Catherine Mahugu is a seasoned techpreneur, software engineer by profession, an advocate of independent ICT for social innovation and development consultant, changemaker, youth empowerment champion and a strong advocate of gender equality and equity.
She graduated from the University of Nairobi with a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and has been involved in various ICT for Development projects, including Stanford University’s Nokia Africa Research Center Design Project, building mobile applications targeting informal communities.
Catherine Mahugu is the co-founder of Soko, an online destination platform for shoppers to discover stunning handcrafted accessories from all over the world and purchase them directly from their designers and artisans.
Soko is an innovation with a blend of fashion and technology, an ethical fashion brand that expands access to economic opportunities for artisans in emerging economies, disrupting the traditional export supply chain and revolutionizing the way money and goods are exchanged between developing world artisans and global customers.
Catherine has been recognized as one of top 5 upcoming tech women in Kenya to watch, World bank’s top 11 inspirational women as well as a Leader of Tomorrow at the St.Gallen’s 44th Symposium in Switzerland. She has been featured by CNN, World Bank and other mainstream media.
At Soko, Catherine has effectively overseen the end to end operational execution and delivery of products to over 450 international retailers, several large brands and global e-commerce consumers.
By driving and supporting the technology innovation at Soko, she has contributed to transforming the traditional global supply chain as Soko purchases have generated over $1 million to date in revenue to the artisan network in Kenya and Ethiopia and has sold 250,000+ products globally in the process of rebranding the fashion industry.
She is also the founder of Chiswara an e-commerce that provides premium Kenyan coffee to the international market. The idea was born after Catherine witnessed Alibaba’s Rural Tabao Initiative. The tech titan is using this platform to raise living standards in the Chinese countryside by providing e-commerce access for millions of residents with the help of committed partnerships from Alibaba, UNCTAD, International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Egyptian Ministry of Investment and International Cooperation (MIIC). She also co-founded SasaAfrica to provide a widespread simple mobile-to-web e‑commerce platform, connecting micro-manufacturers in emerging economies to the global marketplace, enabling economic growth and bridging the digital divide.
She founded Wazidata a design-led Innovation company, solving intricate and complex challenges with a focus on people. The company helps shape better experiences, products, brands and organizations. They build empathy through in-depth qualitative research. It is a firm advancing human experience by creating innovative offerings using design thinking methods. Being a human-centered firm, they provide need-specific services in entrepreneurship and ICT for their clients’ development with clients ranging from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Convergence partners, FH1360, Quicksand to Safaricom.
She is an on-demand speaker, and has received a plethora of awards in recognition of her relentless contribution to Kenya’s economy.