fausto Marcigot

Fausto Marcigot is one of five Co-founders at PayGo Energy, a technology company enabling low-income households in Kenya to afford clean cooking fuel. Inspiration for the company came straight from Kenyan users – Fausto and his team were working on another project when they observed individuals buying just enough kerosene or charcoal for that day because they just didn’t have the cash flow to buy more. His team calculated the monthly expense and realized cooking gas would be cheaper and cleaner, but they needed to solve for the shortfall in cashflow, and so PayGo Energy was conceived.

On this episode, Fausto explains how they went from concept to company, with a focus on validating the idea, prototyping the product and accessing early-stage funding. We’ll dive into the following:

  • The role of familiarity in building new products and systems; specifically how experience with and exposure to the behavior of target users can inspire new applications to existing technologies.
  • How to validate a new technology product concept by using quick-and-dirty, high-touch testing methods and off-the-shelf products.
  • Why bootstrapping was necessary to start building their product, and how the co-founders leveraged their network to keep their momentum.
  • We touch on the emotional and personal challenges bootstrapping elicits.
  • Strategic fundraising for different stages of growth, from prize money for product prototyping to accessing seed money, and what else they considered during capital raises.
  • A walk through 5 iterations of the product, including software and hardware changes and which iterations were tested with users.
  • The role of public institutions, namely the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS), whose purpose is to maintain health and safety standards of products sold in Kenya to ensure consumer protection. We explore the company’s relationship with KEBS and how they worked together to bring PayGo Energy’s product to market.


Connect with Fausto:

What was your favourite lesson from this episode? Let me know on Twitter by clicking here!

Charlie Nichols Finding Impact

FIP 39: Product Design and Market Fit with Charlie Nichols

Charlie is co-founder of SunCulture and today we’re talking about product design and market fit. Charlie’s background is in mechanical engineering and economics, it’s the fourth company he’s founded and co-founded, though his first in Africa. He was initially drawn to Kenya by the number of technology success stories and the great market opportunity for clean energy solutions like solar power due to the high costs of grid electricity. SunCulture designs, manufacturers, finances and distributes solar powered irrigation solutions.

On this episode, we learn about:

  • How through his time in Senegal, Charlies learned that the challenge facing small commercial farmers was a lack of access to the right equipment and finance to help them scale production.
  • How the challenges you envisage when designing the product in the lab, to the those faced when setting up on the first farm, are so completely different and beyond your imagination.
  • We learn one small detail on where you locate your first prototype in relation to your office.
  • We talk about how to put together your first prototype with off the shelf products, so you can gather feedback from customers and iterate your design with your manufacturing partners in China every 6 months.
  • Capturing the different feedback from different stakeholder groups, like the farm manager and the business owner, are equally important. One was interested in the technical side and the other the commercial side.
  • How capturing feedback and new ideas in the early stages differs to how they manage them now, which is a well-structured process for deciding what to carry forward.
  • How Charlie and his team evaluate ideas based on whether they think they can drop prices of existing products in the market by 90%, and how they think it’s important to know what your value add is in the market, and stick to it as your true north.
  • Charlie tells us about a big challenge he and his team went through on the product development side, how they got through it, and what they learned.
  • How it’s important not just to be cheap, but to actually meet the specifications defined to solve the challenge in the market that you’re addressing.
  • What advice Charlie would give his younger self as he headed out to the field with his prototype under his arm. Or in fact, before he did that.

Links to resources:

Connect with Charlie:

What was your favourite lesson from this episode? Let me know on Twitter by clicking here!