Scaling Expertise and Scaling Impact


Tonee Ndungu founded Kytabu, an education technology company that provides digital textbooks and educational resources for students in Kenya. Tonee won $150,000 in the 2015 African Entrepreneurship Award’s Education category to scale Kytabu and increase its impact. Kytabu meets the need in East Africa for affordable, up-to-date educational content for students, teachers, and parents.


Tonee, a serial entrepreneur, is not only succeeding with Kytabu, but, the innovator is scaling his brand as a consultant and motivational speaker on education and innovation. The results: better education, inspired clients, and positive impact on Kenya’s education sector.


Kytabu: An Innovative Solution for Education Barriers in Kenya


Kytabu provides solutions to some of the biggest barriers to education in Kenya. Finances and access. Tonee explains the challenges parents face in providing educational resources for their children. “In Kenya, an average family spends 45% of their disposable income on education for their children. Textbooks account for more than half this cost,” Tonee says. “And though the government provides free primary education, too many parents find the cost of textbooks prohibitive for them, and their families.” And, often once they do purchase textbooks, the content is out of date.


Textbook companies are ready to help be a part of the solution, and Kytabu provides the platform. Kytabu is a textbook subscription application, available on low-cost Android tablets and smartphones, purchased on a mobile payment platform.


The first step: Digitize. Tonee and his Kytabu team work with publishers to acquire their digitized content. Then, the content is installed on a cheap, solar-powered tablet. Access to the content is through mobile money payments, widely used across Kenya. Then, the door is open for students. They can rent textbook content hourly, daily, weekly, or monthly, depending on their needs. Alternatively, students can buy a page, chapter, or the entire book in its digital form, dramatically reducing costs. Tonee says the digital version “reduces the cost by 72%, and allows users to buy what they need, when they need it.”


Tonee explains how Kytabu is a win-win for all parties. For publishers, their income stream is steady and end users are happier. For buyers of the tablets (parents, schools, the government), Kytabu provides a much more flexible pay-as-you-go, mobile payment structure. And, for students, learning material is more relevant and engaging. Ultimately, Tonee says that “low-cost education now becomes more affordable, relevant and vastly integrated to today’s technology, and remains profitable for all stakeholders, all while being fun and productive.”


Impact on Kytabu and the Future of Tonee, the Innovator


What does this mean for Tonee and Kytabu? With the success of Kytabu, Tonee started a business as an education and innovation consultant and speaker.  He says that, “Kytabu and my consultancy result in us being viewed as innovation experts and innovation solution providers respectively both in technology and problem solving. We have been hired by schools to talk to young people, corporates to talk to their staff and events as the innovation speaker quite a few times because we understand the intersection of technology, education and innovation.”


This coalescence of Kytabu founder and innovation consultant provides even more opportunity for Kytabu to diversify and scale. On a recent project at Tech Republic Africa in Nairobi, Tonee demonstrated the potential of Kytabu. No longer just in the digital domain, Kytabu products now include manipulatives and kits for students to invent, design, and build, alongside digitized educational content and instructions. At Tech Republic Africa, Tonee led a workshop of students who were soldering devices and working with solid state electronics at the component level. High tech electronics made understandable for students.


Tonee is poised and ready to continue leading and innovating with Kytabu, and inspiring others in his wake. He says that, “I am a product of solid mentors, meaningful conversations with unbelievable men and women, and a well-rounded life of successes and failures.” This perspective inspires him to inspire others. In summary, he says, “I want to make people awesome. That’s the greatest output my company can ever have.” He dreams of an awesome generation of empowered and educated students, granted access to 21st knowledge with Kytabu.


Winning the African Entrepreneurship Award launched Tonee and Kytabu onto an upward trajectory. A glance at the numbers reveals the impact. Tonee has increased employment at Kytabu from 4 to 23. Before winning the Award, Kytabu had 180 customers. That number has skyrocketed up to 125,000 (and counting). And, revenue has increased from $680 to over $230,000!