The Heshan De Silva riches story does not add up

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It’s always a great thing when young people are doing well especially as entrepreneurs. It is inspiring and a win for Kenya where the young people are viewed as trouble makers or not ready for serious responsibilities especially where leadership and business are concerned. However, the rules still apply and we must not see the flash and forget the substance when it comes to vetting business success. Heshan De Silva is clearly a remarkable young man. However, a lot of what is being reported isn’t backed by solid facts and this is a little suspicious.

[Read: The Misleading Figures By Start-ups -Why Tech Writers Need To Do More]

1. How he started out in business

Heshan apparently started the de Silva Group with $200.

According to his bio:

Choosing projects carefully, he grew the de Silva Group into one of the region’s most enterprising entities, with holdings in commodities, technology, renewable energy, insurance and agri-business.

There is no mention of how he was able to grow his business or the specific companies his company has holdings in. That is strange considering a company with successful holdings would want to mention them.

2. How he started the Venture Capital business and its value

This part of the Heshan story is very unclear. In interview with the Business Daily he claimed that his venture fund business was funded by two New York hedge funds to the tune of $2 billion dollars.

Initially the company which is founded by two New York hedge funds each at a cost of $1 billion

He later refuted this in an angry comment on kachwanya.com where Kachwanya disputed the figures shared in the Business Daily article.

The Business Daily published a CORRECTION to the article you are so fond of quoting. I said we are capped at $20million but have provisions to rise to $1billion should we entertain the thought of an IPO within the next 10 years. 2 partners – $500m in commitments should that arise

There is no evidence of the correction Business Daily allegedly printed.

3. The businesses his venture fund has invested in

Heshan de Silva, 25, is the CEO of VenCap, a venture capital fund invested in 17,000 businesses.

He claims that his fund has invested in 17,000 businesses. He even goes ahead in some interviews to claim that some of them are unsuccessful but he has not named a single business he has invested in. He is very vague in all of his interviews.

4. Who his partners are

He has mentioned his partners in New York vaguely. They could be the two hedge funds he talked about in the Business Daily article but I am not sure.

On the VenCap website there is no mention of the partners but an advisor, a Ted Martin, is listed.

Other questions

5. He claims in his bio that he was selected by the United States Congress as one of Kenya’s Brightest Young Leaders. I couldn’t find any evidence of this anywhere.

6. He claims he serves on the boards of well-respected Kenyan companies. He however doesn’t mention any by name.

Sources

His bio – dsgvencap.com
How We Made In Africa Interview – howwemadeitinafrica.com
Business Daily Interview – businessdailyafrica.com
Young Rich feature – youtube.com
SA People Interview –sapeople.com

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63 COMMENTS

  1. I was wondering how long it would take people to notice this, he may well be a rich and successful guy, but you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to see the bullshit…

    • Yes there may be bullshit, as there is with all our life stories. For CNN and Forbes to feature him there is definitely more to the story than he is letting out publicly. Remember, in private equity you do not need to disclose your investments to the public – only your shareholders.

  2. There is no problem with Heshan, the problem is Kenyans who have lost the ability to objectively think and analyze issues. Provided it’s on a billboard, on radio, on TV Kenyans will believe it without question. In any case Heshan is the wrong type of role model, he is a guy who just met some investors while on holiday in Masai Mara and they decided to form some sort of partnership, he has no story, no history worth learning from. If you are looking for role models, look at people like Vimal Shah or Equity’s Mwangi who have a history, people for whom you can trace their journey from rags to riches. Our youth must begin to recognize the real role models, it is unfortunate that provided you have millions and billions and a gold chain on your neck, you become a role model to our gullible youth. What they fail to understand is that some of those billionaires made their money in shady deals with GoK, some made their money by running down companies and manipulating the stock exchange, some are in the illegal trade, soon we will have a new role model who will have made millions from the current poaching menace. Folks, open your eyes.

    • we know the stories of Bidco tax evasion and even Mwangi and Trade bank ……..read kid ..it is all in the digital spaces

    • James Mwangi stole 200million from Trade Bank when it collapsed and pumped it into a loss making entity then grew it from there. I’m not hating, I just think it’s worth mentioning, not everyone who steals $2 million will use it prudently, but it is one hell of a head start.

  3. 1. How he started out in business:

    Seven years ago De Silva invested his 10 000 Kenyan shilling ($116)
    allowance from his parents to start a small business selling travel
    insurance to the poor. Going for as little as KSh5 – less than five US
    cents – it was bundled with long-distance bus tickets and could be
    bought via mobile phone. By the end of the year he had made
    KSh90-million, over a million US dollars.

      • And this shady googling is fact? If you have attended any one of Heshans free talks on how to set up a business he talks about every step he’s taken. I have attended at Demo Africa, USIU, and YPL at the KICC. He’s very open about all the failures he has made in business and how he has grown. I suggest you attend one of his talks before you comment on someone you have never met.

        • Henry, you make some valid points… but are you stalking the guy or working for him? You seem to have attended many of his talks all over the place…. *one eyebrow raised*
          Also your comment on measuring net worth is a bit dubious, net worth doesnt take into account future earnings or potential earnings. You only use those when valuing a business for sale or investments not an individuals net worth. Someones net worth will be the his assets minus his liabilities without speculation of what they may be worth in future.

          • Thayo, you clearly haven’t seen the new methods used by Forbes and Fortune since 2012 and 2011 respectively. I do not work for him – I am simply saying when you’ve attended these talks you’ll know the truth and not the version the media likes because it sells. Insurance products are hardly exciting to the common mwananchi!

          • Henry, I may not have seen the new way of calculating net worth but from what you explain it is non-the-less dubious and probably makes very many assumptions e.g. how do they know net profits will go up, down or remain constant, do they discount future cashflows to present value and account for different markets and economic conditions, for shares do they account for potential take overs, IPO’s etc etc using such a method one could say that everyone is potentially a billionaire….. no wonder the guy thinks its strange. its not a valuation you can take to the bank to get a loan… net worth is derived from tangible (and some intangible) assets and liabilities not speculation of what may or may not materialise.
            Anyway this is just a by-the-way, the point that remains is that his story is dodgy.

          • Thayo. You hate like you’re paid as gfgr is. I’m sure your net worth is so great that forbes have come to you and that is how you know the means of calculation yes? Be serious. Forbes, CNN, CNBC and BBC have all listed him at certain levels – they do more research than this simple googling. If you aren’t inspired, move on, don’t spend your time shouting.

          • Henry I am not being paid nor am I hating, I’m just not a falling for suspect stories that don’t hold up and I’m not minion like you who is hero worshipping without taking a minute to pause and think for yourself. I may not be a billionaire, I’m certainly not a pauper either. If 17,000 businesses in five years sounds reasonable and plausible to you then you are surely a wide eyed believer in anything the man says.

    • Of course, provided its on a billboard, on TV or on radio, kenyans will buy it hook line and sinker. I made my first 500,000 bob by selling a worthless “herbal tea” (it was simply ketepa sprayed with mint powder, a 25 bob bag of ketepa was repackaged and sold at 155). I did this by simply printing colorful posters to describe non-exisiting magical values of the tea, it was all a hoax, i look back in shame but i learnt a lesson: kenyans are very easy to fool and Kenya is one of the few countries where you make make money in the most simplest and stupid of ways because kenyans don’t stop to think and analyse. Though i am now reformed i still work in a line of business where you only need to use the words “natural”, “medicinal”, “herbal” and am smilling all the way to the bank. As long as kenyans are gullible the opportunities are endless.

      • You are the scam artist here admitting to your fake tea. If you had attended one of Heshans free talks on how to start up a business he explains how they approached Cannon Assurance and started Safirisure the insurance product. Safirisure is launching a new insurance product next month on domestic vehicle owners and riders as well. This blog is based on googling and hearsay. Nothing here except noise.

        • Seriously, you need to attend a “talk” in order to know what to do. Dude you have a problem, i guess you also have a copy of Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich somewhere on your bookshelf. Success is a unique concept but those who are failures in life always think that attending some talk by a “successful” person will spur the success seed in them. You are the kind that spends their life quoting from “motivational” books, reading about Bill Gates and worshiping Heshan and all the time thinking that these are the ingredients to success. How tragic.

          • Dabo, do not say my life is tragic because I look for inspiration. You Google and read unreliable articles written by people who cannot string a sentence together properly and you attack me? Have you seen the quality of the BD writing? It’s shocking!

            If you have your life so figured out and have become a moral authority on everything, good for you. Do not sour it for the rest of us.

  4. 1. How he started out in business:

    Seven years ago De Silva invested his 10 000 Kenyan shilling ($116)
    allowance from his parents to start a small business selling travel
    insurance to the poor. Going for as little as KSh5 – less than five US
    cents – it was bundled with long-distance bus tickets and could be
    bought via mobile phone. By the end of the year he had made
    KSh90-million, over a million US dollars. Mbuthi Kutny shame on you!

    • hahah this insurance must have had a name…but still travel insurance for the poor in Kenya?!!….do you know regulations in insurance industry…the licenses …..the capitalisation….heheh

      • Kahiga. It is called Safirisure as Heshan has said many times at public speaking appearances as well as on KTN. He even explained how their underwriter, Cannon Assurance, helped them get the Insurance Regulatory Authority approval. Be serious. This is just shady hating.

          • Exactly. It started out as a ticketing platform but that failed as the market was not ready for a 3rd party ticket vendor – so they ditched that model and adopted the agency model under Cannon. All of this he has said publicly at his talks. None of this is new. That nonsense show Young and Rich sensationalises things without providing space for further information. I am guessing talking about insurance options does not sell TV shows! Ask the man questions without relying on stupid articles written by barely literates! Have you seen the quality of the writing on the BD ARTICLE??? It’s terrible! Heshan spent 3 hours at Nairobi Chapel on Sunday explaining so much.

  5. MBUTHI KITUNY…You should be ashamed of yourself. Next time before writing such a shallow article. Get your facts right. Dont hate on the fellow because your small mind cannot understand how a young man can make such money at a young age. Open you small eyes.Good day

    • Kevin, be smarter lad. You are basically just copying unsubstantiated stuff and telling us, that is embarrassing. Why didn’t I ever hear of this “travel insurance”?

      Bought via mobile phone you say? Maybe MPESA? The same one that started the same 7 years ago?

      • Go easy on Kevin, people like Heshan will always have “fans”, groupies and zombies who will always come out in droves to defend their god, it’s a battle you can’t win.

        • Dabo. Heshan has publicly shared in an interview on KTN and speaking to audiences at events how he started the insurance business. It is called Safarisure and is a product of Cannon Assurance. The mobile part is the mpesa platform used to collect the money from the bus companies. Safarisure And Cannon are releasing a new product next month for domestic vehicle passengers as well. And the product has always been 100/- even though when they started it they wanted it to be 5,10 bob. Research properly my friends. This is just shady hating.

  6. “Seven years ago De Silva invested his 10 000 Kenyan shilling ($116) allowance from his parents to start a small business selling travel
    insurance to the poor. Going for as little as KSh5 – less than five US
    cents – it was bundled with long-distance bus tickets and could be
    bought via mobile phone. ”

    This sounds very suspicious, ten years ago I remember to have an insurance company in Kenya you needed to have a capitalisation of over Sh50million. In addition, insurance companies place very high premiums on PSV’s this is public record and for this reason all PSV’s pay insurance on a weekly or monthly basis as its very high, secondly there are only a handful of insurance companies in Kenya who cover PSV’s less than ten companies I’m sure. Further, there are taxes and duties to be paid with every insurance product. So my conclusion would be he was selling a dud prodcut and taking peoples money in which case he should be investigated for swindling people, or he was selling a product and running a legitmate insurance business and should also have been paying insurance premium taxes to the KRA… though I doubt this very much.

    He went to university, dropped out and came back to kenya to start businesses, even the greatest rags to riches and phenomenal growth cannot account for this very well. suppose he went to university at age 17, did three years in the US then came back, that would make him 20. In five years he started a business and invested in 17,000 businesses. 17,000!!! that is literally at least 9 businesses every day (365 days a year) for five years. how did he do his due diligence and investment appraisals etc for 9 businesses daily? Even micro finance lenders take time to decide to lend you money and they are more liberal than the big banks. Fruther suppose he invested say Sh5,000 minimum, thats Sh85M (about $1million) which by his own reckoning he had access to later on and not form the beginning.

    The other thing about having US$1 billion, or $2 billion is utter non-sense. If that information was true it would be in some reputable publication either in Kenyan or in the US. You dont just make that large commitments of money without Uncle Sam raising an eye brow, whether private or public. If it was from a public company or an investment fund then ir would definately be in the news somewhere. and if that sort of cash would land in Kenya, there would be significant impacts on our exchange rate and affect the entire economy in many ways.
    Lastly if he was on the boards of many companies (the 17,000 he invested in?) or lets say some prominent companies, then this is a matter of public record especially so if its a company on the NSE. None of these companies is mentioned.

    Not saying what he says is not true, but I’m saying there are way too many holes and the story is improbable. My theory would be from his drug dealing and taking days in Uni while in the USA, he established connections and decided to come to kenya to produce, route and/or distribute drugs via Kenya, hence his inexplicable sudden wealth at 25 years old. His venture capital investments business being a front to launder his money and the mysterious US partners with $500m, $1billion or $2billion burning a hole their pockets waiting to invest in his ventures being another front to bring proceeds of drug money into Kenya. This to me is a more probably scenario.

    • He and his ‘minions’ can lie to gullible people but there are intelligent Kenyans out there like you who he cannot lie to. Reading some of his stories and watching that Youtube thing insults my intelligence….does he think we do not know? Are we that stupid?

      I remember when his story came out through K24, my girlfriend immediately played it to me telling me how “inspiring” it was….it took me 5 minutes to see all the bullshit. He might not have convinced the Kenyans with a respectable level of education, but kuna watu out there who believed some of these things, which is sad.

      • It took you 5 minutes? Impressive. Learn what there is to learn. This is a kid who, irrespective of how he made his money, has come back from drugs, alcohol, suicide and dropping out of university. I’m sure many of us are just bitter because we have not succeeded as much – irrespective of wealth. Move on, there’s nothing here.

        • Hahahahahahahaha. Everybody rises and overcomes drugs, suicide, etc, it the basic success story. I was born in a poor family, i walked to school 5 kilometers away, we slept hungry etc etc. You are missing the point here, but how else can you see it when you are on your knees worshiping instead of having an objective analysis of the facts. See what 8-4-4 and the universities on top of bars have done to kenyans, nobody can think anymore, all you need is an interview on TV for the masses to take your story. c’mon, try this thing called thinking at least even for a day.

          • EVERYBODY overcomes these addictions? You just lost all validity to anything you try to say. You are a shouter nothing more.

          • Sir, I think it is irresponsible for the Kenyan media to broadcast lies to the Kenyan people so I am not going to leave Heshan or his perceived success alone. If you do not care for the truth you have no place in a modern society.

          • haha dude,no one is refuting his overcoming drugs and alcohol and ish. We are refuting his money making claims, yeah this thing called thinking really is not that hard

          • This is an article that can be contested if facts on all the vagueness were accessible. That said, Heshan is not under obligation to divulge these, unless by a clause in law – so let’s not take issue with him for withholding if it be by choice. Thirdly, if the claims are true, then conclusions such as the unfavorable ones made here need only be made in light of his response to each…but once again, he is not obliged to respond 🙂 I do not know Heshan personally, but his journey to overcome a self-destructive whir is notable. Coupled with the financial lessons he has been exposed to through his ventures and interactions with moguls, I’m inclined to think he packs more than just a tad bit more, than most within 10-20 years his senior can offer. But aside from Heshan; just to note your opening statement “everybody rises and overcomes drugs, suicide”…. really? did you just say that?

  7. Whats hilarious to me is how you people try and bash someone who is trying to do good with his money. What good have you lot ever done? Just pointlessly bitching about how his story is somehow fraudulent, why on earth would he go so public with it if it was BS? Get your head out of your ass and open your eyes. When you can confidently say you’ve made someones life better, changed someone for the better, reflect on your own selfish life. All you need to do is find the closest mirror to see whats truly sinking success in Kenya. Conspiracy theorists who are too shit scared to emerge from behind their keyboards and live in the real world. Grow the fuck up.

    • Sarah. Your language is rude but I can see why you are upset.

      If anyone attends any of Heshans speeches which are free of charge, he walks you through the steps he took in establishing each of the businesses he did. He also says his fund has a Max of Ksh1bn to spend a year, and has COMMITMENTS of up to US$1bn should they be launching an IPO in future. Commitments are not unique. Every company seeking an IPO first identifies partners who will buy large quantities of shares. This is not the same as cash on hand.

      At the same time Heshan always downplays nett worth saying he doesn’t even know his because it Is calculated in such a strange way taking into account future earnings of shares and the immediate and future sale values. He has said this many times. He’s also said that people would be surprised how little cash he keeps on hand and on his bank account. This is a kid who has come up from suicide and no degree. Learn what you can and move on. You all are ignorantly hating after basic googling.

  8. Whats hilarious to me is how you people try and bash someone who is trying to do good with his money. What good have you lot ever done? Just pointlessly bitching about how his story is somehow fraudulent, why on earth would he go so public with it if it was BS? Get your head out of your ass and open your eyes. When you can confidently say you’ve made someones life better, changed someone for the better, reflect on your own selfish life. All you need to do is find the closest mirror to see whats truly sinking success in Kenya. Conspiracy theorists who are too shit scared to emerge from behind their keyboards and live in the real world. Grow the fuck up.

    • Sarah it is you who is immature and blinded by the big man syndrome that permeates kenyan society. Simply because someone has a lot of money he is deemed to have worked hard and honestly to get his money and no one questions how he became rich even if he clearly stole (Pattni, Ruto, Moi family, Biwot, Kibaki, etc etc) ati yeye ni Sonko… not necessarily limited to politicians but they are the more prominent examples. This mans story does not add up at all if you took a few minutes to set aside your obvious hero worship and see the inconsistencies.
      I would add an appropriately worded insult like the one you used but will chose to be mature this time around O_o

    • Continue worshiping the big man. It is you who would never amount to much because your own inferiority complex prevents your true self from emerging.

    • why on earth would he go so public with it if it was BS? why else? coz the majority of kenyans are like you-gullible and ummhh not smart (tryna be nice)

  9. Heshan has never had an insurance company, it is an agency called Safirisure Which Is a product Of Cannon Assurance Company. He says this at all his public speeches which are free.

  10. “Yes there may be bullshit, as there is with all our life stories. For CNN and Forbes to feature him there is definitely more to the story than he is letting out publicly. Remember, in private equity you do not need to disclose your investments to the public – only your shareholders.”- Henry Wafula knows what’s up. In a country where people would LOVE to rip you off, someone wouldn’t be so stupid as to disclose ALL their holdings, investments and actual net worth to the public. Lest he get robbed or worse. Keeping yourself safe and have articles written about yourself that are this harsh is a far better fate than being in danger because someone couldn’t fathom how you’re so successful and that their life didn’t amount to balls. At the end of the day I doubt you even phase the people you bitch about because guess what, they’re out there living their life and being happy REGARDLESS of what nonsense you choose to spread.

  11. Half of the comments here are probably from Heshan and his minions. I was actually more surprised at how the Kenyan media played along with Heshan’s “riches story” — reputable journalists (Shame on Julie G) and industry heads were eager to give him the green light without any investigation.

    I found myself asking the same questions posed by Mbithi after his Young rich episode aired. Unfortunately, it seems like he’s clearly one of the ‘fake it til you make it’ types that are ubiquitous with Nairobi’s hustle. My guess is that he’s intentional in his strategy and he is more focused with creating a “brand” that can one day be used to harness revenue. ….think Donald Trump’s brand localized by Chris Kirubi’s personality branding. Heshan is following suit but unfortunately for him, it does not seem like his “brand” has any substance beyond motivational quotes. A foresee a future in motivational speaking or pastoral work.

  12. Just reading through the comments
    First things first, Henry Wafula must be Heshan DeSilva..
    Regarding the insurance product, he has said in his interviews, that he started it off with three guys from Dandora.
    How come none of this 3 guys have ever been heard from?
    How come there is no comment from Canon regarding the product?
    Heshan, should come out and clarify and bring proof of the existence of these 3 partners in the initial insurance business

  13. total bull..;like it does not even make sense how a ‘billionaire’ does not have a working website in the first place. It is really sad i almost believed you Heshan. All said and done, you will still ride on a range ravor and i will be looking for a matatu tomorrow. Deal with it people

  14. Heshan does not even have an office completely…… all people he meets are in coffee shops in yaya and kempinsiki—ask anyone he meets…. in fact his video says he has invested in 100,000 ideas….even normal venture capitalist firms existing dont to such crap…thats not practical……he has taken advantage of people……even what makes matters worse…..he is stupid enough to comment on blogs…….surely………there heshan has scooped…..so low……businessmen as he claims….dont behave like that……it is simple those hedge fund things……anyone can call and ask……so that this henry guys… which are heshan posting as other people he should try lying to people in the villages who take in such levels of naivity…..

    even there are some people around him he is trying to convince that he uses their stories and keep lying he has invested in…….just a piece of advice to heshan if he will ever read this…..business men you just walk away and not start replying to blogs…….and if heshan was even smart enough he could just be unreachable….. his brain is just like that of a socialite…

    even he has pulled down his website

  15. I hate to break the party but there’s something you’re all missing out on. Heshan has a master planner who is behind his success. All he has to do is call on Him and follow His Word. The Planner can change things in a twinkling of an eye.No logic or reasoning is needed. Just Believe. He can do the same for you. ..His Name is JESUS!

  16. Hello every one i want to share my testimony on how i belong to illuminati member, a friend of mine that always give me money…cos he was very rich, one day he said he is not going to give me fish that he is going to teach me how to fish, so i was very happy, i never new he was a member of illuminati all my life will spend together! so i was initiated to the illuminati world and few days i was awarded a contract worth of millions of Dollars, in my business i am doing very well right now,i am now the one that give money out before it was heard, if you want to belong to us email us on donilluminatimember@yahoo.com

  17. I’m confused on the university part. Heshan is a good guy. But he attended Lynn University in Boca Raton, FL; NOT University of Miami.

  18. I attended an event where he was the main speaker and that was the first time he came to my attention. I found myself doubting his story there and then. Coincidentally, a guy seated next to me, a total stranger, leaned over and said, ” this guy doesn’t sound genuine.”

  19. i wonder whats all about heshan ,,,, whether he is a vague billionare yes or not… after all he is in his bussiness

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