R.I.P Carey Eaton – What CEOs should become

If you are like me you probably didn’t know Carey Eaton. Maybe it’s the first time you are hearing the name or you just read about him since he past on two days ago.

I didn’t know the guy in two fronts: 1. I didn’t know that he was such an influential being in the field of e-business (Forbes call him Internet Tycoon) – though I guessed he was and 2. I never knew him beyond the virtual communications. But there is a way I knew him.

I knew Carey as a person who had this diverse knowledge on online market places and e-commerce in Africa and beyond. After I wrote the article MyMarket: OLX should strive to remain relevant, Carey emailed us and provided us with a lot of information that I used to write a two part article on the status and nature of e-commerce and online market places in Kenya.

Then we started talking on phone.

Despite being a very busy man, Carey never declined to receive a phone call from me; even though I was a total stranger to him. If I called and he was in a meeting or busy elsewhere, he surely called back and listened keenly to whatever it is I wanted to ask of him. The phone calls extended to frequent chats on WhatsApp.

No, we didn’t just chat about e-commerce and tech landscape in the region. We chatted about our weekends, lifestyles, and about the plans we had for long holidays like Easter. We were on the road of becoming personal friends.

Then he died.

I was to put up this article on Thursday immediately I received the press release of his death but I decided to read a bit about him from those who knew him. I was surprised to learn that Carey was one of the very successful business men in the region having worked as CIO of SEEK in Australia. I hadn’t known that his company, One Africa Media, was such a big entity with presence in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa. His influence seem to have extended across the globe as renowned International news outlets like the ABC, Forbes, and the Daily Mail among others also carried the story of his demise. After reading about him, I was taken aback.

I should have known all these but it is him who blocked my mind from appreciating the nature of his success and influence in the e-business world. He was a down to earth man, a man who related to my lifestyles and understood my daily predicaments as a small Kenyan man striving to make a name in the tech industry. He never declined to respond to any of my messages on email or otherwise. For some reason he was always there for me; until I mentally reduced him to my level – I thought we were buddies who could share a plate in one of my favorite restaurants – probably we could.

But now I realize, naturally, he should have been way beyond my reach.

Since I started writing on this blog site I have been able to get contacts of some of the successful businessmen and politicians this country has. Different from Carey, these contacts do not receive calls from strange numbers. If you send them messages, the best thing they can do is ask, “who is this?” and after you have properly introduced yourself, you won’t ever hear from them again.

No, the who is who in this country do not care to listen to whatever proposal you have – unless you meet physically and even so, most of them are too busy to grant you adequate time to hear you out. I never had the chance to book a meeting with Carey but from the tribute messages I have read since he passed on, I know he is a man who gave young Kenyans the chance to share with him their ideas. As Sam Wakoba of TechMoran wrote, “Carey was a close friend to the TechMoran team and was one of the people we went to when wanted to do something new. He gave us insights, gave us the courage and he was more of a father figure to us and not just a mentor.”

You must have heard that the big bosses, if spoken to in person, are nice – that the problem is getting to them as the juniors won’t allow you to. Having learnt from Carey, that’s crap. The juniors who are said to be a stumbling block between those who would like to see the bosses and the bosses themselves are always employees of the bosses and as such receive instructions from the bosses. For some reason, Carey never had any road blocks between him and anyone who wanted to access him.

And that’s what CEOs should become – people who relate with the daily problems and predicaments of those who look up to them as role models. The top business men should be reachable. They ought to be a people that talented young minds can reach out to and present a proposal or two with ideas that can change this country.

One day as I was talking with a friend and a partner, we realized that the greatest challenge we have as young people is to access those with the millions and billions that can be invested in some of our ideas. If they could be accessible, then this country could not be what it is today.

Dear top politicians and CEOs of this great nation, kindly be like Carey Eaton – R.I.P Carey.


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