African Andela marks year three with Uganda expansion

Andela is expanding in Uganda. The technology training and job placement company, which recruits African software developers and places them at global companies ― completed its first recruitment cycle in Kampala.

The Uganda opening will add to offices in Nairobi, Lagos, New York, and San Francisco. It also marks year three of Andela’s rise as a VC backed, revenue focused firm that is often misread as a charity.

“We are a mission driven for-profit company,” said CEO Jeremy Johnson. “Frankly, I think we’ve become a poster-child for that―that you can actually build businesses that create real impact,” he told TechCrunch.

For Andela, the opportunity to train and employ developers from frontier African markets is rooted in supply and demand. The company highlights U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics projecting a gap between an estimated 1.4 million computer science jobs by 2020 versus only 400,000 qualified graduates to fill them.

“We started off with the proposition that brilliance was evenly distributed. That the combination of selection and exposure could unlock that potential. And that technology was the way to do it,” said Johnson.

The company touts it selection process as “extreme recruiting” and “a scientific approach to building engineering teams” that includes 6 months of training and 900 skills checkpoints.

Andela says its selects “One percent of tech talent from the largest pool of untapped talent in the world.”

In its first Uganda recruitment cycle the accelerator accepted 8 of 800 applicants.

Of Andela’s overall program, Johnson explained, “it’s very…immersive―designed to upscale aspiring developers with the ability to connect those developers to top engineering firms around the world.” Recruits are trained in a number of technology stacks: Android, Java, Ruby, and iOS among them.

“We are bringing in a class every single month, and a new cohort is…rolling on to partner companies every month.” Andela places programmers at over 80 companies in 25 cities around the world, according to Johnson.

“We structure it in a way where they don’t have to leave their homes,” he said, which supports Andela’s social mission by creating local capacity and employment in select African markets.

Per a company release, Kampala was chosen “after two years of collecting and analyzing a variety of data points on technology ecosystems across Africa.” Key decision factors included Uganda’s young population, 12 IT hubs, and vibrant tech scene with “meetups and hackathons…happening on a weekly basis.”

Time will prove if Andela’s mission driven for-profit model can deliver ROI for its backers. The company has received $39 million in venture funding from investors including the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Spark Capital, and GV.

“Our goal is to be sustainable. We’ve raised venture capital because we’re not there yet, but we’re moving in that direction,” said Johnson. He noted Andela currently earns revenues from corporate partners who pay to utilize developers. “Those companies think of it a bit like AWS for talent,” he said, referring to Amazon Web Services.

According to Johnson, Andela will add a fourth country in the near term and look to hit the sustainability/profitability mark at some point through continued demand for its developers.

After testing Andela’s talent, one current client―online car insurance comparison site The Zebra―has continued to hire. According to CTO Meetesh Karia, the firm started with two developers in June 2016, before adding six more by 2017. He referenced the company’s need for “high-caliber engineers” and the Andela team’s work in improving The Zebra’s mobile web platform.