Clarisse Iribagiza is a torch bearer in modern technologies. Apart from being a successful business woman, she is an entrepreneur, motivator and a female emerging from a field dominated by males, especially in the western world. Her researches and innovations in mobile technologies provides solution to government, private and public companies by improving their operational effectiveness.
She is the founder and CEO of HeHe company (now DMM. HeHe), a top mobile technology company in Rwanda based in Kigali that provides an affordable, convenient, and faster feedback system for business and organizations to build a good relationship with customers and hence, more business growth.
Clarisse Iribagiza is a Rwandan born on the 28th of January, 1988. Her father is a teacher and her mother an entrepreneur. According to her. She is a medley of what her parents do, together with the believe that anything is possible.
Clarisse had her high school education in Uganda. While in high school, she was so much in love with Physics and Mathematics. This made her apply to study Computer Engineering in college. She graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Engineering and Information technology from Kigali Institute of Science and technology and currently pursuing a master in Business Administration at African Leadership university.
Starting her business career
In the course of Clarisse studies in the college, she had the idea of creating some products linked to mobile technology, but this was not yet feasible as she only had the theoretical knowledge without the practical aspect.
Clarisse utilized every opportunity she had to develop herself in information and communications technology. She participated in a six weeks Information Technology Innovation program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). With the knowledge gotten from the program, the gap between the theoretical and the practical aspect of information technology embroidered her creativity in information technology.
In 2010 at 22 years, Clarisse established Hehe company. Hehe which means “where” in Kinyarwanda, was created to be a research and innovation lab, while she was still an undergraduate. The company developed a software that enables the government, organizations and businesses both small and medium to interact with their clients at different locations and time.
The software enables customers to give feedback to companies, organizations and others involved through text messages and a website created for review of the messages. This enabled the companies or organizations to know how the customers sees the products, demands and complaints.
According to Clarisse, the software was developed after series of experimenting using countless databases of information. Since its inception, Hehe labs has invested much in research and training of high school students in information technology and how to earn a living from it. The training encourages students to be creative thinkers and to be able to apply technology in real world problems.
In 2011, a platform that provides mentoring both financially and market-wise was set up for start up entrepreneurs in technology for Rwandans. This was formed by Clarisse and other ICT entrepreneurs and was named iHills.
According to Clarisse, this was established with the aim of inspiring Rwandan youths to be at the forefront of Africa’s technology revolution. Hehe labs also implemented a software where girls send in questions on life matters and could get their answers on their mobile phones. Also, while working with the Girls Hub Rwanda, she aims at innovating Rwandan girls to achieve their goals.
Preparation meets opportunity
In 2012, Clarisse Iribagiza rose to fame when she won the grand prize of $50,000 grant from Inspire Africa out of 24 youths from East Africa who competed in a sub – regional entrepreneurs contest.
She invested the money in yer business. With this, DMM Africa, a Japanese Internet conglomerate that are into e-commerce business such as online English learning platform, online foreign exchange, online financing, electronic money businesses for public transport, etc. ,acquired 100% equity stake in Hehe labs with the same aim of being on top of technology companies in Africa and because there was no dominant distributor of such services in Rwanda, hence, less competition. The company updated the company’s name to DMM.Hehe company where Clarisse Iribagiza remains the CEO while Alex kapungu (managing director of DMM overseas division) is the chairman of DMM.Hehe.
Today, Hehe has six labs in Rwanda and working with more than 100’s of Rwandan students in high schools and colleges. Hehe company earns about $200,000 annually and over 2 million users across Africa for effective relationship between manufacturers/organizations and end consumers.
●DMM.HeHe is now a leading mobile technology company in Rwanda and across Africa while solving an essential problem in business and organizations.
●At the continent CEO’s summit in 2012, Clarisse was named among the 20 movers and Shakers of Africa.
●During the “celebrating Young Rwandan Achievers (CYRWA) organized by Imbuto Foundation, the first lady of Rwanda, Jeanette Kagame awarded Clarisse Iribagiza in 2013.
●She was listed among the top 100 global thinkers by an Italian think tank, LSDP (Lo Spazio della Politica) in 2014. In the same year, she addressed African presidents at Transform Africa summit in Rwanda and Clarisse and her team win the $7500 prize and also worked with SafeBoda in Uganda in partnership with Red Cross in November 2014 to connect drivers and customers.
●Clarisse was nominated among the 30 most promising young entrepreneurs under 30 in Africa in 2015 by Forbes.
●Through Hehe labs, Girl Hub has empowered more than 13,000 girls for technology entrepreneurial.
●She is a member of the Presidential Youth Advisory group of African Development Bank.
Opportunities come to those who are ready for them when they come knocking. People hardly invest into your ideas when you aren’t doing anything about them already. Clarisse was positioned for opportunities when she founded HeHe company and continued to put in her best to see that the company succeeds and became a positive impact to businesses in Rwanda and Africa. This readiness attracted the $50,000 business grant she got and the partnership deal to the Japanese internet conglomerate which transformed the company into what it has grown to be today.
As a young business woman, Clarisse faced several challenges, especially when it comes to technology been dominated by western countries and the unfavourable system of education in many African countries, which hardly give room for creativity and critical thinking. However, she overcomed these challenges by staying positive and focused, looking at the opportunities in the business, instead of the problems and building the right relationships.
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