Julian Kyula is the Group CEO and Co-founder of Mobile Decisioning (MODE), Africa’s emergency prepaid airtime payments firm.
Like many startups, Mobile Decisioning (MODE) started small in April 2010, now 5 years later, the baby start-up has grown into a behemoth and carved a promising niche in the mobile money market. The company provides nano financing in nanoseconds. It is plugged into most of the phone networks and banking platforms to be able to provide customers with minimum amounts of advances, cash advances, and airtime advances. From lending airtime, MODE has since advanced into higher heights in terms of facilities or utilities, providing airtime, power, water, television and even nano insurance; with the aim of creating lasting solutions across the world.
At the helm, one would expect to see a highly educated young African who learned the ropes in business quite early in life, but then, you may just be shocked.
In 2001, Jullian Kiyula dropped out of the University, where he was studying for a degree in business. For him, the system was inadequate and couldn’t satisfy his curious entrepreneurial mind.
“I simply walked out of school. I did not agree with what they were teaching and from my interactions with the real business world, I didn’t think that their lessons would remain relevant for long,” he said.
Over the next four years, he would work with an American corporate of over 4,000 employees as a Senior Operations Analyst, where he was involved in credit profiling, data analysis and running algorithms for different large organizations. Armed with his renewed love for business, Kiyula returned to his home country Kenya in 2005 with a firm resolve to revivify the local business environment by setting up the country’s first data company — Quest Holdings.
To his disappointment, the business failed. Kiyula immediately learned his lessons and launched unto greater heights. In May 2010, he founded MoDe with his partner, Mr. Josphat Kinyua. Interestingly, his past failures opened up an amazing vista and became instrumental in pulling huge investments into his new business.
“Some investors told me that the only reason they were putting their money in MoDe was because I had failed. They could not trust anyone who did not understand failure and could not learn from it,” he recounts.
Now five years later, the company leads the track with an impressive margin. At MODE, there are no working hours. Employees report to work as it is convenient provided they complete assigned tasks within the deadline. Mr. Kyula is a firm believer in “work-life balance”, which provides workers as much time as possible with their families. The boss also boasts an unorthodox recruitment process, which has little or no regard for Curriculum Vitae or interviews. He only chats with potential employees for about three minutes and then decides if they are fit for the job.
“It is about attitude and chemistry. I do not want to work with a qualified snob. I don’t care if you have 20 degrees from Harvard, If you come here and put a dent in our culture, then we don’t need you.”
MODE is the firm behind Airtel’s Kopa Credo service as well as similar offerings on the MTN network across Africa. The company operates in 16 different countries, each with their own taxation and regulatory regimes, having enlisted a number of tax and legal advisers with a huge knowledge of the global markets.
“We provide the platform to telecom companies and guarantee the risk of customers borrowing the airtime,” says Mr. Kyula.
For the boss, it’s just incredible how much success the company has recorded in just five years of its existence.
“We dreamt about it but we never envisaged the possibility of it being used by 105 million people. And we are now in the middle of discussions with a funder which could be the largest investment in Africa. And we never imagined that the business would’ve grown this far. We are still excited at the prospect of further growth may be reaching two billion people.”
In 2014, MODE was listed as a Future Fifty Company in the United Kingdom, a feat that has multiplied its growth in the European market and increased its global presence.
Also in 2012, 2014 and 2015 Business Daily recognized Julian Kyula among the youngest influential leaders in the East Africa region through the popular publication of ‘TOP 40 MEN UNDER 40’.
Julian Kyula is also the founder and Senior Pastor of The Purpose Centre Church in Nairobi where together with his wife, Amanda, they are committed to touching lives, impacting communities and raising Kingdom Champions in the marketplace.