Remembering the Genius and Grace of Carey Eaton

Carey Eaton, with Isis Nyongo and Mbwana Alliy at PivotEast last year

Carey Eaton, with Isis Nyongo and Mbwana Alliy at PivotEast last year

Carey Eaton was one of the true sparks of genius in Kenya’s tech ecosystem… in Africa’s.

“It is with great sadness and regret that we announce the untimely death of Kenyan businessman Carey Eaton, who passed away in tragic circumstances after an armed robbery at a friend’s home in Nairobi in the early hours of this morning.” (more)

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

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 2-3 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 3 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.

Tributes from others

If anyone else would like to add a remembrance, a tribute, to Carey send it to me and I’d be happy to add it here.

“Carey was a wonderful, supportive friend. Kind, gentle and oh so brilliant. that we have been robbed of his presence in our lives is an inconsolable loss.”

Juliana Rotich, Ushahidi

“I could not sleep well last night knowing that we had lost such an inspiration and caring person in Africa.

Carey Eaton proved that with hard work, passion and big ambition you could build an Africa tech powerhouse. When I arrived moved back to East Africa , 2 years ago- one of the biggest challenges I had was to pick great mentors that could inspire young first time startups in the newly formed Savannah Fund Accelerator. Carey Eaton was quickly someone who not only agreed to give time, but often offered suggestions, he also always challenged widely held assumptions and made the sessions entertaining. Many of the startups’ thinking were radically improved in dimensions from hiring, marketplaces to business strategy as well as practical Africa startup tips. Carey Eaton played many roles in the Africa tech ecosystem, from mentor, board member to fearless executer of his business in Africa- a true role model of what is possible.

My last memory of him was hardly 2 weeks ago visiting his newly decorated Nairobi office where you might think you were walking into Silicon Valley’s best startup pads. Paul Bragiel, visiting partner from Silicon Valley, was amazed at the space. My last lunch with Carey was entertaining with important business lessons- like his expansion of Cheki car marketplace into Lagos’s biggest car lot and how he outwitted, not out only compete-ting his competitors. Carey’s unique brilliance crossed boundaries in Africa and that legacy will be greatly remembered by me and Savannah Fund.

RIP- Carey Eaton.”

Mbwana Alliy, Savannah Fund

“As with everyone else, I was shocked and numbed to learn of Carey’s untimely and incomprehensible passing. I had spoken to him just the day before seeking advice on what to about a dodgy car purchase (of all things!) at a local dealer – we bantered for a while on consumer rights in Kenya (another sore topic), how One Africa Media was coming along and how my new baby was doing. In many ways it this brief conversation reminds me of a much longer one that we had sharing a 1-hour cab ride to the airport after Pivot East in Uganda last year. After spending two days together judging the latest ideas coming out of East Africa, we were invigorated by what we saw and spent the cab ride reflecting on how amazing it is to have the chance to play a role in building an industry. I learned a ton about his experiences in Australia, how he got Cheki off the ground, and how he raised capital to build One Media Africa. We talked a lot about his family and how he balances his life with frequent trips to see them and spend time with friends in Nanyuki. I remember getting on the plane impressed by not only how genuine, open and funny he was but also that he was a person living his life’s purpose. Not only was he making life better for thousands of people through One Media Africa’s products, but he was enjoying his life, spending time with the people he loved. You could feel that content and happiness in him – perhaps it’s the grace that many others have mentioned. Carey has been a generous mentor to me in my work and always reminds me that it’s certainly not everything. Pivot East is just around the corner and I still have not accepted that I won’t see his big grin there this time.”

Isis Nyong’o Madison

“Carey was a board member at Kopo Kopo but more importantly he was a friend. He was someone with the guts, the spirit and the brains to guide Kopo Kopo through rough times and to keep Ben and I focused on the grander vision. His loss is personally devastating. I will do everything I can do ensure his spirit will remain and grow.

Carey was just getting started. Now, it’s on us to keep it going.”

Dylan Higgins, Kopo Kopo

“Carey was one interesting guy – who always had a ready smile and would have a friendly chat for a few minutes (even as he tried to rememebr when we’d last met). When I last saw him at the launch of their new offices in Nairobi, he was very happy, and more so for the team who had worked hard to get the event and place set up.

Cheki is the site for which he’s known and it’s hands down the best web site for car sellers and buyers. When I seriously used it, it was timely – and whenever a new car was posted there, it was easy to find and the directions, and description matched. The Cheki team were responsive, they’d even call to ask how the car sale process was going and offer tips on how to improve the ads for better responses from buyers. Even two years since I last had to buy/sell a car, I’m still hooked to it and I’ve never deactivated my e-mail alert so I can still see the cool way they interact with car buyers & sellers.

I think I once asked him how I could contribute to the free Cheki site as it was so useful. He said they had put up a tiny “Donate via M-pesa” button on the Cheki site due to public demand, but clearly he had a bigger goal in mind than even building the largest online car marketplace site in East or West Africa.

Carey made running a business look effortless. Later he was part of an informal initiative that tried to help other tech entrepreneurs sort out the perennial challenge of accessing vital working capital on friendly terms.

My condolences to his family, and he is missed by many friends.

#RIPCarey

Limo Taboi, @Bankelele

“I never met Carey Eaton in person but I interacted with him digitally.

With all the noise and hype about Silicon Savannahs, Carey was one of the few who actually walked the talk and built something of substance.

He once told me the success of Cheki was not the website – a website is just a window into a business.

That is the sort of thinking that led him to scale heights where it was not known that there were heights to scale.

The list of visionaries I admire is a short one, and Carey was the head of that list.

A luta continua, good sir.

Rest easy

#RIPCarey”

Conrad Akunga, Innova

“There are too many things I could say in praise of Carey. More than I could write here. He was a super generous guy. He had a true sense of passion and purpose for technology and Kenya that was simply inspiring and infectious. What Carey accomplished through his technology businesses in Africa over the last 5 years or so is mind blowing. Where many talk, Carey just did it. Pragmatic and effective execution seemed to be his domain. As a friend I knew from my high school days over 20 years ago in Nairobi I will miss him. May he rest in peace.”

Moses Kemibaro (also see his blog post on Carey)

“I felt horrid when Carey’s mum told me about his untimely death! More mad about why they would rake a way a brilliant, easy going and fun loving Carey. I first knew Carey when I was a kid, my parents and his parents were then fellow leaders in the Nairobi Baptist church of which his dad Michael Eaton was one of the founding pastors. Later, when my husband and I moved to Australia, I would attend his wedding (small and family centered with his friends) and later re-meet in Kenya when I returned before him and he followed later.

He always knew what he wanted to do. I remember asking him about visiting iHub and mLab and everything else that was getting out on ICT in Kenya. He was passionate, easy going and had no airs. The Carey I will miss was someone who always willing to share. He loved his family and always spoke to his kids on skype if he was not with them. I miss him, and am mad at our ruthless Kenyans who won’t work hard but instead steal others thunder. Carey, you will be missed, but I know you even with all you had achieved, you had found rest high above in God. May we even here remember there is life in Christ. God bless.”

Dr. Monica Kerretts Makau

“I met Carey through an introduction by Erik. At the time we were a bunch of tech entrepreneurs in Nairobi trying to set up an informal network to help each others business weather the storms and make it. Carey had a ready smile and a hunger to know what your business was up to and how he could help.

We talked about our ventures and I remember his insights on Cheki, Brighter Monday and Jobberman. He reminded me of the magic of the web. And how we all keep chasing it and trying to make it. He had successfully navigated the earlier stages of the journey, and a bright future was in store for him and his ventures. His passing has robbed us of a tech leading light in Africa. We have to keep going on. Rest in peace brother. You will be missed.”

Joshua Wanyama, Pamoja Media

“Carey was the true embodiment described in “The Man in the Arena”. It was such an honour to meet such a smart, energetic, fun guy who made everything look easy.Carey forever will be with those he affected the most, and his family will be in our thoughts and prayers.”

Kahenya, Able Wireless

“It is with great sadness that I find myself writing here, not only have we lost a brilliant man who was taken too soon, but also a genuine friend to so many of us.

My first encounter with him was in 2012. We had just launched buyrentkenya.com and he dropped me an email asking if I was interested in meeting up. He had a genuine interest in what we were doing and was ever ready to offer advice and guidance. He continued to check in with us as we grew, and when the opportunity arose to join One Africa Media, knowing that Carey was there made the decision very easy.

As a young entrepreneur every conversation with Carey was priceless. You would leave every meeting feeling more focused and confident. He had an innate gift of conveying his immense knowledge and business acumen through his warm and friendly persona.

May you rest in peace Carey. Thank you for all you taught us. For the laughs and the jokes. The advice and the guidance. We miss you and hope we make you proud when we finish the work you started.

#ripcarey”

Jamie Pujara, BuyRentKenya

“I feel very privileged (and a bit unworthy) of the time I got to spend with Carey in both a professional and personal capacity through the last few years. What an absurdly fantastic father, captain, friend, CEO, brother, colleague, inspiration, human. He was all of these things and more, and my favorite part of Carey was that he was wonderfully frustrating. He would answer my questions before I even had a chance to ask and continually ask me “but why?” when I announced that I was certain I had finally uncovered the real problem. He would come back from business trips with new best friends, new companies, and tales of clever offensive strikes against competitors. He would invest time he clearly didn’t have into me — into all of us. The thing I admired most about Carey was that he was raw and real and made no apologies for who he was, but always admitted his failures. I hope we can all help Carey live on through us.”

– Jess Shorland, Cheki

“I have been too shocked to say anything until now.

Many have talked about Carey’s intelligence, warmth and humility. About his tremendous professional success, and his passion for Kenya and Africa. About the mentorship role that he played for the entire Nairobi tech community. And he was all that for me too, for sure.

In our last conversation, just a few hours before that gun shot, I had told him I wanted to discuss some business items with him. “Go ahead”, he said. “I will when I see you”, I responded.

We were supposed to have dinner that night.

We would have talked about business, yes. And I might have made some big decisions based almost solely on his advice – that’s how much I trusted it. But from our first meeting, it had not really been about work. We had recognized each other: we were of the same tribe. Adventurers, restless travelers, risk takers, creative thinkers. We had found each other.

It’s sometimes hard – impossible even – to talk about my life as a nomad entrepreneur to some of my oldest friends. It is so strange really, hopping from city to city trying to get your business off the ground, away from your family or things that might tether you to the ground. But at the same time it is so exhilarating to be living exactly the life you want, when so many people have compromised on their dreams. Sometimes you are so obscenely happy that you don’t dare tell anyone. Carey and I shared that feeling, and the relief to have found a partner in crime.

We used to talk about what we wanted to do once we’d be able to step aside from our day-to-day, sometimes prosaic and often stressful, empire-building responsibilities. The places we wanted to go, a specific restaurant we wanted to visit together in Italy. And also about love and relationships and all these things that have absolutely nothing to do with work.

He could read my mind – which is why, even if there are many things I was not in a hurry to tell him because I was expecting our friendship to last forever, I think that he already knew.

Carey had a crazy life. His achievements are well known. The tragedies he had to endure, a lot less. Nothing he did was boring or average or pedestrian. Even in death, he surprised us all. And as someone who believes that we should all thrive to make our own life the most exciting story we’ve ever heard, I can certainly say that he succeeded.”

Marie Lora-Mungai, Buni TV

Carey Eaton at the iHub, a regular

Carey Eaton at the iHub, a regular

(As much as I’m sad, I’m also angry about his murder. This type of violence only happens because of an endemic corruption in the gov’t (That’s from President Kenyatta to the Nairobi Governor and down), a ridiculously low-paid police force, and a basic “shrug your shoulders” culture of tolerance for crime at all levels. But, this isn’t the time to go deep into that, it’s a time to remember Carey for who he was.)

31 thoughts on “Remembering the Genius and Grace of Carey Eaton

  1. Walu

    Its crazy, the way Nairobians are being wasted by thugs, terrorists and politicians.

    1. hash Post author

      @Walu – I agree. However, I’d like to focus comments on remembering Carey for now, so do you have any thoughts on him?

      1. Monica Kerretts Makau

        I felt horrid when Carey’s mum told me about his untimely death! More mad about why they would rake a way a brilliant, easy going and fun loving Carey. I first knew Carey when I was a kid, my parents and his parents were then fellow leaders in the Nairobi Baptist church of which his dad Michael Eaton was one of the founding pastors. Later, when my husband and I moved to Australia, I would attend his wedding (small and family centered with his friends) and later re-meet in Kenya when I returned before him and he followed later.

        He always knew what he wanted to do. I remember asking him about visiting iHub and mLab and everything else that was getting out on ICT in Kenya. He was passionate, easy going and had no airs. The Carey I will miss was someone who always willing to share. He loved his family and always spoke to his kids on skype if he was not with them. I miss him, and am mad at our ruthless Kenyans who won’t work hard but instead steal others thunder. Carey, you will be missed, but I know you even with all you had achieved, you had found rest high above in God. May we even here remember there is life in Christ. God bless.

          1. hash Post author

            Monica, I think I did make the right edits. Let me know if anything needs to be changed.

  2. Mbwana Alliy

    I could not sleep well last night knowing that we had lost such an inspiration and caring person in Africa.

    Carey Eaton proved that with hard work, passion and big ambition you could build an Africa tech powerhouse. When I arrived moved back to East Africa , 2 years ago- one of the biggest challenges I had was to pick great mentors that could inspire young first time startups in the newly formed Savannah Fund Accelerator. Carey Eaton was quickly someone who not only agreed to give time, but often offered suggestions, he also always challenged widely held assumptions and made the sessions entertaining. Many of the startups’ thinking were radically improved in dimensions from hiring, marketplaces to business strategy as well as practical Africa startup tips. Carey Eaton played many roles in the Africa tech ecosystem, from mentor, board member to fearless executer of his business in Africa- a true role model of what is possible.

    My last memory of him was hardly 2 weeks ago visiting his newly decorated Nairobi office where you might think you were walking into Silicon Valley’s best startup pads. Paul Bragiel, visiting partner from Silicon Valley, was amazed at the space. My last lunch with Carey was entertaining with important business lessons- like his expansion of Cheki car marketplace into Lagos’s biggest car lot and how he outwitted, not out only compete-ting his competitors. Carey’s unique brilliance crossed boundaries in Africa and that legacy will be greatly remembered by me and Savannah Fund.

    RIP- Carey Eaton.

  3. Dylan

    Carey was a board member at Kopo Kopo but more importantly he was a friend. He was someone with the guts, the spirit and the brains to guide Kopo Kopo through rough times and to keep Ben and I focused on the grander vision. His loss is personally devastating. I will do everything I can do ensure his spirit will remain and grow.

    Carey was just getting started. Now, it’s on us to keep it going.

  4. Bankelele

    Carey was one interesting guy – who always had a ready smile and would have a friendly chat for a few minutes (even as he tried to rememebr when we’d last met). When I last saw him at the launch of their new offices in Nairobi, he was very happy, and more so for the team who had worked hard to get the event and place set up.

    Cheki is the site for which he’s known and it’s hands down the best web site for car sellers and buyers. When I seriously used it, it was timely – and whenever a new car was posted there, it was easy to find and the directions, and description matched. The Cheki team were responsive, they’d even call to ask how the car sale process was going and offer tips on how to improve the ads for better responses from buyers. Even two years since I last had to buy/sell a car, I’m still hooked to it and I’ve never deactivated my e-mail alert so I can still see the cool way they interact with car buyers & sellers.

    I think I once asked him how I could contribute to the free Cheki site as it was so useful. He said they had put up a tiny “Donate via M-pesa” button on the Cheki site due to public demand, but clearly he had a bigger goal in mind than even building the largest online car marketplace site in East or West Africa.

    Carey made running a business look effortless. Later he was part of an informal initiative that tried to help other tech entrepreneurs sort out the perennial challenge of accessing vital working capital on friendly terms.

    My condolences to his family, and he is missed by many friends.

    #RIPCarey

  5. roomthinker

    I never met Carey Eaton in person but I interacted with him digitally.

    With all the noise and hype about Silicon Savannahs, Carey was one of the few who actually walked the talk and built something of substance.

    He once told me the success of Cheki was not the website – a website is just a window into a business.

    That is the sort of thinking that led him to scale heights where it was not known that there were heights to scale.

    The list of visionaries I admire is a short one, and Carey was the head of that list.

    A luta continua, good sir.

    Rest easy

    #RIPCarey

  6. Moses Kemibaro

    There are too many things I could say in praise of Carey. More than I could write here. He was a super generous guy. He had a true sense of passion and purpose for technology and Kenya that was simply inspiring and infectious. What Carey accomplished through his technology businesses in Africa over the last 5 years or so is mind blowing. Where many talk, Carey just did it. Pragmatic and effective execution seemed to be his domain. As a friend I knew from my high school days over 20 years ago in Nairobi I will miss him. May he rest in peace.

  7. Elaine

    You were an inspiration. A mentor and great friend.

    We will make sure your legacy lives on. This is surely not the end but the beginning of an epic outcome.

    I’ll miss our hearty laughs in your office and the way you’d light up when I told you some good news about Cheki!

    RIP my friend.

  8. David Gikandi

    I met Carey a couple of times and spoke with him via Skype so I did not know him all that well. What I do know from those few interactions was that he was a brilliant genius who gave everyone a chance. He game me a chance when I didn’t even know him, just because a friend introduced us. He went beyond his way to connect me with people, advise and encourage me. He is an amazing man, and Carey, I wish you great love and a great journey beyond our plane, and THANK YOU for the gifts you left behind.

  9. Johann Jenson

    Carey was such a dude. Even before SleepOut had a name, he was my first mentor. I vividly recall our corridor phone conversations when I was still working at the UN in Nairobi. A newcomer to the tech world, I was still trying to distill what might be possible in African tech and Carey spoke to me as a peer openly sharing ideas and opportunities. His humility and generosity made me question more than once whether he was just playing mind tricks on me or if he was really just that nice of a guy.

    His untimely passing leaves me overwhelmed with sadness. My thoughts are with his family which I know was so dear to him.

    Carey gave me the confidence to dream big and ultimately take bold leaps. I will forever be grateful for the genius and optimism he shared with me. I hope that his memory will continue to inspire future generations of great African entrepreneurs.

  10. Pingback: Carey Eaton – A Leader — Savannah Fund

  11. Malaika

    It seems unreal that I was at lunch with him just over a week ago. We talked about strategy and expansion for One Africa Media, our common love for the thrill of Nigeria, new expansion plans for tech in Ethiopia, rules of the road for motorbikes, our next big vacations, Caribbean rum, and life goals. It just doesn’t seem fair that he wont be around to realise any of those discussions… I still can’t believe it.

  12. Josiah Mugambi

    I didn’t know Carey well, but hearing of his sudden passing on was really saddening (and maddening). His passing has left a huge void has been left that will be felt particularly by his family, but also by the people he led at his various businesses, by the many entrepreneurs, techies, startups he inspired and the tech community beyond Kenya. May his legacy live on. Fare thee well.

  13. Pingback: Thoughts And Memories Of Carey Eaton - TechCabal

  14. Jennifer Mwangi

    Am an avid reader of the ‘whiteafrican.com’ blog posts and even though I never knew Carey, from what I have read, he was a wonderful person and savvy businessman. May he rest in peace and I pray that his family may receive comfort from above during this difficult time.

    I was wondering if I can make a suggestion of creating an annual memorial for Carey with a goal of raising awareness on areas that his family and friends may prefer or creating a fund to honor him? I hope that this way, his memory will live on.

  15. Jamie Pujara

    It is with great sadness that I find myself writing here, not only have we lost a brilliant man who was taken too soon, but also a genuine friend to so many of us.

    My first encounter with him was in 2012. We had just launched buyrentkenya.com and he dropped me an email asking if I was interested in meeting up. He had a genuine interest in what we were doing and was ever ready to offer advice and guidance. He continued to check in with us as we grew, and when the opportunity arose to join One Africa Media, knowing that Carey was there made the decision very easy.

    As a young entrepreneur every conversation with Carey was priceless. You would leave every meeting feeling more focused and confident. He had an innate gift of conveying his immense knowledge and business acumen through his warm and friendly persona.

    May you rest in peace Carey. Thank you for all you taught us. For the laughs and the jokes. The advice and the guidance. We miss you and hope we make you proud when we finish the work you started.

    #ripcarey

  16. jke

    I am saddened by this tragic loss of someone who not only gave so much back to the community but also managed to achieve something within a relatively short span of time that some of us can only dream of. Let’s hope that some of (t)his positive energy may remain in the community and also inspire others.

  17. Ronnie

    I was shocked and sickened when I heard of Carey’s tragic death. Having just relocated back to Kenya and started working with the guys at cheki, I was looking forward to his insights on the Kenya and Africa’s Tech scene and invaluable mentorship in business. I will surely miss that. A person is more than their business achievements and Carey was definitely that. We have lost a great human being and I feel for his family. #ripcarey

  18. Pingback: A Tribute to Carey Eaton

  19. The_Creative

    When someone dies, I hear a lot of people say – He has left a big gap that can never be filled. It is usually such a cliche but I can’t think of more fitting words at this time. I had never met or interacted with Mr. Eaton. But as a techie who has been toying around with the idea of a startup and a consumer who had been looking into buying a car, I had great admiration for the work of his hands/mind. Cheki is possibly the easiest (to use) consumer-targeted site in Kenya. As a techie, I admired that they had made it so user-friendly without compromising on its effectiveness. And as a consumer, I admired the fact that it had brought the purchase of a car at my fingertips (whereas before you would have had to go through unscrupulous middlemen and tedious bureaucracy via imports). It is clear that he was a doer but even more than that, he was a visionary. There is no telling just how many more innovations and startups he would have come up with or directly/indirectly helped to start. His ideas were certainly influencing me as a techie with my own startup ideas. And so, much as we mourn him, I want to thank him. Thank him for the inspiration for my own ideas. Thank him for making life easier for me as a consumer. Thank him for what I view as a life well-lived. For when you plant a positive seed in another’s mind, there is no telling how many lives you are changing. There is no telling how many lives he has indirectly impacted just by being a mentor to the techie youths and startups in this country, how many lives he has directly/indirectly changed for the better by being an employer and encouraging other startups. Because you never know, sometimes it is the spark you inspire in others that goes on to change an entire generation and society. I am thankful and I hope that even as his family and friends mourn him, they can find it in them to focus on celebrating his life and seek solace there. My condolences to all his family, friends and business associates. Sorry for the long post. As I end, I am reminded of a book title by one Ken Sarowiwa: Africa kills her sun. But as you stated, that is a story for another day.

    1. hash Post author

      Andrew, great piece. Since most people don’t have access to FT.com articles here, I might post a bit of it, if that’s okay.

      Some snippets:

      Legacy of an African web pioneer
      By Andrew Hill

      What first struck me about this tragedy – apart from the obvious, awful loss suffered by the 41-year-old’s wife and four children – was that it cruelly underlined a point Carey had made at last month’s St Gallen Symposium, in a session I chaired. Showing a slide of the despairing mothers of the Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram, he urged his audience not to judge Africa by its sometimes lurid headlines. That he should have become one of those headlines is a truly terrible irony.

      So let me try to restore some of the optimism he conveyed about Africa, by passing on what else I learnt from him about a continent with enormous entrepreneurial promise.

      “Eaton urged us not to judge the continent by its sometimes lurid headlines”

      As someone else who knew Carey said last week, the Australian-born Kenyan was not just a successful entrepreneur, he also had a deep understanding of Africa’s history. To make it there, he told the conference, you need to be wily. You must tailor your product to local traditions and politics. To crack the Nigerian second-hand car market, for instance, his group had to negotiate with Lebanese gangsters who control a vast used-car lot just across the border in Benin. In another country, where legislation seemed to ban online marketplaces, the company launched an online jobs exchange first – successfully backing a hunch that no politician would ever outlaw a site encouraging employment.

      I met Carey Eaton only once. But it was enough to convince me that many African entrepreneurs will follow where he led, inspired by his example and advice to realise the potential of the continent he loved.

  20. Robert Kimani

    There are no fitting words to describe the man that Carey was and i say this as one of the few, fortunate souls that got the opportunity to interact with him, on close to a daily basis. I could write a 200 plus page book, easy, on the man i knew for about 2 years yet, still feel inadequate, because his effects on me will last me, my entire life. So i will strive to tell you about Carey, the man i knew in about a page or so and the lessons he taught me about business.

    Lesson 1: If you want to bring about a revolution, you do not do it alone. Building the capacity of others (tech-preneurs, business start-ups) is paramount. Once you have achieved this, the rest follows and you not only end up with a revolution, you also create a legacy. This lesson is testament in itself, if you look at the number of people that Carey touched. He lived to build people and gave of himself that others might succeed.

    Lesson 2: There is no wrong approach to anything. He taught me that there was no wrong way to approach a situation, there was just another/ other options. If you looked close enough among’st the other options, you would get the option that “best fit” the situation. During a debate on matters marketing just last Wednesday (that fateful day) he asked this of a Twenty something year old colleague who was having challenges understanding which demographic to address. “If you were to have a party, do you invite all the 90year old’s you know, the 80year old’s, the 70year old’s…” Needless to say, he didn’t get the chance to approach her age bracket, the point was made.

    Lesson 3: Money is not everything in business: Most businesses run after the profit margin and forget the customer. Carey was a firm believer in making the customer happy first and worrying about the money later; that was the secondary concern. He was not about chasing profit margins, he knew in his mind that once the customer received value, they wouldn’t be too concerned about paying for it.

    Carey, I will surely miss your Charisma, your business “father figure,” my mentor, my friend. I will miss your ability to make simplicity from complexity and how you brought things closer home for me and for us, by using easy to relate to analogies when we felt “brave” enough, to over analyse a situation. Most of all i will miss your quick wit. You were an amazing giver. That is your greatest legacy. #ripcarey

    Robert Kimani
    BrighterMonday

  21. edwin

    ‘Hey Edwin, Sorry I’m out of Nairobi again with little roaming credit – sorry to hear you are stuck – I’m afraid I don’t have any suggestions off the top off the top of my head but let me have a think here and see what I can come up with’
    It will be done old friend…No, now it has to be done!
    Happy trails mate.

    Edwin Ichoroh

  22. Kenneth Makau

    I never got the chance to know Carey as I would have loved to but the few times we interacted were pleasant and he struck me as simple and down to earth.

    The last time we talked he was busy with media showing them round the office and I sat quietly in a corner pretending to be one of them.

    We also joked that we found MH 370 in his office and he smiled.

    RIP Carey

  23. Ahmed Maawy

    I never met this guy. But I have to admit. Its one thing to have a successful and accomplished businessman. There are a ton a a dozen. But to have an accomplished businessman who would be approachable, simple, down to earth, that is 1 in a million. So yes, indeed, huge loss for the society.

    Sincere condolences to the family of such a great man deserving of a high degree of respect for nothing more than an noble character. Society needs people like this, especially at such times.

  24. Segeni

    Many people talk. Few walk the talk.

    Carey Eaton was one of the few.

    Almost 2 years ago, Carey sent me an email, introduced himself and wondered if I would be interested in meeting up with him to talk ‘shop’. It was an email that came out of the blue.

    Although I had already heard of his growing company, Cheki (through numerous google adwords he placed all over the internet) I was intrigued by who he was and why he would want to meet.

    We planned on a short lunch meeting. It lasted much longer than the time we gave ourselves. Our conversations spanned many topics, but mostly centered on his passion: the opportunities for internet businesses in Kenya and Africa as a whole. He had a burning desire to take advantage of the opportunities the internet was making possible throughout Africa. I was talking with the embodiment of entrepreneurial hunger and success. He had perspectives and insights to online businesses that were very refreshing. He made me feel positive about our industry and confident of its future. It was rare to hear of someone like him, leave a lucrative career in a developed economy and set up shop here. He made me feel we were moving somewhere. He was a fresh of breath air in our young internet industry. That first meeting we had was memorable.

    He followed up later, wanting to know more about my business, MamaMikes – and the opportunities I imagined now and in the future. He thought I should talk to one of his investors, a big private equity mogul based in New York. I thought he was joking. Why would someone running a very big private equity firm be interested in hearing my story? Carey proved me wrong, and astonishingly set up the phone call.

    Who did such things? Who took interest in small businesses with such enthusiasm? He did. And he did it for many others too.

    Many times, I ran into Carey at the Ihub giving talks, or mentoring groups of young minds who were eager to learn more about internet businesses. He shared his time, experience and wisdom with many, without asking for anything in return. Time is our biggest resource. And Carey naturally shared his time, touching many, like myself in unforgettable ways.

    His legacy lives on in the minds of those who interacted with him. From the small to the very big.

    His big and bright smile. His humor. His easy going nature will be remembered for a long time.

    May God bless his family. And keep them strong for the journey they will continue without him.

    RIP Carey.

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