This Startup Pays Kids in Africa to Learn How to Code, Then Gives Them High-Paying Jobs at Fortune 500 Companies

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LEWEB 2014 - CONFERENCE - LEWEB TRENDS - DISRUPTION AS AN ECOSYSTEM - JEREMY JOHNSON (ANDELA) - PULLMAN STAGE
LeWeb14/FlickrAndela founder Jeremy Johnson at the LeWeb conference 2014.
By Celena Chong

Africa has the largest pool of untapped tech talent in the world, according to Jeremy Johnson.

The 31-year old says that for two reasons:
  1. Human brilliance is evenly distributed around the world, but opportunity isn't.
  2. There are four jobs for every software developer in the U.S.
Johnson's solution is Andela, a program that finds the best and brightest students or programmers in Africa, trains them up, and places them in jobs at hot startups like Udacity and Fortune 500s like Microsoft. His startup, which launched last July, is disrupting the tech sphere by creating a new model for how companies hire and staff their talent."You're combining an unlikely source of talent with a new model of education," Johnson told Business Insider on Tuesday. "We're getting increased customer attention from companies and nobody is dropping our fellows. And that's an atypical thing."

With a 0.7% acceptance rate and a two-week boot camp to further refine that pool, Andela is the most selective tech training program in Africa. The lucky ones are admitted after a series of aptitude tests; then they go through intensive training sessions for six months. Those over 18 can apply and the average applicant age is 25.

Andela pays students to learn and provides them a wage that puts them in the top five percent of Nigerian earners. At the same time, it's cheaper for companies to staff their technical team with Andela students than with another candidate, which is a win-win, according to Johnson. Students' wages increase as they improve their skills. When they graduate, Andela helps them jumpstart their own companies or places them in tech roles at corporations.

Piloting in Nigeria and Lagos, Andela has received about 16,000 applications to date. Johnson recruited the strongest developers in the world from places like Google to serve as mentors.

"Since we found enough genius-level software companies that will hire [our students], we don't want to accept anyone who doesn't meet an ideal standard," Johnson said.

Andela hopefuls are finding out about the startup mainly through Twitter, job sites and word of mouth.

"There's a perception here that people [in Africa] don't have access to the internet at all and that's not true," Johnson said. "Most young people in Nigeria have smartphones and there's a widespread connectivity of social media."

This isn't Johnson's first business attempt. He is the former CEO of 2U, a publicly-traded company that offers online graduate-level courses for credit. Johnson just closed a round of funding for Andela which he says was four times oversubscribed.

Andela just closed series A funding led by venture capital firm Spark Capital. LearnCapital, Omidyar Network and others joined the round.

With the financing, Johnson will close in on his plan to train 100,000 developers in Africa over the next decade. He also wants to send Andela students to other countries like Europe which is also experiencing a growing demand for developers.

"We plan to increase capacity and expand into other areas," Johnson said. "We have a list of five to ten other countries we're exploring."
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