, NAIROBI, Kenya, May 8 – Martin Kiarie’s journey to entrepreneurship is not a typical empire building analogy; it is not a spontaneous eureka moment that he experienced, birthing his million shilling idea. No, on the contrary, it is the harsh realities of his life that made him choose that path.
“My parents separated when I was three years and my father committed suicide when I was 20. This changed my life, making me want to do better and be different,” Martin Kiarie, CEO and co-founder of Bean Interactive confides.
And to do better he did. After graduating with first class honours from the University of West of England with a Bachelor of Computing and Information Systems, Kiarie witnessed how Bluetooth marketing was disrupting and redefining the marketing sphere in the UK. He turned down a prestigious opportunity to work at Microsoft, choosing to instead come back to Kenya and duplicate the idea.
“We started out as a purely Bluetooth marketing company whereby we would send promotional marketing messages and coupons through the Bluetooth,” he explains.
That was the foundation of Bluetooth Enabled Advertising Networks, or simply Bean, which was founded in 2009 with a starting capital of Sh600,000.
Although the idea was not a very big success, it got the company’s big clients such as Nokia, Access Kenya and Cadbury’s Kenya who liked their innovativeness.
“Around this period, Allen Kambuni, my co-founder and I released that the digital marketing space was largely untapped. Kenya was going online at such a fast rate and no one was targeting the online audience, hence our decision to shift onto digital marketing,” Kiarie explains.
Today, the company which has managed a client portfolio worth Sh100 million is a full time digital marketing company. “Our work is to connect brands with the ‘networked’ market which is heavily active on social media, and appreciates technology,” he says.
Bean however faces a major challenge when it comes to explaining exactly what it is that they do. “Most people assume that our core work is to get a brand to have many Facebook and Twitter followers, but we do so much more,” Kiarie explains.
One of the company’s roles is to offer value proposition whereby they determine what value their client can give to the masses that are online.
“We determine for our clients what can kind of value their customers would find valuable online. For instance, our client, Nelion Moving Company, has been giving value to its online customers by giving free Java meals, whereby customers pay online for moving services and enjoy themselves instead of going through the hustle of moving from one house to another,” he says.
Bean’s other role is choosing a channel strategy for their clients. Here, they determine who the client’s customers are and how best to engage them.