Andela: The Amazing Startup That Powerful Investors Love

“There are five open jobs in the U.S. for every software developer looking for one. It is a challenged ecosystem. We’re able to tap into what I argue is the largest pool of untapped brain power in the world. – Jeremy Johnson, CEO/Cofounder of Andela on what motived him to start the company


Andela LogoWith multiple job openings for every software developer and computer programmer, it is very difficult to find information technology (IT) talent. Some estimate that the U.S. will need to increase its IT workforce by nearly 50 percent over the next two years.

Perhaps more important (and disheartening) are the unemployment statistics in Africa. Some African nations cite youth unemployment that hovers around 50 percent. In Lagos, Nigeria, there are roughly 11 million young people who are unemployed, and 20 percent of these are college graduates.

Analysis conducted by the Brookings Institution states that when youth unemployment is taken into account, about 90 percent of young people are considered unemployed or underemployed in some areas of the continent.

Filling the IT labor gap

This is where Andela comes in. The company has ambitious plans, which include training more than 100,000 software developers and computer programmers in the next decade—all of whom come from Nigeria or neighboring Kenya.

Andela doesn’t simply seek to fill the significant gap that exists between IT jobs and available talent; the company is also striving to attract more women in efforts to fill these roles. According to labor statistics, only about 20 percent of software developers are female.

To do its part, Andela aims to raise the total of women working in its software development area to 35 percent. “We just weren’t where we needed to be. We have struggled to have that percentage. It’s getting the word out there to young women that we’re an employer to be actively excited about. Then, getting word out to their families that Andela is a safe place to work,” says cofounder Christina Sass.

History of Andela

Andela was founded in 2014 by Jeremy Johnson, an education technology entrepreneur; Christina Sass, an American education advocate; Ian Carnevale, a graphic designer and entrepreneur; and Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, a Nigerian entrepreneur.

programmingAboyeji, selected for a prestigious economic award by the World Economic Forum in 2012, says of the company’s founding: “Andela began after my friend and mentor Jeremy Johnson visited Nairobi in 2013 and saw how a lack of career paths for young people was contributing to Africa’s youth unemployment.”

Applicants that make it past the company’s rigorous application screening process are invited to attend training, or “boot camp.” It is at this juncture that accepted applicants are referred to as fellows. One of the company’s selling points is that it pays the equivalent of a Nigerian upper-middle-class wage while attending training. Following successful completion of its training program, Fellows are placed with prominent international companies, including Microsoft and Udacity.

To date, the startup has received over 40,000 applications in a part of the world where IT training and education is nearly absent. Of these applications, it has accepted just .7 percent. CNN dubbed Andela “a startup more elite than Harvard” in a recent article. (Harvard accepts approximately 6 percent of applicants.)

Johnson adds: “Our plan is to train 100,000 genius-level young people across the continent over the next 10 years, but we’re always going to have very selective approaches. What we care about is being able to train in a really high-quality way… the reason we’re able to do that is because the people that are in the program and the developers that Andela produces are head and shoulders above what you’d expect for a junior developer.”

Despite its selectivity, the company aims to have a mix of experience and education within its ranks. While the enrollment statistics are not made available, the founders state that some have college degrees. Many students have taught themselves basic computer science. Others have taken free online courses, while still more have no formal education at all—just an aptitude and willingness to learn computer programming.

Upon their placement with a company, the fellows have the option to take advantage of Andela’s professional development courses. These courses range in subject matter, but generally focus on either technical or soft skills.

The company’s business model and overall mission have attracted a number of prominent investors, none more so than Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook. The Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative, founded with Zuckerberg’s wife Priscilla Chan, reportedly invested several million dollars in the startup. Other investors of the promising new company include Facebook’s cofounder Chris Hughes, AOL cofounder Steve Case, and Carmelo Anthony, a professional basketball player for the New York Knicks.

The Zuckerberg-Chan initiative will reinvest any profits back into its organization. The initiative has historically focused on investments in education and health care.