The confirmation of Covid-19 in Kenya in March 2020 threw many companies into panic with the government pushing for organisations to adopt a work-from-home policy as one of the containment measures.
While many stared at the possibility of job losses, Mr Brian Nyagol through his Brainverse Technology – an IT solutions firm – however saw an opportunity in the “blessing in disguise” situation.
As an Electrical Engineering graduate at Eldoret’s Moi University, he teamed up with students pursuing ICT and to design simple blogs and websites besides performing hardware maintenance and repairing laptops for fellow students.
From the budding initiative which started in 2012, the team was able to create a platform which came in handy for people to do their work remotely.
Borne out of their own circumstances, the team of seven had to devise ways of continuing with their enterprise after graduating and going separate ways.
Mr Nyagol says that they started landing bigger deals in website, mobile applications and software development by the time he was graduating in 2016.
“When it was time for me to move to Nairobi in 2017, I had to leave behind a huge part of my team in Eldoret while others who had cleared school left for other towns,” he said.
As a young manager, the daunting task was how to effectively and remotely manage his team. This cemented his decision not to have a physical office space.
“We used to get jobs but had a problem because of a disintegrated workspace, coupled with scattered business operations in terms of documentation that were hosted in non-centralised platforms,” Mr Nyagol stated.
Another challenges was how to track individual performances, store customer information and interact with clients as a team.
Being software developers, they decided to build a platform that could bring everything under the business to operate on one platform.
From this, Startup Suite was born and would go on to sort the internal mess and bring order to the company that had grown to specialise in digital services and software development.
The software introduced new dynamics to their traditional employee engagement and management by offering digitised operations.
The government’s push to have companies move away from the traditional workspace in physical offices to homes gave the company an impetus to develop the software further to integrate more firms.
With big corporations and companies’ financial muscles to develop integrated systems, Mr Nyagol and his team decided to strengthen the software into a cloud-based digital office for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs).
“In May 2020, we enrolled into the Konza Technopolis and UNDP sponsored Great Covid-19 Innovation Challenge hackathon and managed to be the best,” offers Nyagol.
“The future lies in working remotely and companies will consistently need to innovate around their business operations like project management, people management (staff and client) to reduce costs including digitising their business processes,” said Mr Nyagol when he received the hackathon award.
Startup Suite would be incubated at the Technopolis and by end of October 2020 it had a few sign ups of businesses that had adopted and embraced remote working as a result of Covid-19.
The platform digitises, unifies and intelligently connects their business operations and provides insights from running and working the business with confidence remotely.
“A lot of MSMEs operate with fragmented processes because they use manual methods to keep data leading to inefficiency, the platform however offers digitised business aspects be it sales, record keeping, contacting clients, creating quotations and invoices among other tasks,” he says.
“It solves the disharmony of different platforms by unifying and bringing customers' data closer to staff at the press of a button. This easy access is granted as documents are hosted on a singular software,” he adds.
The software generates intelligent information that analyses business operations from the digitised records to ensure that firms meet their bottom lines such as staff remunerations, profits and in the worst case scenario show predicted losses.
“We ultimately want to give MSMEs the capability that big corporations have, including insights on their business, track transactions and trends to improve efficiency and profitability,” he says.
Startup Suite also reduces operational costs by cutting down on office space rent, equipment and employee-related costs such as benefits.
The platform currently runs on a three-tier business model that includes freemium (free of charge), accessible to small businesses with income revenue of up to Sh30,000 but only accessible to one user.
A no limit on sales volume, flex, is the other model that gives access to up to five users and is billed Sh5,000 every month.
The highest charging of the models is the Jumbo that hosts 20 users at a time at a cost Sh10,000 per month.
“With every model up the tier there are additional features. We also offer customised prices to companies that have more than 20 employees,” reveals Mr Nyagol.
It has since been incorporated to be a separate entity with at least 95 companies including the Writers Guild of Kenya and Technology in Rural Africa (TIRA) among its clients.
“In December 2020, Brainvesre and Startup Suite formed two separate entities. Brainverse with a remotely working team 14 has since then been paying to use the Startup suite platform,” he added.
Through its Biashara Digital Campaign, it further hopes to encourage adoption and simplify remote work in the hope to reduce chances of the spread of the deadly corona virus.