Kenyan Caught in Row Between World's Top 2 Wealthiest Men

  • Charles Mwangi, the Executive Vice President of Rivian Automotive Inc. which develops and manufactures automobiles
    Charles Mwangi, the Executive Vice President of Rivian Automotive Inc. which develops and manufactures automobiles
  • Jefferson Bezos and Elon Musk have been making global headlines for months over their success in business with Forbes ranking them separately as the top richest people in the world.  

    Bezos, who has been ranked at the top position for a number of years was overtaken by Musk who has recently made billions of dollars in wealth acquired from the growth of his company, Tesla, arising from the expansion of the electric vehicles market. 

    Bezos has not taken the challenge lying down and has started an electric vehicle and space exploration firm to compete with Tesla. 

    A Kenyan, who managed Bezos's firm, has been caught up in the row between the two rival billionaires who are competing against each other in space exploration and in the rapidly growing electric vehicle segment.   

    Charles Mwangi found a home working abroad for almost 20 years and has had a successful career working with the top world fortune companies.      

    Charly, as he is commonly referred to by his colleagues, is an alumnus of Strathmore High School and Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT). He studied Bachelor of Science majoring in Civil Engineering. 

    Ravian R1S 37A produced by Ravian Automobile Inc
    Ravian R1S 37A produced by Ravian Automobile Inc

    After completing his studies in Kenya, Mwangi proceeded to Tennessee State University through a scholarship program to study Bachelor of Science in Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering. 

    While studying in Tennessee, Charles Mwangi was one of the only two Africans hired by Toyota Motor Corporation in 2003 through a recruitment strategy.   

    His colleagues at Toyota nicknamed him 'Old man' owing to his quest for knowledge. However, his ascension to the top was not rossy. 

    Charly, in one of his interviews on Gearbox with Dr. Kamau Gachigi said that his colleagues at times looked down upon him and he struggled to fit in the society.

    “No one believes you when you are an African talking about technology. When I started at Toyota, people didn’t trust me to explain even how the printer worked!” Charly said.   

    The JKUAT alumnus landed another job at Nissan Motor Corporation where he worked for six years as a Senior Manufacturing Engineer. This was immediately after he graduated with his second degree from Tennessee State University. 

    In 2012, he found his way into Elon Musk's Tesla Inc through an interview in which he had doubted himself. The engineer said the move was risky since the company warned him that he might lose the job after six months. He was hired and delegated to work at the car's division, Tesla Tool & Die.   

    By 2018, he was managing over 400 engineers in Tesla. His leadership ability and skills saw his team guide Tesla into making over $21B (Ksh 2.2 trillion). He was promoted to be a Senior Director of Engineering in the same year.  

    A year later, he quit the multi-billion job to join a Stealth Startup (Companies whose operations are not known to the public thus giving them a competitive advantage). 

    Currently, Mwangi is the Executive Vice President for Rivian, a company that develops Electric vehicles and its other related products and services. He is working closely with Rivian's Manufacturing Engineer Managers.  

    Rivian Automotive.Inc is currently being backed by former world richest man Bezos' Amazon and Ford to acquire other global automotive markets.  

    According to global markets analytics, people like Bezos do not just show interest in projects. They are attracted by the creativity and innovativeness, and that is what Charly's team has been doing. 

    Equally, musk has had an impressive experience with innovations and is putting in a good fight.

    The Director of Automation at Frost & Sullivan's once described Musk as a go getter.

    "I'm amazed by his ability to fail fast and move on. He does not lay down but gets up and moves quickly. That really will serve the company well," he said.

    Rivian was valued at $27B (Ksh 2.9 trillion) in January 2021. The firm plans to have over 100,000 pickups and vans produced in less than 10 years with experts saying that Bezos is flexing his muscles and aims at establishing himself again as the world's richest over a long period of time.  

    Charly's friends say that he is a true definition of how being persistence, dedicated, consistent and a hard worker can help build multinational corporations and controlling global markets like how the world's two richest men are fighting for.   

    Dr. Kamau Gachigi (Left) and Charles Mwangi (Right) during a past Interview
    Dr. Kamau Gachigi (Left) and Charles Mwangi (Right) during a past Interview