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When Mocality ran giant google out of town

January 2012 ushered in an embarrassing episode for Google after its online business directory (now defunct) announced it had breached business ethics.

Reportedly, Google Kenya had approached clients from Mocality and persuaded them to join its new product on the pretext that the two were one.

The Getting Kenyan Businesses Online programme (GKBO) was Google’s initiative that would see small and medium sized companies own websites for free.

Mocality was strictly an online directory, not a website-making firm, and this got some of its clients confused.

They made calls to the head office for clarification and Google Kenya was caught with fingers deep in the cookie jar.

Low revenue

Mocality’s general manager, Stefan Magdalinski, wrote a lengthy blog on Google’s unethical trends, leading to an international backlash.

The netizens had torn Google apart, something that did not escape the global media.

To save face, Google’s vice president of product and engineering for Europe and emerging markets Nelson Mattos made an official apology.

“We’ve already unreservedly apologised to Mocality. We are still investigating exactly how this happened and as soon as we have all the facts, we will be taking appropriate action against the people involved,” he said.

In February this year, Mocality left the Kenyan market against a backdrop of low revenue and increasing competition.

Still, the business community failed to understand how the world’s largest search engine would unwittingly scavenge for clients from a sub-Saharan start-up.