The power of the crowd

Crowdfunding platform helps raise money for business that is usually hard to get bank loans for

Thunderfund team: 2nd from left, CEO Patrick Schofield, GIZ Anne Schollmeyer, Fedhi Channan, Matt Robert-Davies, Winter Mutheu, Sakwa Masai and Lenny Kamande
Image by Julie Meyer
In Summary

• Thunderfund takes the harambee spirit and channels it to creatives

Harambee culture is something that Kenyans are very familiar with. For years, we have gotten together to raise money for funerals, weddings and medical bills by utilising our networks.

It was, therefore, no surprise that crowdfunding platforms like M-changa would succeed, as it gave a platform on which to promote and push our causes, particularly important in today's social media age.

Now a new type of crowdfunding is being launched in the country, one that is not reliant on charitable donations but that acts as societal investments for entrepreneurs and creatives.


Led by CEO Patrick Schofield and Matt Roberts-Davies, the crowdfunding platform Thunderfund has launched in Kenya as a tool for those in the creative fields to raise money for their businesses, something that is usually hard to get bank loans for.

Speaking to the Star, Schofield said, “The idea of crowdfunding is already here, and already deep in the culture. Communities are already giving to each other for a lot of different needs, particularly medical and funeral costs. That’s what is so exciting about launching in Kenya.”  

Adding, “This is not a donation, and it’s important for the campaigners to be one of the first ones who understand this so that they can communicate to the audience that this is not a donation.

“They are bringing something into the market, which is not there, that has value. It’s all about creation, not charity.”  

Started in South Africa, Thunderfund is a leading crowdfunding platform that allows individuals or groups to raise money online via small contributions by a large number of people.

Where before people were limited by the people they know, the platform allows you to open up your reach and raise money on a rewards-based, “all or nothing” model. It is the rewards system that differentiates it from other charity-based crowdfunding platforms.

Thunderfund CEO Patrick Schofield and Sakwa Masaai at the launch
Thunderfund CEO Patrick Schofield and Sakwa Masaai at the launch

Roberts-Davies added that Kenya is the ideal place to launch the service due to the way Kenyans pay using M-pesa and mobile banking, combined with the fact that Kenyans are the biggest social media users in Africa.

“We have already seen a huge uptake in Eco maps in the country, in social media, in mobile payments and online activity," he said.

“There’s two key primary drivers between the potential of success and crowdfunding in a country. One is the ease of being able to pay online and the other is social media. Kenya has a well-established social media network. And this is also why M-Pesa is so powerful.”

And it is something that Kenyans are already utilising. Nekesah Wafullah, one of the many ambitious creatives launching her campaign on the platform, explains that many talented entrepreneurs are being neglected in Kenya, and it’s hard to be able to live off your talent or ideas.

“If somebody walked into a bank and said, 'Hey, I’m a musician and I want to be funded', or 'I want a loan to produce my music', they would not listen to them,” she said.

For people like her, crowdfunding creates a possibility to not only raise money but also expose her idea and product directly to the consumer market.

Left Nekesah Wafullah
Left Nekesah Wafullah
Image: Julie Meyer

Wafullah’s campaign is to set up a supermarket for fabrics, an idea she came up with after noticing a lack of quality fabrics in the Kenyan market. The agriculturist spends her spare time developing her business idea, but the inspiration actually came from a trip to Ghana she made for her day job a few years ago.

“I talked to a friend of mine in Ghana and said, “Take me for shopping, take me where I can get good stuff.” And she took me to a market of fabrics, and I just fell in love with the fabrics, and then I bought a few pieces and everybody wanted them. And I thought, 'wow, this is an opportunity!' So I got into it.”

And there were many more like her at the launch supported by GIZ, Goethe Institute, The Nest Collective, Heva Fund, Metta, Docubox and the British Council.

Unlike banks and many other institutions, crowdfunding platforms do not discriminate. One woman is there for her children with severe food allergies, trying to make gluten-free flour more accessible and affordable with her homemade product.

Another man has created an app for people to get a hold of fast and affordable legal help, partaking in the sharing economy trend, which is already familiar to the country through apps like Uber and AirBnB.

Beyond Hoops founder James Kamau
Beyond Hoops founder James Kamau

Another successful campaign unveiled at the launch was run by James Kamau of Beyond Hoops Africa. Through this type of crowdfunding, he is hoping to raise money for his programme, which uses basketball as an intervention to reach out to at-risk youth who don’t get opportunities to excel in education and athletics due to financial barriers.

While Crowdfunding for businesses is not a new thing, with organisations like Go Fund Me and Kickstarter already popular, integrating a platform with the way Kenyans store and use their money allows for a tailored programme.

And with youth unemployment still high, it allows entrepreneurial ideas that would have ordinarily been discarded by banks to have a chance.