To My 26-Year-Old Self: From Intern To Digital Media Guru

On a day like this, Saturday, October 19, 1996, I was born. I was added to the billions of people around the world, which is as of now around 8 billion.

To My 26-Year-Old Self: From Intern To Digital Media Guru
A pen writing on a paper. /FILE

Contrary to popular belief that men don't really celebrate their birthdays, we do...we just don't make it as obvious as our female counterparts with lavish parties and special social media posts, and not because the economy is as Riggy G (DP Rigathi Gachagua) said is 'dilapidated'.

On a day like this, Saturday, October 19, 1996, I was born. I was added to the billions of people around the world, which is as of now around 8 billion.

My mother keeps describing to me how I'm still her special one, even though we're two of us (myself and my younger sister) as well as the struggles she had to endure with me, given that my father was not present at the time I was born and surface some years later.

Since then, it's been somewhat of a mixed childhood that mostly centred around being picked on a lot because in the eyes of bullies, 'I was small'.

A collage of myself as I turn 26 years old on October 19, 2022. /FACEBOOK

I've been to two high schools from my whole preparatory and primary school life at Happyland Preparatory; St Mary's School in Lavington, Nairobi and Juja Preparatory & Senior School in Kalimoni, Kiambu County. I really enjoyed the former and have to honestly say that I'm glad I came out of the latter still strong after one year and a half.

It was my campus life at the United States International University-Africa (USIU) that I enjoyed the most. Four years of quality education coupled with meeting some of the most gorgeous women on any campus (not that I dated any of them) as well as great personalities and specially-executed events made my experience one I just cannot forget.

I have a Bachelors' degree in Psychology but what those at USIU might tell you is that I have a penchant for writing which I can now admit is a natural talent that 'just happened'. Little did I know that it was going to lead to something bigger.

'Baptism Of Fire' In Digital Journalism

A friend of mine at the campus had informed me of an opportunity for writers at, a digital media house. I had only sought an internship and submitted my application, expressing a mix of emotions between hope and fear that I might be rejected like anyone else...only to be informed that my 'shooting my shot' went through.

At, the vibe was right; the journalists were great, and the editorial lead is still my good friend. The only downside was the crazy pressure, which I shall one day explain in detail in a book (and I won't hide). Some of the journalists I worked with have since moved on to other opportunities.

Leaving Kenyans after nearly two months was hard. The months after that were harder; just how was a then-24-year-old meant to move on to a bigger opportunity than the one that gave me the skills to advance to the next stage of my career; possibly my biggest one?

Anywho, after working with upcoming news websites and waiting for media jobs that never came, I decided to get out of my comfort zone and try a risky move I had planned for after years of tasting the Kenyan media industry. In the midst of fighting one of my toughest battles and living in the proper 'ghetto' residential area, I started Viral Tea (

The baby within its first year of commencement in February 2021 grew rapidly into a real force in the digital media industry, and it's even more special because I'm running it all by myself as of now.

How do you tell someone that a). You're a CEO & founder in your early 20s and b). You've grown the website to over 1 million pageviews and visitors in its first year?

I defied critics, naysayers, and even my own father who at one point was discrediting what I was trying to achieve in my career because I don't have a journalism degree, as he was still with the belief that without a journalism educational background, Kenyan media houses (even mainstream) were not considering my subsequent applications because "I don't know about journalism".

I ignored them and single-handedly grew the digital media house to what you see today and which is still growing stronger every single day (bring PARTNERSHIP MONIES, I'm READY!)

I had partners whom I worked well with for almost the entire year until we parted ways because the chemistry in my view "was not adding up and smelt of real danger". I shall still explain this in my book but this is a risk I took with consequences because "if you don't take risks, you don't grow".

Though the growth process has been a bit slow in recent months, the drive has never stopped. The August 9, 2022, general elections were arguably Viral Tea's finest time to reinforce itself as a next-generation startup, and it remains to date the most demanding time of my two-and-a-half-year journalism career.

The new website you see here was launched in July, with a one-month countdown to the elections on the horizon. Preparations for what was to be an intense period of election coverage for not just myself, but local media houses were something that I had planned for from the word go.

But because I was alone compared to other media houses, I had to carefully plan how I was to ensure my audience (the ones ALWAYS on their phones) doesn't miss a single bit of live action, especially during voting day. I thus planned to come up with one big live blog for the voting day, the tallying and the grand announcement.

Residents queue to cast their votes at the Kenyatta Sports Ground polling station in Kisumu County. /DAILY NATION

As compared to the traditional method of news coverage which has failed to meet the needs of users, Viral Tea morphed into multiple forms of content, especially to satisfy Kenyan users who are in the youth category and almost always on their phones surfing social media and doing 1...2...3.

The Crazy August Polls

Our content is divided into three divisions, all of which were kept busy during the intense election period. Social media was arguably our complement but our main driver was the editorial, with videos capturing special events and two of the grand announcements, William Ruto as president-elect and Raila Odinga rejecting his election.

I knew very well to countercheck every source bombing me with information before relaying it across social media channels. Some of our readers did call/message me several times to confirm if the results were true if things like Form 34C were uploaded to the IEBC portal, and so on.

The response has always been the same, "wait for IEBC to announce the results officially", much to their disappointment. Even the smallest of media startups can have information that could trigger chaos, so we cannot please everyone (speaking as the media house now).

On Monday, August 15, we got a few articles over the line, then paused to wait for the biggest story of the elections; who would win? By then, we readied our graphics for social media coupled with downloading pictures and portraits of the top two candidates and planned on how we would break the big story and disseminate it across our channels and networks with breakneck speed and sniper accuracy plus precision.

However, neither of us was expecting the four IEBC commissioners to stage a parallel press conference which found one of us focusing on that story and the other ready to break the announcement from the IEBC headquarters. That Monday was massive, from Chebukati being attacked to Azimio la Umoja taking fault over the results to Ruto stepping out and leaving...and it didn't stop there after that announcement.

While the whole country stepped out of their houses to celebrate Ruto's win, we were no doubt kept very busy. Ruto's address to journalists followed and we were on cue to provide content touching on the highlights of that presser with local and international media houses.

We were dealing with several congratulatory messages, some we admittedly missed, from Heads of State to politicians to celebrities to prominent Kenyans. You could tell this was one of our most intense periods since we began as I was retiring to bed some minutes before 1 am, making sure everything was running smoothly.

Supreme Court petition, the verdict and President Ruto's swearing-in on Tuesday, September 13 marked the end of a crazy election period and the start of 'planning for the future, not just the next five years'.

Going Viral

During the time I've run Viral Tea, I've nurtured almost seven journalists under my wing, both young and experienced (old), giving them a platform to show their skills. On my part, Viral Tea has been my biggest eye-opener.

I've attended music concerts, including one by Luciano and successfully covered them, been to a few press conferences and remotely covered grassroots stories. I've made so many friends in the digital media space, including former Taita Taveta County gubernatorial candidate, Patience Nyange, whose #KenyaWomenSeries was published successfully by Viral Tea.

The gala dinner on December 2021 helped me interact with prominent personalities such as Agnes Nonsizi and Cynthia Mwangi (Hot 96) as well as Esther Kiragu, the series' editor. In case you were wondering, I met men too ranging from Martin Wachira (Nairobi Leo) to Mac Otani (Swala Nyeti), both of whom we share fruitful ideas on a changing digital atmosphere.

Meeting fellow media men at the #KenyaWomenSeries gala dinner in December 2021. /COURTESY


  1. I do also have to credit the likes of Eric Njiru, Mukami Wambora, Caren Kibbett, Lotan among other sports journalists whom we connect well in terms of sports, even though I'm the outsider among them as I'm a Chelsea fan.
  2. I could say that I'm one of those who wanted President Ruto to be elected as his manifesto resonated well with what I hoped for; an economical recovery plan from the previous administration. Now, if I could just meet him one on one, or brush shoulders with his new State House spokesperson, Hussein Mohamed...
  3. To the woman journalist who helped me come up with the name Viral Tea and helped me with tips to enhance my brand, here's a glass (raises toast) just for you. 
  4. To those who like to criticise me for being ahead of everyone else in terms of reports and not showering me with praises for good work, I'm not going anywhere.
  5. To the bosses I've worked with, keep up your crafts. If I have ever wronged any of you, I apologise in sincerity.
  6. To the human beings on the internet and those I've met in my entire life, I want the best for you (really).
  7. To those who've asked me to feature their stories on Viral Tea and those whom I've surprised with feature articles, thank you for your patience and free will.
  8. To my two special women; my mother and younger sister who've stood by me through it all, I'm deeply grateful.
  9. To those who have so far wished me a Happy Birthday today (Wednesday, October 19), thank you and God bless. To those yet to, October is still a birthday month, so keep them coming.

Finally, to my future in digital journalism, I will entice you to my space just as I entice gorgeous women to my circle. Freedom is here.

Marvin Chege
Founder & Managing Editor, Viral Tea (