Life after the Den

KCB Lions’ Den: Kenya’s Shark Tank Knockoff Stirs Bad Blood

By  |  September 10, 2021

Under the cover of early morning, pre-dawn semi-darkness on a weekday in June 2018, Kai Wanjiru* and a few others boarded a vehicle headed to a studio in readiness for shoot day. It was just past 4 am when he was picked up by the production crew.

No, Wanjiru is no model or showbiz sensation; he was just moments away from getting on the set of an interesting business TV show with a primetime slot in Kenya. And he was ready to stand before prominent business leaders to deliver a pitch he had worked on for weeks.

As the Kenyan entrepreneur alighted from the vehicle upon arrival, it all seemed to be coming together. “Maybe it’s real after all,” he said to himself. But he may have spoken too soon.

Wanjiru may have strutted his stuff and talked up his fashion business well enough to secure a funding offer worth millions of shillings, but that was the beginning of a long period of distress.

By the time the ordeal would be over, he'd have received exactly zero shillings and plenty of financial blows. As it turns out, Wanjiru’s tumultuous experience is the bitter reality of a number of Kenyan entrepreneurs and startup founders who were once wrapped in the fleeting fanfare of appearing to secure significant capital for their business on reality TV.

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