Perspectives Entrepreneurship

The startup that’s harder to get into than Harvard

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Johnson Ejezie was initially daunted by the prospect of moving to Lagos from his home town in Nigeria’s south-east, due to the polio he contracted at a young age and related health problems. But what pulled the 26-year-old to Nigeria’s bustling metropolis was stronger than his fears — an invitation to take part in a bootcamp for Andela, a startup and global talent accelerator that produces world-class developers and connects them with top employers

Andela is the idea is the brainchild of two entrepreneurs, American Jeremy Johnson, who made the Forbes’ 30 under 30 list last year, and Nigerian Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, selected as one of the World Economic Forum Global Shapers in 2012. Aboyeji says:

“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. At about the same time, I had spent a year and a half in Lagos exploring new models of education that could raise the bar and tackle Nigeria’s chronic youth unemployment problem.”

The pair put their heads together and noticed that while young Nigerians struggled to get jobs, tech roles in United States were hard to fill.

There, aspiring developers are taught how to build web applications and they are assessed on the speed at which they learn as well as their soft skills.

So far 15,000 people applied for the scheme and Andela started training its first class of 100 developers in June of last year. The company is based in New York and Nigeria, a country chosen partially because its status as Africa’s most populous nation means it offers a wide pool of talent.

The strong emphasis of earning while learning is reminiscent of the apprenticeship system, something that Andela founders readily embrace. Aboyeji explains:

“We believe there is only so much you can learn in the classroom. But with practical work experiences, you can translate learning into habits that will make you a true professional,”

He adds that in today’s globally connected world, it makes little difference that the companies young Nigerian programmers work for are based thousands of miles away:

“With a reliable Internet connection, a world-class developer can add value remotely from wherever in the world they happen to be.”

For more information on Andela please click here or visit their Facebook page.