Founder Feature: Winnie Akoko

Sylvana Lewin | Wednesday, January 10th, 2018

This week we sat down with Anitrack CEO Winnie Akoko. Read on to learn why Oprah Winfrey is her inspiration and why she believes it’s important to always ask for help!

 

Where are you from?

I am from the Western part of Kenya.

 

Tell me a bit about your company.

Anitrack is a livestock management software. We help farmers by tracking the health status of their animals and checking their movements in and out of the corals. Through our software if they have any alerts, we are able to link them with veterinarians.

 

Why did you come to MEST?

I came to MEST because of curiosity. I heard about MEST while I was working. I was in charge of partnership engagement. A woman came in and while we were talking she mentioned MEST. When I checked the website, I was really impressed. It stood out to me and sounded interesting. I had always wanted to learn more about tech and the ecosystem, so I decided to apply.

 

How did MEST help get you to where you are today?

The training is world class. There’s a big difference between how I am today and how I was when I came to MEST. You know that you are in a space that only a few occupy. We have EITs from Kenya, South Africa, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Nigeria and you get to learn from each other. Your mind becomes very open, and you can work with different teams from different backgrounds. On Anitrack, I am the only Kenyan and it’s working out really well.

 

During the program, MEST brings in guest speakers on Wednesdays, and that really helped shape our minds. People are brought in who have succeeded, and they inspire us a lot. It gives you hope. From day one, you know that the projects you are doing aren’t just classwork. Everything that you are doing is going to reflect how you work when you leave MEST.

 

What do you wish you had known as an EIT? Do you have any advice for this year’s group?

From day one at orientation, Jorn said that one year was going to go so fast. When you’re still in the program, some things seem to go fast and some things don’t. However, when the year ends, you realize just how fast it went by and how much you have changed and how much you have learned. I wish I knew that the year was going to be very fast just like Jorn said!

 

For the EITs, I would like to encourage them to learn from everyone while they still have the time. Don’t just focus on researching business. Take the time to learn about other EITs and the fellows. There is something to be learned from everyone and everything that you see at MEST. Be open minded! MEST picked the best and there is always something to be learned.

 

What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced while at the MEST training program and the MEST Incubator? How did you get past these challenges?

When we were doing Capstones at MEST, we knew from the start that the ideas we came with were going to change and that the teams would change depending on how things worked. Everyone when they come to MEST has an idea of what they want to do. Then you get here and you have a new team and you have to come up with new ideas. You quickly get into it though and you have an idea! You go out and you do market validation. The people you talk to love your idea and you want to build it, but it’s just a project of 4 weeks then you have to change. It was hard talking to customers and then knowing that you were going to have to change projects. I felt bad. I spoke to the fellows because I’m someone who doesn’t like starting something and not finishing it. They showed me a good way to approach people with these projects and make it clear that it might not happen so you can still build credibility.

 

At MINC, every day has been a learning experience. My number one challenge has been people management. We are a team of three plus one intern. I have to manage the team and push even when things aren’t going well. I have to find ways to make things work, which can be quite challenging.

 

What would you say is your greatest success?

My ability to recognize that I don’t have all the answers to everything that I’m working on. Right after funding, I knew that this was a big thing for me and I’d never been in a similar position. I decided that if I’m stuck in any way, I’m going to ask because at MEST you have people who have different skill sets and you can always get answers when you need them. The big thing is just to ask when you need something.

 

What’s your favorite food?

Chapati and fried liver with spinach. I like it when my mum prepares it!

 

What do you like most about Ghana?

I like the people. Ghanaians are amazing. They are very relaxed and welcoming. There was a time when I was going home and I got the wrong TroTro. I got off at a stop far from my house. I started talking with this woman and she ended up paying for me even though I had planned on doing that for her!

 

What is your favorite memory from your time at MEST?

BBB. It was the first experience we had when we first came in. You come into the program and you’re given a small amount of money and told to find something to do to increase the money you have. We were divided into teams, but we didn’t even know each other! From that, I learned a lot even just about Ghanaian culture when it comes to business.

 

Do you have any books that you would suggest?

  1. Blue Ocean Strategy  by Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne
  2. Good To Great by Jim Collins
  3. The Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
  4. Rework by Jason Fried

 

What is your favorite tech company? Why?

I use Trello a lot. I do project management for the team and Trello helps me a lot. It’s the number one thing that I click on when I open my laptop, just to see what tasks have been done. There are also a lot of chrome extensions you can pin to Trello to help you manage your tasks. It’s the first thing I use when I wake up and the last thing I use before I go to sleep.

 

Who/what inspires you?

I inspire myself because of my experiences. Someone that stands out for me, though, is Oprah Winfrey because of her background. Everyone knows how she has evolved. Her ability to seize an opportunity when it presents itself is inspiring; most people don’t do that.