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Carey Eaton: remembering an African tech genius
This article by Erik Hersman originally appeared on White African, a Burn Media publishing partner. If you would like to share your tributes and memories of Carey, please do so on there.
Carey Eaton was one of the true sparks of genius in Kenya’s tech ecosystem… in Africa’s.
Carey Eaton was a friend. He grew up here in Kenya, went to Hillcrest and then bounced back to Australia to eventually become the CIO of SEEK. Back in 2011, when the iHub was just one year old, he came ambling into the space and we grabbed a coffee together. Right away we hit it off, as he mixed deep business instincts and experience with a humble and generous spirit. He started telling me of his plans to take on the Kenyan classifieds markets, the same as he and his partners had done in Australia.
While others talked, he built. And build he did, creating an empire of classifieds websites in Kenya and Nigeria that no one could compete with.
In the years ahead, he would build the powerhouse Cheki brand to takeover the Kenyan vehicle classifieds space (and also Nigeria and 8 other countries), through a combination of persistence, intelligence and a deep understanding of what businesses need here. He also had great success with his job classifieds sites BrighterMonday and Jobberman, and then went on to see an acquisition by One Africa Media and his empire blossomed. Through all of this, he was fair and honest, humble and generous, traits sorely lacking in so many business leaders of our day.
Carey Eaton sitting down with startups in Nairobi, passing on his experience and knowledge
All through this he would carve out hours of his time for younger entrepreneurs. He was a perennial presence at PivotEast, not just to see what was next, but to coach some of the new guys. Carey gave two to three hours of a day for each group of Savannah Fund startups. In fact, that’s where I last saw and talked to him, last week as he spent a few hours at Pete’s Coffee with the three companies currently in the program.
Carey was a friend and peer, someone I could call on to ask questions and think through hard problems with. Today I have that feeling of loss, that untethered feeling that one gets when something you’ve always expected to see and be with you is no longer present.
We’ve lost one of the anchors of the African tech community.