Carey Eaton: A Leader

By Malaika Judd  |  June 6, 2014


I joined Savannah Fund in September 2013 and I remember very clearly organising my first Accelerator Mentor session for our second class of startups – with Carey Eaton. Since that day, Carey not only continued to lead and mentor our startups, but also took a great interest in Mentoring me personally as I was still relatively new to the Kenyan tech scene. He introduced me to several tech founders, endowed me with a list of must-see rural Kenyan attractions, lectured me on the safety risks of riding boda boda taxis (and later on riding my own motorbike), and most importantly, challenged my views and goals and helped me set strong personal objectives.

It’s with shock and sadness that we at Savannah Fund say goodbye to one of our mentors and a great leader to the Kenyan (and African) tech startup scene. To say he’s gone too soon or will be missed is an understatement. We can only hope as ambassadors of the tech startup scene, that his legacy lives on and his dreams are realised by the team he has put in place at One Africa Media.

I want to take this opportunity to reflect on some of the lessons he left us with as fellow entrepreneurs, Savannah Fund mentors, and Accelerator startup founders.

Carey Eaton mentoring our third Accelerator Class

Carey Eaton mentoring our third Accelerator Class

Carey had a knack for stumping our Accelerator teams and getting them to think…

He’d ask questions that challenged what they thought was so obvious: What is the relative importance of technology on your platform?

Or test to see how far they’d looked into the future: What’s the biggest department in your company in 10 years? and what will be your biggest capital expenditure?

He’d challenge the rules of expansion: Just because it’s the country next door, doesn’t mean you should expand there. Give me a better reason to move to a neighbouring country?

Or the ability to play against bigger players: If someone else moved in today with a lot of money, how are you going to win?

And he’d question the role of a good CEO: What does it mean to be CEO? What’s the difference between managing 200 people, 2000 people and 20,000 people? And should you focus on managing or leading?

Carey focused on being a leader. For our startups, for us, for his team at One Africa Media, for his family, and for the wider startup community in Africa. We will miss him as a mentor to and for Savannah Fund and we’ll continue to challenge our startups with his stumping questions.

Thank you Carey.


Some memories and quotes from our team:

Carey’s passion for his work and the legacy he leaves behind will always be an inspiration, I always enjoyed the stories he told, he pushed himself out of his comfort zone and treated his business and life as a great adventure. Carey consistently ranked as one of the top mentors of the Savannah Fund Accelerator first 3 classes. Africa, and indeed the world will greatly miss him. – Mbwana, Managing Partner at Savannah Fund

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. – Erik, Partner at Savannah Fund

“We truly appreciated Carey taking his time to mentor us and share his experiences openly with us, it was clear he was passionate about helping the next generation of African entrepreneurs. I will always remember him saying ‘Leadership is having the humility to fire yourself everyday and replace yourself with someone better’ ” – Frederik, Co-Founder of UniSmart

Favourite quote: “You should always recruit people that are sharper than you” – Stephen, Founder of Zevan Ltd

Favourite quote: “If you’re a CEO and you’re still talking to your customers then you are doing a shit job, find someone who is better than you to run your company, there is no shame in that.”  – Prince, Co-Founder of BiGXMedia