Babe of the Week: Karungi proud of her girl-geek status

Overlooking Kampala’s budding infrastructure, traffic and waning vegetation is Soliz House-Outbox, home to Kola Studios.

It is a haven for some of the brains behind mobile and web application development. Inside Kola Studios is a rather serious environment with less talk and more of computer language – clicking mouses and finger stampedes on keyboards.

Kola is a start-up organization that makes mobile and web applications with a speciality in game development, where Theresa Karungi, commonly known as Terry, is a co-founder.  She is a third-year Computer Engineering student at Makerere University on full Google-Zawadi scholarship. With a passion for mobile technologies and business development, Karungi, with three others, developed the Matatu Application – a card game available on Android phones and Facebook and is soon coming to iOS and Windows Phone 8.

“What sparked the idea to develop the app was the problem of non-existent local content online and the challenge in trying to get the same excitement and experience of playing the card game online on digital,” says Karungi.

Matatu was born out of a desire of four friends to win the 2011 African Google Android challenge. Karungi, together with Daniel Okalany, Guy Acellum and Jasper Onono, conceived the idea of having a local game played online away from the international ones that are old.

“Initially, the first version after the graphics and coding were done was sketchy. Then in June 2012, we developed a better version and this is when the game downloads picked up,” she recollects.

Currently, the app has received overwhelming success achieving over 10,000 downloads since its inception in 2011, making it one of the top three downloaded games according to the Google Play store. The Matatu success compelled the team to establish Kola Studios (www.kolastudios.com) that employs eight people.

Karungi’s inclination towards technology has paid off with awards such as top female achiever by Old Budonians Club University Chapter, 2013 and the Innovations award by the Zawadi Education Fund. She is also a member of GirlGeekKampala, Google Developer Group Kampala, Women in Technology Uganda (WITU) and the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM).

Below, she lets us into her life.

What can’t you live without?

All my gadgets; mostly my MacBook and Nexus.

Define success.

Success is when I achieve a goal I set for myself far and beyond what I initially predicted.

What motivates you to go to work every day?

I want to be part and parcel of the rise and growth of empowerment in Africa. I want to also raise enough money to further fund the next big idea—I need a resource to further capitalize on.

What would you not give up for $1,000,000 cash?

Knowing God!

What has the fear of failure stopped you from doing?

I am usually stubborn and do not call ‘fears’ fears. To me, they are just challenges and I have nothing to lose in trying.

Whom do you secretly envy?

Hmmmm….. Your questions are very tough. I don’t envy anyone but only look up to people. I look up to Marissa Mayer, the president and CEO of Yahoo, a Fortune 500 company (one of the largest profit-earning companies worldwide). She is one of the youngest CEOs and female at that!

Recent compliments you have received...

Usually people wonder how I balance work and school. Although I do not attend all the lectures, I make sure I attend at least 70% and I make up time to read especially at night. Actually most of the compliments come in the game where people say, ‘webale kuyiiya’ (thank you for inventing) and a whole lot of appreciative emails from all over the world. This further motivates us the developers.

How many hours do you spend online per day?

I am always online unless my mobile devices and laptop all black out.

Bad habits you want to break...

I don’t necessarily have bad habits; I prefer calling them improving habits. I have clumsy hands; I throw down my phones a lot.

When you meet someone for the first time, what do you want them to think about you?

[Cheeky laughter] That I am very passionate with what I do and I take it very seriously.

When you have a random hour of free time, what do you usually do?

I watch TED Talks and maybe sometimes go watch the Krackers – a local comedy group.

Based on your current daily routines, where do you expect to be in five years?

Hopefully Kola will be a competitive and fully-established company competing favourably on a global scale and with a growing research and development department.

What three questions do you wish you knew the answers to?

‘Why did Jesus wait until he was 30 to perform His first miracle?’

‘If there was one question you would ask someone to gauge their brilliance, what would it be?’

‘What in our nature is driving us to planetary suicide as human beings?’


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