The woman behind free Wi-Fi in Nairobi

Nancy Mungai is the CEO and founder of Uppercut Digital Media, a social enterprise, that offers free Wi-Fi in Nairobi CBD. Photo | FRANCIS NDERITU

What you need to know:

  • Nancy Mungai is the CEO and founder of Uppercut Digital Media, a social enterprise, that offers free Wi-Fi in Nairobi CBD, through monetises it with paid advertising.

Towards the end of 2019, Nancy Mungai was ready to launch and bring to life her passion. And so, with the savings she had made and contributions from close family members, Uppercut Digital Media was birthed. 

“But as fate would have it, the Covid-19 pandemic happened and we were forced to shut down our operations even before we could take off,” starts Nancy Mungai the CEO and founder of Uppercut Digital Media. 

The company, a social enterprise, offers Wi-Fi advertising services through its Adsimu Wi-Fi Integrated platform and the AdSimu free public Wi-Fi network. AdSimu Wi-Fi offers 24-hour, free public Wi-Fi in high-traffic areas in Nairobi Central Business District (CBD) and reaches more than 120,000 Wi-Fi users monthly mostly adults aged between 18-45 years. The company then monetises the free Wi-Fi sessions with paid advertising.

Kenyan enjoy free Wi-Fi at Archives area in Nairobi CBD. Photo | FRANCIS NDERITU

“Simply put, Adsimu rewards users with free Wi-Fi, and the incentive for accessing the free Wi-Fi is to consume advertiser/marketing communication,” she says. Today, the company has built seven major Free Public Wi-Fi Advertising Hotspots within the Nairobi Central Business District (CBD) and is scaling to other parts of Nairobi and counties. 

“We paused our operations during Covid though the network was still running and offering free Wi-Fi. Thankfully, in June 2021, we were able to bounce back, and business has been gradually picking,” says the International Relations and PR and Communications graduate in her mid-forties. 

“We have had challenges just like any other business. The market entry for example has been a challenge since ours is a new way of advertising. Onboarding advertisers to use our network has also been a daunting task, but we keep our hopes high and believe that we are going to navigate just fine,” notes Nancy. 

As a woman in Tech, Nancy says that the patriarchy, which is deeply entrenched in Kenya, creates obstacles for not only herself but many women in business. Nonetheless, she adds, “We are moving in the right direction and Kenya is starting to embrace and appreciates female techies.” 

Nancy, who studied in Europe owes her success to mentors. 

“I am immensely grateful for my mentors and my team, as they have added immeasurable value to me and my business. One person doesn’t build a business. Yes, the vision may be yours but the execution is a team effort. My mentors keep me grounded and sane as it’s tough being an entrepreneur,” notes Nancy. She acknowledges her partner’s support whom she refers to a lot throughout the interview. 

After her high school studies in Kenya, Nancy went to Sweden to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in International Business at Uppsala University. Thereafter, she attained a Master’s Degree in International Relations and Affairs from Stockholm University.  

“Apart from constantly worrying about getting advertisers, we have to devise ways of decreasing outages from KPLC and Safaricom. These issues keep me awake at night,” she intimates. “We will soon embark on installing solar panels to curb the outages. I am positive we are going to end this challenge,” she assures.

Nancy’s proudest moments are when AdSimu users and clients give her feedback on her services. “People call me from different parts of Kenya asking when Adsimu will be available in their counties, schools, and community centers. This gives me immeasurable happiness and motivation to keep going,” Nancy shares. 

Nancy is also working with Amref’s Health Africa to drive social public health awareness campaigns that align with her business model of social entrepreneurship.

“It fulfills my childhood of passion and a thirst to give back to society. It is quite satisfying, as I believe that together we are strong,” she says. 

In another life, Nancy would have been a practising lawyer as that was always her childhood dream. She however has no regrets about the path she chose. 

"Growing up, the legal world fascinated me a lot. I always dreamed of one day being a lawyer. You know, the suits, the good English, looking and sounding smart. But then I discovered this other path of business. I have zero regrets about the path that my career life took."

Nancy explains that she found herself in the world of business by chance and now loves it. 

For fun, Nancy loves travelling, reading, taking long walks in nature, cooking, and socialising with her friends.  “I also do dog walking for a close friend who owns an adorable Japanese Splitz dog named Spice, he keeps me busy,” she says.

Her advice to young girls who may feel as if the market is flooded or male-dominated is to let go of their uncertainties and dive right in! The tech world is a creative place that offers endless possibilities.

She hopes that Uppercut Digital Media will be able to Scale to more hotspots and build a robust advertising network from Nairobi to Turkana and thereafter the East African region.