Gideon Kitili, 26, is the third born in a family of six children. He grew up in Kitui South and attended Makolongo Primary School.
Despite the harsh climatic conditions that left many grappling with poverty, Gideon’s parents created a comfortable home for him and his siblings. They also placed great emphasis on education. A dismal academic performance was simply unacceptable.
Gideon passed his KCPE exams and was admitted at Alliance Boys High School. His first few weeks in school were quite a roller-coaster.
On one hand he was excited by the new environment having lived in Kitui all his life; on the other hand, he was intimidated by his mates in the school.
Some of the children were from wealthy families.
In comparison, he felt of a lower social class. For the first time, he became aware of the many childhood indulgences he had missed out on simply because his parents could not afford them.
Brilliance not a redemption
“Although the school system tried to standardise us, some of these differences could not be obscured. The price tags on our personal effects shopping demarcated the social classes. Being brilliant in class was no redemption either. My classmates were rich and smart. It was tough. Some good came out of that experience though. I purposed to excel at school in the hope that I would end up wealthy like them.”
Once he overcame that temporary phase of inferiority complex, Gideon thrived in the new environment. In Form One; he developed an interest in Information Technology courtesy of his Computer Studies class.
He would spend all his breaks in the computer lab.
Had never touched a computer
“I had never touched a computer before joining High School. I only saw them in banking halls whenever I accompanied my father to the bank. The first time I sat in front of a computer during my computer studies class, I stared into the blank screen and it was like looking at destiny. That very moment, I knew that my future was in computers.”
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) ran a program at Alliance High School equipped 40 selected Form Three students, with skills in industrial scale programming, information technology concepts and basic entrepreneurship.
The sessions were conducted in the computer lab. One day, the MIT instructors popped into the computer lab and started issuing out handouts for the program.
Since Gideon was always in the computer lab like, he was mistaken to be among the selected students for the program and given a hand-out. He was in Form Two.
Computer geek is born
Fortunately, the older students did not rat him out. Endless hours of hanging out in the lab had seen Gideon strike friendships with most of the older computer students.
He got trained along with them. With time, Gideon became an accomplished computer geek. By form three, he was helping out form fours with their computer projects for KCSE exams.
After high school, Gideon was admitted at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) to pursue a degree in Electrical Engineering as per his course selection.
“One day, the lecturer was taking us round the labs. I caught sight of a group of Fifth Years hunched over an old television model. Curious, I inquired what they were doing with such an outdated TV version. When I found out that they were learning how to fix it, I was puzzled. It was 2011, why would anyone want to learn how to fix old TV models? Why were they not learning how to make improved models instead? Appalled, I changed my course to Computer Science the following week.”
Gideon informed his mother of the course switch and requested her to purchase for him a laptop.
He enjoyed his new course thoroughly. He spent hours on end indulging in self-study of web design, web development, and software programming.
He met Anthony, a freelance programmer, in his social interactions online. Anthony had graduated with a degree in Electrical and Computer engineering but couldn’t secure a decent job. Frustrated, he had resorted to learning computer programming. Their friendship was due to their mutual passion for computers.
While in second year, Gideon was assigned a project by Anthony to build an app. He did this successfully and earned a lean Sh 40,000. Henceforth, he was begun doing more commercial projects that helped him cope financially in campus.
“I was in fourth year when I landed this big project from one of my acquaintances. When I completed the project, I got Sh 70, 000. My acquaintance pocketed Sh 210,000. When I cried foul, he argued that the company was his thus he was entitled to the lion’s share. I felt cheated. I had put in all the work, but that did not count. That is when I decided to start my own company; Trendpro Systems Limited.”
Trendpro Systems Limited is a start-up that develops web and mobile apps for Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and large enterprises in Kenya.
When Gideon started out, he did not have much capital to speak of. He got a loan from his brother, Ben Kitili, back in 2014. Ben was the financial muscle and Gideon took full charge of the operations. He worked from his house in Zimmerman.
His parents did not understand why he was not looking for employment like all his peers. However, that did not deter him; he remained focused on growing his company and developing an impressive portfolio.
Efforts bore fruit
In June 2016, Gideon opened an office at Hazina Towers. Once set up, he embarked on getting more clients in order to sustain the business. His efforts bore fruit. He hired three fulltime employees and two external consultants to help out with the increased workload.
“There have been a few challenges. Sometimes, potential clients doubt my ability to deliver because of my age. Other times experts in the field let their ego get the best of them and they refuse my contractual job offers. I have resorted to working with my former classmates and friends who are my age. They share in my vision for growth. Together, we have built a strong database of satisfied clients. That is the most important thing. Not age, not ego.”
Gideon is inspired by Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX, Tesla and SolarCity. He is drawn to the fact that all of Elon’s inventions are geared to meeting societal needs.
He feels that the world would be a better place if everyone did something for society instead of demanding something from society.
He hopes to influence more young people to create jobs instead of looking for jobs.