Reuben Kimani is the chief executive officer (CEO), Username Investment Limited, a real estate company. He handles strategy, business development, product development, innovation and talent management and the overall leadership of the organization.
Mr Kimani holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Technology from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT).
He shares his career path.
Tell us about your childhood and educational background.
I was born in Nyandarua and brought up in Laikipia. My childhood was normal just like any other child. I was brought up in a rural setup.
My father was a Veterinary Officer and he used to be transferred from his place of work regularly. I attended two primary schools in Laikipia and Nyandarua. Afterwards, I went to Ndururumo High School and later to JKUAT to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Technology where I graduated with First Class Honours.
Share with us your career journey
Upon successful completion of my degree in 2008, I ‘tarmacked’ while doing small freelancing jobs for about 6 months. This phase was challenging as we almost started a CD (Compact Disc) hawking business.
Thereafter I landed a Software Development Job in a small IT company. 9 months into the job, I landed another Job at Kenya Revenue Authority, this time as a Systems Support Analyst. I served for another 9 months at the Authority.
These roles exposed me to the real world of technology.
Later in 2010, I joined telco giant, Safaricom Plc as a Graduate Management Engineer. I remember applying many times to join the telco unsuccessfully.
I was later promoted to Systems Engineer at Safaricom Plc, a role I executed well for 5 years.
These roles gave me hands-on skills on how a big company is run, corporate business, policies, compliance, innovation and processes.
My interest was, however, in entrepreneurship and Real Estate.
I resigned from this role in July 2015 to focus on Username Investment Ltd which we had co-founded as a side hustle with my two other business partners; Julius Karanja and Joseph Gitonga who are both Directors of Username Investment Ltd.
Our desire was to make property ownership in Kenya accessible to all. We have been providing Kenyans with a place to call home and we have never looked back. It has been a fulfilling career journey.
What are the fondest memories of your career journey thus far?
Successfully blending my IT training with my passion for real estate to create an innovative real estate company in Kenya that provides affordable but valuable properties to Kenyans. The technology experience has come in handy in our operations. Investors can book plots online, fill documentation online and get online receipts with verifiable QR codes. It has not been easy but worth every minute and investment.
Winning the African Business Personality Award by Voice Achievers. This is a continental Award organized in Netherlands awarded a result of leading Username Investments to provide affordable housing to thousands of Kenyans.
Creating a real estate company in Kenya that has restored the trust of investing without fear of being duped. As I see thousands of Kenyans receiving genuine title deeds from us and building their dream homes, it is the best fulfilment ever. I happy that I am proving a basic need – Shelter and creating solutions to individuals and families.
What has been a key driver of your growth?
I consider myself a man of Faith. A Christian. A believer that I can achieve whatever I set my eyes to. Not yet there but moving ‘slowly but surely’.
Focus: When I consider something to be important, I will give it my all.
Education has been instrumental in crossing many bridges. A good job helped raise the initial capital to start Username.
Open Mind: I am also a personal development junkie and keep trying things.
Failures: There are many. One I would wish to forget is losing the only capital we had then (Sh5 million) at the start of the business through a fraudulent deal. We recovered and learnt heavy lessons.
I hope to keep looking for growth opportunities on a personal level and in business. We have many opportunities in Kenya and in the World.
Who are the people or relationships that you can single out that have been useful in your career growth and how did they influence your trajectory?
I have quite a number. My spouse, co-founders and my parents to highlight a few. At the initial challenging stages of the business, my spouse supported and believed in a skeleton idea. At some point I survived with no salary. My co-founders believed in the vision, joined hands, resigned from high paying jobs and ran with the idea.
My parents supported my education despite the humble background.
Our customers, The Username Team. We salute them.
We thank God that we have made remarkable progress and impact in the sector and economy.
What accomplishment are you most proud of in life?
We have been able to provide affordable land to young people who could not afford land previously. Right now, we have issued over 9,230 title deeds and formed a client database of over 10,000 clients in the over 55 projects we have done so far. The projects are located in areas next to major cities and towns, such as Ngong, Machakos County, Nakuru, Konza, Naivasha, Matuu, Kangundo Road and still spreading the wings.
We have directly employed 65 young people and over 500 indirectly this includes our lawyers, surveyors, contractors, suppliers and many others. I am proud that despite the global Covid-19 pandemic that hit the world and the economy, we did not downsize rather we created more opportunities.
Leading the company from startup level to now a leading real estate company in Kenya. The company has grown from a turnover of USD 200,000 to USD 5,000,000.
We now have 3 offices; 2 in Nairobi and 1 in Nakuru and with presence in USA. We have also been able to provide Kenyans living in diaspora with affordable investment opportunities and delivered title deeds
Key decisions you might have taken along your career journey?
Resigning from a well-paying job from Safaricom to pursue my dream – It was a challenging decision but looking back it has been a worth decision. I have been able to create more impact through providing practical affordable housing products and solutions, creation of quality employment, and contributing to the overall growth of the economy.
Continuous learning: I am an ardent reader. Mainly business and personal development books. Among many other courses, I recently I enrolled for in person classes at Strathmore Business School - I believe that learning does not stop. I desire to be a relevant leader who is up to date with industry and business trends who adopts best practices for success.
Your current role and scope of job?
I am currently the CEO of Username Investment Limited. I handle strategy, business development, product development, innovation and talent management and the overall leadership of the organization.
The company is dynamic and fast growing. I oversee expansion and also support growth strategies across all departments within the company.
What would you advise the youth in Kenya today?
Do not shy away from trying things - Try that idea, truth is, most people succeed through trial and error. At the very end, you must endure the pain of failure or the pain of regret. I do not shy away from trying something new, in most cases the new ideas work and I learn on the job as opposed to watching from a far. Even when an idea does not work, as difficult as it is, I pick the lessons and implement in future.
God allows you to restart your life any day, any time - It is not too late to change, restart, pursue your life goals and do anything you always wanted to do. The hardest decision I made was to change from being employed to an entrepreneur. It was challenging but worth every decision and commitment. As a youth, do not be afraid to change careers or pursue your goals. You are the biggest capital as long as you are alive.
Set priorities - Setting priorities is extremely important. By not knowing what is important to your life, you will most likely be active and busy like termites on work that counts little or nothing to you. Always walking, running and looking productive. Most likely, only 2/10 of the wars you fight, projects you handle matters. What if you put 80% of your efforts, time and mind to the 20% of the things that matter? You will experience success and productivity. I always encourage our Team which is young, to prioritize the most important tasks because at the end of the day, that is what matters.
Future plans in your career and in life?
I am an ardent believer in personal development, I hope to keep growing my capabilities to be of impact to the society.
On business front, we hope to grow and make Username a force of impact in the African continent. We hope to grow beyond bonders whilst diversifying our product offering.
What do you do for fun?
They say you need 3 hobbies. 4 to be specific. One to make you money, another one to keep you healthy and the last two to keep you creative.
Travelling – I refresh and re-energize when I travel where an opportunity arises. I hope to travel to over 100 countries someday.
Fitness – An ardent marathoner, I like engaging in fitness activities. Running and Strength training. I recently participated in The Nairobi City Marathon.
Reading – Biographies, business and personal development books tops the list.
If there was one thing you could change about your past, what would that be?
Almost, none. However, I believe my progress would have been faster if I had joined full time entrepreneurship earlier.
I thank God for the far I have come. I know I can always grow to be better.