Generation Investment Management, an investment firm chaired by Al Gore, the former vice president of the US, led the round.
Omowale David-Ashiru, Country Director at Andela, says the new investment will help Andela “accelerate the development of Africa’s best tech talent in Nigeria and beyond.”
To go deeper into what this means and to find out more about the company’s plans for the future, Business Insider Sub-Saharan Africa talked to Seni Sulyman, Andela’s Vice President, Global Operations.
“We're building software that performs a competitive analysis of the quality of your code as soon as you submit it. It helps you determine how much of what you’re submitting is being used compared to what is being discarded, and ultimately, how good of a developer are you,” Seni tells me a few minutes into our conversation.
I had just asked him what the plan was for Andela after raising all that money ($100 million, bringing total funding to $181 million). Jeremy Johnson, the company’s CEO, confirmed to VentureBeat that Andela would be using AI to match developers to startups by the end of 2019. VentureBeat reports that the algorithm will be trained using data Andela has gathered from recruiting and working with its developers since its founding in 2015.
Seni continues, “How do you know what a great accountant looks like until something goes wrong? If someone could tell you week over week, or month over month, that this person is better than this person, you can begin to optimise your team.”
I ask him if this technology can be applied to other professions. He pauses to contemplate my question and then says, “Absolutely. I don’t want to jump ahead, but if we can figure this out for software development, we can begin to apply it in accounting, finance, and many other fields. But I think this is long-term. It could be a way this technology manifests itself.”
“You know, it’s one thing for me to say you’re a good editor because you can do this and that, but it’s another thing for me to measure how, on a team, your editorial skills are creating outcomes for the organisation. That has always been hard for companies to do,” he adds.
In September 2018, Andela released its first cohort of developers having completed their four-year fellowship.
“We've spent four years trying this thing out and we’ve realised that there's something there and not just that, but something that could be really, really huge. We've taken a slice off the proverbial cake, now want to massively scale it up,” Seni says.
He goes on to explain that part of Andela’s immediate future plans is to expand the team and grow revenue. “We want to grow the business itself, both in terms of the talent we onboard and develop, and top-line and meeting our customers’ expectations. We want to do that and it requires funding,” he says.
Our conversation shifts to Andela's impact on software engineering talent on the continent. “It seemed like for a while, African developers were an afterthought, but now companies are coming here to hire talent. How has Andela helped that?” I ask.
“We’re very humble as a company, but we also know when we have added value. In this particular case, Andela has played a pivotal role in two very distinct things,” Seni says.
“One, we've allowed African developers to believe that they can be part of the global ecosystem, which is a fundamental requirement. No one else can value you until you value yourself. We've given people the platform by, yes developing the talent, but also by connecting the talent to real jobs in real teams where they're working side by side with engineers that schooled elsewhere and they begin to see that, ‘Okay, this person and I are equally smart and are able to deliver the work to the same extent.’”
The second point, he says, revolves around exposure. “Exposure here means showing other people that there is talent in Africa. I'm not talking one or two or five, but thousands, maybe even millions we haven’t discovered yet.
“So, if you're someone who is looking for the next hottest thing, you want to find where the next dose of talent is that can really make a difference, Africa is that place. You don’t have to keep looking in your backyard because there's nobody there. Forget it. Come here, the next generation is here, there are many of us and we are ready to contribute. The combination of those two things is very critical.”
He concludes by juxtaposing the past and the present. “What's happening now is that you have a lot of developers who, overnight, they can be here and the next day they are in Silicon Valley at a conference. A few years ago, that will not have happened. Maybe only one person had a chance to do it, but now you have many of them.”