[Interview] Adanian Labs’ Jackie Waweru on life and working as a legal in tech

Jackie Waweru is the Legal and Compliance Manager at Adanian Labs, a Pan-African Venture building studio. Jackie joined the firm in February 2022 where he helps ensure that the technology solutions Adanian Labs develops adhere to current global regulations.

In this interview with TechTrends Media, she talks about her experience in the industry as well as her life-work balance.

Kindly introduce yourself and your roles at Adanian Labs 

I am a qualified advocate of the High Court of Kenya and a Certified Secretary. Currently, I hold the position of Legal & Compliance Manager at Adanian Labs, a Pan-African Venture building studio. My primary objective upon joining Adanian Labs was to establish and lead the Legal department, ensuring compliance across our diverse offices located in Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, South Africa, the UK, and Nigeria. Our main focus is on implementing robust corporate governance policies, and developing comprehensive company policies and guidelines. 

In addition to my role in legal and compliance matters, I work closely with the Investments team, overseeing the Venture building program. This program involves managing a portfolio of over 40 startups spanning six countries. My responsibilities in this capacity include conducting pre and post-investment due diligence, reviewing and drafting contracts, providing advisory services, managing data rooms, offering transaction advisory support, advising on new market entry strategies, and providing guidance on holding company incorporation. 

Within the realm of emerging technologies, I am actively engaged in tasks related to blockchain and web 3.0. These responsibilities encompass setting up over-the-counter (OTC) companies, drafting legal documentation for NFT projects, and providing legal structuring support for crypto exchanges.

On a day-to-day basis, I navigate the dynamic landscape of startup operations, ensuring legal compliance and mitigating potential risks. I am deeply committed to staying at the forefront of industry developments and applying my expertise to support the growth and success of Adanian Labs and its portfolio of startups.

Give us a brief history about your background 

With a cumulative experience of over 5 years in the telecommunications and technology sector, I have established myself as a distinctive French-speaking lawyer, setting myself apart within the industry. My time at Adanian Labs provided me with valuable exposure to emerging technologies and the venture capital landscape. At Telkom Kenya, a prominent telecommunications company, I had the privilege of working on a wide range of legal matters. This encompassed managing the transfer of base transceiver stations to ATC Kenya, handling litigation cases, facilitating commercial transactions, overseeing International Roaming transactions (IOTs), and managing value-added service transactions. Notably, I played a significant role in the merger between Telkom and Airtel Kenya, collaborating closely with the Legal Affairs department and providing assistance during the EACC inquiry associated with the merger.

Your work revolves around Emerging technologies. Tell us more about this.

Emerging technologies refer to innovative advancements that are currently in the early stages of development or have recently been introduced to the market. These technologies have the potential to significantly impact various industries and transform the way we live, work, and interact. Among the notable examples of emerging technologies are artificial intelligence (AI), Web 3.0, and the Internet of Things (IoT). 

At Adanian Labs, my role is to ensure that the technology solutions we develop adhere to current global regulations while also staying informed about evolving policies. By fostering collaborations and partnerships, I actively contribute to shaping the legal landscape within the technology sector. One of the ways I accomplish this is by organizing and participating in panel discussions and forums that address the intersection of law and emerging technologies. These platforms enable key stakeholders to exchange ideas, share insights, and influence policy changes to support the responsible and compliant adoption of these innovative technologies. 

Through my work at Adanian Labs, I am committed to navigating the legal complexities surrounding emerging technologies and driving forward the conversation on best practices and regulatory frameworks. By proactively engaging in these discussions, I aim to facilitate the growth and development of the technology sector while ensuring the ethical and legal implications are appropriately addressed.

How did you end up in the Technology space? 

During my time at Telkom Kenya, I had the opportunity to engage in the drafting and review of numerous technology contracts. Collaborating closely with the technology department at Telkom Kenya on a daily basis was a rewarding experience, as it provided me with valuable insights and knowledge. This exposure significantly facilitated my transition into the technology space, allowing me to develop a deep appreciation for the transformative impact of technological advancements and innovation within the legal field.

What is that one life-defining change that shaped you into the person you are today?

The realization that had a profound impact on me was when I understood that the most successful individuals are not fundamentally different from me. The key distinction lies in their unwavering commitment, discipline, dedication, and focus towards their vision. This realization empowered me with the belief that I, too, have the capability to achieve similar success. 

Share with us something about yourself that you’re working on improving, and how you think it will run more smoothly once you’ve accomplished your goal.

It’s something my boss, John Kamara said to us recently during our Management meeting. He told us to work on our weaknesses and apply ourselves and see how we shall be successful by the end of the year. That led me to evaluate my weaknesses and make it a point to work on them on a daily basis.

Tell us about your philosophy. Where does it come from and how did you develop it?

Something inspired by Solomon from the Bible, “life is a gift from God and is to be enjoyed” (Ecclesiastes 2:24) 

What keeps you going in the face of adversity?

It’s knowing that every season has its purpose in my life. I always want to see the positive in adversity.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

The ultimate goal is to build disruptive and sustainable Pan-African businesses by offering business support. My aspiration is to establish a global consultancy firm dedicated to offering comprehensive business support to companies and startups. 

When you’re not working, what do you do to unwind?

I enjoy shopping a lot as well as discovering diverse culinary experiences. When I’m not in Nairobi, you can find me at the Coast, relishing the serene atmosphere of the beach.

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