Coding on an Empty Stomach, and What Kenyan Devs Resort to

Coding on an empty stomach was a phrase coined by Idd Salim, a developer who left this world. What he was alluding to is what many Kenyan developers (alongside most of African developers) of doing several things because there is no one of their projects can pay bills.

Paint a scenario: You are a developer, have a very great product idea that could easily become a regional startup, but you don’t have resources, so you end up working on it part time, never really devote your all to it. During the day you’ll probably develop websites and other consulting projects for clients. These pay bills. You are coding on an empty stomach.

The other way of coding on an empty stomach is having a startup that has like three awesome products, great potential. But none of them really has users, or looks like they will make it. because you have spread out thin. You are not doing any one of them well.

I think even if you have little resources, it’s good to do something when you can see it through. If you need to buy domains and social media usernames to reserve the names, then do that. But I think it’s wise to wait till you can make an impact in something.

We have a disadvantage as Africans in that raising funding is a proper uphill task as TMS Ruge noted below.

Bootstrapping will only get worse if you have no resources and don’t have time as well to run your startup.

@martingicheru I relate. I have tried to raise capital :disappointed_relieved:

I also noted during the techcrunch african startup battlefield that almost all participating startup had a “white guy”

IMO there is need for more data on this.

Is the problem on the business side implying Kenyan devs don’t have the skill to market a product or on the technical side meaning their implementations aren’t fit for market?

The problem is the VC system locally is broken.If VCs truly wanted the best local startup to thrive,they would fund it and support its growth by not insisting on revenue first but on increasing users,engagement and other metrics…like the way OLX has been supported.OLX just started monetizing the other day after a whole 3 years of just growing its user base.

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But the end goal for any VC is to turn a profit, is it not? We have to understand the problem first before identifying solutions.

If VCs in other countries are waiting 5 to 10 years to make a return,why not us?

Comments on this by people who probably don’t fancy forums.

Give examples, preferably countries with similar sized economies. In a more mature market it makes sense for the vcs to pour money in pursuit of the next unicorn.

Something I have come to learn is that VCs in Kenya ( a new thing actually) are still trying out the waters, but we are in a market where real estate is still considered lucrative, and not forgetting that our government has quite an insatiable appetite for borrowing, which is quite lucrative for those with money lying around.

The West on the other hand doesn’t have that and their options are quite low interest. Thus investing in startups look like a very interesting option. That and the access to credit. They get rates as low as 1% in interest. Here we are talking about 14% and only a few have access to that.

The other factor, like I have mentioned up here is that we are still very new to this. People don’t yet see investing in startups as a thing to consider, only a few ‘woke’ investors already see that. That is true for those who have exited companies. These may find it easier to consider being angels. They are less averse to startup risk and are alive to the fact that it may or may not return. But the opportunity is huge.


The rate has gone down slightly. The 364 T-bill is ~11%

Point noted though.

And banks will not lend money to most of these high-risk startups. The interest caping law made it even worse.