From Banking to an E-Commerce Start-Up: A Diaspora Story


When Martin Mburu took his first meeting with M-Kopa Solar in 2015, he did not know at the time that he would be leaving his corporate job in the U.S. and moving back to Kenya a month later.

Martin had been on holiday in Kenya when Kenyans Come Home connected him with the executives of the Kenya-based solar energy company. Within a few days, they offered him a job, and a week later he turned in his resignation notice with his employers.

He was soon back in Nairobi, alongside his wife and children, to start work at M-Kopa Solar.

All in all it was a very quick process,” he says.

Martin's decision to move back, like for many returnees, was personal. As the Vice President of Retail Technology of the Toronto-based TD Bank, he thought he would spend his whole professional career with the bank.

But then there was the reality of his parents growing older, plus the strain of continually missing major family events. And he and his wife realized that they wanted their children to experience a Kenyan childhood.

We had young kids and we wanted to give them the feel of growing up in Kenya, ” he says.

This upcoming August, it will be three years since Martin landed in Kenya and he is still working at M-Kopa Solar as the Head of Data Management. But he admits it has been a completely different change of pace from the corporate life that he experienced at TD Bank.

Though M-Kopa Solar had evolved from those early start-up stages when it launched seven years ago, many structures and processes are still being put in place.

It was a change of pace. But I enjoyed a little less structure and much more breadth of responsibility,” he says. “There were new roles opening up so the breadth of responsibilities was quite broad."

And being that it was only his first job in Kenya, he acknowledges that the company made his professional transition easy.

I found a company that was a good fit culture-wise. They are doing very innovative things that make it fast -growing with a very good future," he says. "I work with very smart people in a company with a very international flair.”

And though the novelty of moving back home has since worn off, Martin does not regret the decision. He does not miss the cold winters, his wife has started her own business, and he has been able to reconnect with childhood friends. He also loves the idea of his kids spending time with their cousins whenever they want.

We have carved out a life here,” he says. “We have no intention of moving back.”