Nyambura Kamau, 30

Aerospace Engineer and Founder

Viwanda Africa

Nyambura, founder of Viwanda Group, is Silicon Valley investor’s dream, a rolling juggernaut of flywheels.

The aerospace engineer, a graduate from the University of Sheffield (UK), decided to pursue her lofty engineering goals at 14.

“I never dreamt of working around space as an entrepreneur. I knew getting a job at National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was the apex, the absolute zenith.”

Now, Viwanda, her brainchild, is supporting innovation in aerospace, manufacturing, and medical technologies. In aerospace, it deploys Artificial Intelligence solutions for preventative aircraft maintenance, mitigating accidents, and improving spares inventory management.

"I never stop being a girl. I remain authentic. I walk into a room as myself, and that’s my strength."

Her firm is young made of a team with over 40 years combined experience.

With work that involves a lot of algorithms, has she ever made a calculated mistake? “Failure for me is an everyday thing. I tried solving some supplier problems on my own without involving my boss, that was a bad decision. There is a reason structures are in place.”

These and more leadership lessons have proved invaluable in her entrepreneurship journey.

She, is, however, adamant that she is not a start-up. Where do young people go wrong about entrepreneurship? “The over-romanticising of work. The unicorns of Silicon Valley are rare if any. Entrepreneurship is not romantic, it’s sweat and bone, blood and pain.”

“The market tells you what they want. Not you telling the market what it should want.”

“And then going it alone, I’ve learned partners can propel you further, and make things much easier and faster. The key is to find the right people.”

As a leader, the hardest part has been “Letting go and delegating. Giving my team creative licence.”

How has her relationship with money evolved? “In the beginning, I had an extravagant lifestyle, quickly followed by a phase of my business needing money. It was a miserly perspective. And now, making money grow, learning how money works. I read a book (Financial Intelligence) that shaped my money journey,”

Who has had the biggest impact on her life? “It’s been a series of mentors and encounters. I am who I am because of my community.”

The business has taught her that there is money everywhere. You simply need to find out how to tap it. Every person has a coin to pay as long as you are adding value to their life or resolving their pain points.

“I never stop being a girl. I remain authentic. I walk into a room as myself, and that’s my strength.”

What’s the best piece of wisdom she’s ever gotten? “If you are the smartest person in the room, it’s time to leave the room.” Has she ever been the smartest person in the room? “I like to challenge myself so I prefer to read the room first.”

Eddy Ashioya