African technology training program Andela to invest in its graduates’ startups

Andela, a company working to bring the top 1% of African tech talent to engineering teams in need of capable, skilled developers, will eventually invest in the startups from those who complete its four-year program.

According to Andela co-founder and COO Christina Sass, speaking on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt SF, the company has a broader agenda beyond simply connecting businesses with African-based tech talent – it eventually wants to inspire an entire tech ecosystem to spread across the continent.

Part of that means helping its developers find a successful path forward when their time with Andela wraps – which could include starting their own businesses, taking a more senior role at another tech company, or even coming to work for Andela itself, said Sass.

But if entrepreneurship is the developer’s chosen next step, Andela wants to be involved. And in a way, its training program could give it an edge when it comes to choosing which startups to invest in.

Andela today has one of the most difficult tech programs to get into – something that led CNN to call it “the startup that’s harder to get into Harvard.

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Sass explained how competitive and selective the Andela application process is, noting also that Andela received over 45,000 applications to earn one of its roughly 200 software development positions. The end result of getting into Andela means a four year commitment to the program, where engineers are paired with a company in need of remote workers to expand their own development teams.

Andela today works with businesses like IBM and Microsoft, among others.

But getting in is not easy.

From some 1,000 applicants in one of its recruitment cycles, only 75 are brought in for an in-person interview following their completion of a take-home test meant to showcase their logic, reasoning, and problem-solving skill, said Sass. In the interview, candidates are vetted for things like their soft skills and how well their values’ match up with Andela’s mission.

Only 25 then go on to participate in a two-week bootcamp, and from that event, only around a half-dozen are actually hired.

Andela’s developers are put on a full-time salary from the company itself, but they’re also immersed in the business for which they’ll do the remote work – something that includes visiting the company in question for weeks at a time to connect with the team.

These businesses contract with Andela, which takes a cut of the fees, then uses the rest to pay the developers’ salaries. (And yes, that means its clients are gaining access to low-cost tech talent.)

But as the tech scene grows in Africa, Andela seems primed to have a close connection with some of the continent’s next startup entrepreneurs and founders. It already has tech campuses in Lagos, Nigeria and Nairobi, Kenya, and plans to expand to other regions like South Africa and Uganda in the future, Sass said.

And as its developers complete their fellowship with Andela, the company will begin preparing them for what comes next.

According to Sass, that could include moving on to start their own businesses. If the latter, Andela plans to invest, Sass noted.

“We fully expect a subset of [Andela developers] to be launching their own companies, and we intend to help them incubate and invest in them,” she stated.

“The long-term goal is that, after those four years, for them to be unleashed, to really spread and lead the spread of technology across the continent,” Sass said.