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Jeremy Johnson, Andela & Zuckerberg's $24m Investment

By Craig Lawless | 30 September 2016

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Jeremy Johnson, co-founder of Andela, will be speaking at this year’s South Summit. See the full programme.

In a recent Ted x talk at Cornell Jeremy Johnson poses a question to his captivated audience: “Which factor leads to a 53% higher return on equity?”

It’s then that four options ranging from CEO experience to the age of the company appear on the screen behind him. “Always guess C if you have no idea”, he jokingly tells the crowd. Option C reads female board representation. It’s his introduction to a wider topic on how diversity doesn’t just have the potential to improve profits, but how it can greatly improve ideas and problem solving too. 

Jeremy co-founded Andela in 2014, which is itself, a product of people all over the world coming together to solve a problem. Andela find and create a platform for the brightest and most driven developers across Africa to work with some of the top tech companies in the world. Brilliance is evenly distributed, but opportunity is not. Andela are trying to change that.

So how exactly does it work? First, they select the best talent from a pool of tens of thousands of applicants. “Today we’ve had over 45,000 applications to be one of just over 200 software developers”, says co-founder Christina Sass at TechCrunch Disrupt this year. That’s a selection rate of just 0.7%.

Next, there’s the personality match where candidates are invited to in-person interviews. Finally, there’s a programming evaluation where successful applicants participate in a two-week, full-time boot camp led by senior developers.

These trained developers become available for startups and companies across the world to work with. Andela fly the new developers to their clients’ office to build trust with the team, learn the culture and align with the product roadmap. The developer will then continue to work remotely with their new team on return to Nigeria or Kenya. In an interview with Bloomberg, Johnson calls it Africa’s first elite engineers organisation. 

In 2013 Andela co-founder Iyinoluwu Aboyeji was working on a distance-learning platform for African universities called Fora. In a post on medium, he recounts how he and Johnson came to form Andela. Because of similarities between Fora and 2U, Johnson’s company at the time, they reached out to Johnson for advice and he became a trusted mentor. But Fora wasn’t working as Aboyeji had hoped and after a meeting in NY, he and Johnson kicked around a few ideas. One of which became Andela. 

Andela hit the news in June of this year when the Chan & Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) made their first lead investment in Andela’s $24m dollar series B round. Johnson recalls that Zuckerberg was “looking for ideas that can unlock human potential at scale”, and Andela fit the bill. 

Today, Andela developers are building products for Google, Facebook and IBM, as well as dozens of fast-growing venture-backed startups. The attention that an investment from Zuckerberg & Chan creates is sure to work positively in their favour. 

Andela are a for-profit company and it will be interesting to see how, over the next few years, they turn a good cause into good business. But one thing is clear from the project so far: Diverse teams with different backgrounds can solve the most difficult of problems. 

Jeremy Johnson, co-founder of Andela, will be speaking at this year’s South Summit. To get your ticket just click here