Fred Kithinzi is the brain behind Belva Digital, an award-winning performance marketing agency
Fred Kithinzi is an established inter-prenuer, a marketer, founder and CEO of Belva Digital, an award-winning performance marketing agency. He’s been recognized amongst the Top 25 Men in Digital, and as a Top 40 under 40 Men in Kenya.
Belva Digital is a Pan-African marketing agency headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya and with a growing presence in Africa including an office in Kampala, Uganda.
In an exclusive interview with Business Focus, Kithinzi says he has previously worked at Google and IBM where he spent considerable amount of time supporting businesses in Africa to meet their growth and digital transformation goals.
Kithinzi,33, says his ambition to build a sustainable pan-African business.
His company works with businesses to connect them to audiences and generate incremental value primarily through digital channels.
“Our service offering includes but not limited to; strategy, creative thinking and executions, media planning and buying, marketing training, marketing automation, and website and app development,” Kithinzi says.
He adds: “Some of the brands we have worked with include but not limited to, Microsoft, Ecobank, L’oreal East Africa, Movit, DSTV Multichoice, Co-operative Bank, Jubilee Insurance and many more.”
He adds that Belva Digital is also a preferred advertising partner with Google, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
“Through this partnership, we are able to provide our clients valuable insights and practical knowledge to generate more results from digital channels,” Kithinzi says.
Kithinzi says he grew up in a modest family.
“I am the first-born in a family of three, we grew up in a modest, typical Kenyan household. I went to a mixture of both academies and public schools for my primary education. I then went to Mang’u High School (one of the top public schools in Kenya) for my secondary education to pursue my then ambition to become a pilot.
That ambition didn’t quite take off and I quickly I changed my focus towards computers and as a result, I later joined JKUAT for a degree in Computer Science,” he says.
He adds: “In my final semester in campus, I went about applying for internship opportunities. Google had an opening which I went for. Google is a fantastic place to work. This improved my aptitude and attitude, gave me a global experience, and exposed me to a collaborative and forward thinking team and culture.”
In his fifth month at Google, Kithinzi says he was interviewed for a Regional Sales Associates role at International Business Machines (IBM).
“I recall talking to my immediate manager then at Google, Joe Mucheru, the current Minister for ICT in Kenya, and he encouraged me. I took up the job and it was a terrific experience,” he says.
He reveals that money was good but not enough to keep a restless 24-year-old in one place for too long.
“After three months, I left to take advantage of the promising internet ecosystem. I had the desire to start a business but had no concrete plan of what exactly I wanted to do. When I got out, I reached out to my contacts, especially former colleagues from Google.
Two months in, he says, he bagged his first big deal where they were contracted to do some work by Google.
“As luck would have it, in early 2013, I was contracted by Google, to train media houses on the various Google products. For the very first time in the country, we were doing lots of livestream videos on YouTube,” he says.
He adds that in 2013 he hired his first three employees but due to political uncertainty, he let them go. “Without political stability, economic growth cannot be achieved. I pray for an Africa that’s more politically mature so that “Africa rising” can be a constant reality,” he adds.
“Around the same time (circa 2014) our firstborn was conceived. That helped to sober me up more. I sat down at that point, re-strategized and came up with a business plan defining who exactly I wanted to target and what the business was intended to achieve. This worked and I started getting calls from the right people,” Kithinzi says.
He says the company has so far expanded and extended services in Africa with a physical office in Kenya, Uganda and established partnerships in western, central and southern Africa.
“Some of the key highlights so far is Belva Digital making it into the prestigious KPMG Top 100 mid-size company list in our 5th year of operation, and keeping our doors open despite the Covid-19 pandemic,” he says.
Whereas capital remains an issue for most businesses in Africa, I encourage most entrepreneurs to start small and grow it. Maximize the little resources available to grow as much as possible until when the situation changes. Don’t say “I can’t afford it”, rather ask “How can I afford it. Where do I start to get there? And then get going.”
“Lastly, and especially to my fellow youth, you must learn to accept to fail. It’s a stepping-stone to success. Also, be consistent and disciplined in your endeavors,” Kithinzi says, adding: “The internet presents a grand opportunity for growth in Africa, so seize the opportunity.”
To be specific, he says, the Internet is a $180 billion opportunity in Africa, according to a recent report by Google and IFC.
“You must see the challenges we face in Africa as opportunities, and then turn them (opportunities) into sustainable pan-African businesses,” he says.
He adds: “Our ambition is to list in the Nairobi Stock Exchange by the year 2030. In the meantime, we’ll continue to offer top notch marketing services, automation products and training to brands across Africa.”