Entrepreneurs

Meet the Entrepreneur Whose Startup Raised $24 Million Thanks in Part to Mark Zuckerberg

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It’s got to feel pretty good when you have a vote of confidence from Mark Zuckerberg.

This week, The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the fund currently worth $48 billion overseen by the Facebook co-founder and his wife Dr. Priscilla Chan, made its first investment, leading a $24 million funding round for Andela, a 2-year-old startup that trains software developers in Nigeria and Kenya and places them with big name tech companies that include Microsoft, Google and yes, Facebook.

Jeremy Johnson, the co-founder and CEO of the company, says that the missions of Andela and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative are closely aligned. "I was impressed by their dedication to wanting to unlock human potential around the world," he told Entrepreneur. "We care about the same things."

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"We're operating on a continent with 1.1 billion people, [a population] that's also the youngest and fastest growing in the world. We have a lot of work to do," Johnson says. "We're going to continue expanding the pipeline in our existing countries, which means growth in Nigeria and Kenya."

Johnson says Andela plans to launch in a third country, with an announcement to come sometime this fall.  

The 31-year-old founder's previous company, 2U, an online degree platform that partners with institutions such as Georgetown and University of Southern California, went public in 2014. The idea for Andela first came into view before 2U's initial public offering when Johnson was invited to Nairobi to give a talk on the state of online education around the world.

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Upon seeing the tech talent there, Johnson was inspired. He says that his initial thought was that he would help fund the company that ultimately became Andela, but not be a part of the company's day-to-day growth. "After my first trip to Lagos, I spent a day interviewing the finalists for our first pilot class," he says. "I realized I just couldn't stop thinking about it. I had to do it."

Johnson has high hopes for the company's future. "Ten years down the road is how we think of it. I think people overestimate what is possible in a year and tragically underestimate what can be done in 10," he says. "I think we have the ability to literally launch 100,000 amazing developers across the continent. And the process changed the way the tech world thinks about where engineers come from and what they look like."
Edition: December 2016

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