I'm Seni Sulyman, Country Director of Andela, Ask Me Anything!


#1

Hi everyone,

I’m Seni, Country Director at Andela Nigeria.

Our mission is to advance human potential by powering today’s teams and investing in tomorrow’s leaders. In the last 3 years we’ve grown to about 400 employees in Lagos and continue to both support global tech teams as well as local tech ecosystems across Nigeria. We hope to eventually help produce many of Nigeria’s tech leaders, entrepreneurs, some of your future colleagues, and perhaps someday our policy makers.

A couple of friends will be around to join me - our awesome Series C lead investor, Pule Taokobong, and our Director of Learning, Nadayar Enegesi. You can get 3 for the price of 1.

We’ll be online from 12:00pm today (Oct 11). You can ask us anything about our challenges, successes, aspirations and plans for the future.


Andela raises $40M
#2

#3

Hello everyone,

Congrats on this raise. Thank you for doing this…

My first question is for Pule, you have been one of the earliest investors in Andela and you have continued to invest in subsequent rounds. What made you decide to take the jump to being the lead investor in this round?

My second question is about the Andela accelerator that was mentioned in the NYtimes piece, do you have any more details on that for us?


#4

Hey @derin, we’ll get Pule to jump in on the decision to take the lead in this round.

For the Andela Accelerator, I can speak to that as this is currently a baby I’m helping to incubate. We’ll run a pilot first here in Lagos, then expand as we learn. The idea is to continue to support some of our developers, particularly those who want to launch companies, to get access to the resources, network, and initial capital to increase their chances of being successful. We also intend to eventually figure out how to open this up to the broader ecosystem. It’s still very very early stages of planning, but we’ll share more as we build.


#5

Sup @derin

Because we were Andela’s first institutional investor, and have know them for over 3 years now, we understand the business very well. Furthermore, our strong relationships and experience across Africa uniquely position us to be a meaningful catalyst for the company’s growth going forward. This is why we’ve led this round.


#6

Hi Everyone,

Congrats on the raise! I have two questions:

  1. In what ways has your experience in other African countries like Kenya and Uganda differed from Lagos/Nigeria, and do you have any advice for other African startups looking to expand to other African cities?

  2. The initial mission of Andela was to show “that talent is evenly distributed, but opportunity is not”. Is that really true? Have your thoughts about this changed or evolved in any way?


#7

Hi everyone,

First, I congratulate Andela on the new deal.
Here is my question. In many occasions, it has been said that African future is in the hand of the Africans. Going by Andela business model, in what ways do we think Africa as a continent would benefit from her human resources (discovered by Andela) going by the fact that majority of Andela engineers build products for organizations outside the continent?


#8

Hey @Fird that’s an awesome question because I fundamentally believe that startups adding value should go as far and wide across the continent as possible and take their awesomeness to new places.

  1. Find someone local, partner with someone local, or spend enough time there to deeply understand the people. Ultimately most of your opportunities and challenges will come from people, we never assume we know when we don’t.

  2. Over the last three years, we believe we’ve proven that talent is evenly distributed. Our developers have supported over a 100 partner companies building really amazing technology that is serving the world. They’ve also contributed to major open source projects. So we’re excited about that. As we look at the future and what we hope to achieve, we want to maintain focus on the end goal: which is to continue investing heavily in African talent, providing them with opportunities to impact the world, and then unleashing their super powers to solve African problems. The articulation of our mission has changed, but the end goal remains the same.


#9

People,

Thank you for doing this.

  1. I eyeballed a few of the announcement reports, and they all said you would launch in two more African countries before the end of the year, but to my knowledge, none of them actually said which ones. Where are you going next?

  2. Your business model, as I understand it, is to train local developers and expose them to international companies looking for dev talent. To what extent does launching in new countries directly contribute to that goal? i.e. why is expanding to Uganda/Kenya/elsewhere better for the business than expanding to Abuja or doubling down on Lagos?

  3. For @PuleTaukobong: Andela has pushed hard on the narrative that an African/Africa-focused VC led a round this big, and it is noteworthy. What’s your theory for why we haven’t seen more African VCs leading rounds like these?

  4. For @nadayar: How does Andela think about job creation in Africa? There is a limited number of devs you can take on at a time, and in theory, those devs might go on to found startups that create jobs, but how do we know that’s true? e.g. Are there any business theory/strategy or entrepreneurship courses in your curriculum that directly contributes to this goal?


#10

Hi @nurudeenpopoola, at first it may appear counterintuitive that we are building our continent by powering teams that are outside of it. However, Andela’s growth has been a major catalyst in the growth of our local tech ecosystems. Our impact is visible in the growth of the developer population (we have added 500+ developers to the ecosystem in the last 3 years), and in the tech community (through meetups like ForLoop).

The experiences that our developers are exposed to while working with global companies ensure that they build best-in-class skills that would be instrumental in solving our biggest local problems using technology.

Like @senisulyman explained in his post, “From their experiences building world-class tech products for our partner companies, they are preparing to elevate technology products built in Africa. While doing this, they are already contributing locally, through initiatives like TeenCode, which supports schools in preparing teenagers for tech-enabled futures. Our developers are the heart and soul of our organization, and they are the future of our continent. We’ve always believed in them; we’re glad the world increasingly does so too.”

Our mission to advance human potential by powering today’s teams and investing in tomorrow’s leaders is deeply ingrained in our DNA. We currently power some African tech companies and will continue to partner with local companies as the ecosystem grows.


#11

Hey @SkweiRd.

  1. We’ll run a similar process as we did for Uganda, which is to prioritize countries where there’s a large talent pool, where we have the right infrastructure (space, power, internet, etc) and where policy and climate support our business. Any cities you’re particularly excited to see on that list?

  2. You’re spot on. This is an internal discussion we have on an ongoing basis. Expanding to more countries allows us to get some level of diversity, while expanding within countries allows us to get a different kind of diversity. Ultimately, I believe we’ll do both. We’re definitely doubling down on Lagos. Speaking of which, if you have a spare campus in your backyard that you’re not using, we’d love to create a tech mega-campus right here. We launched a bootcamp in Abuja recently, and have been supporting the ecosystems in multiple other cities. We’ll be looking for the next location.

@PuleTaukobong, @nadayar - handing baton to you for (3) and (4).


#12

@senisulyman can this new funding aid creation of more @Andela branches across the country? e.g PH, Abuja and other cities in Nigeria .


#13

Hi, to the investor who has done many multiples on this investment :smile:
@PuleTaukobong What do you think the most important factor was in being able to raise so much money (this is a Series C already) in so little time?


#14

Hi Seni. Any thoughts about partnering with local universities for these tech campus style initiatives, say Unilag or Yabatech, which are geographically close to you? Seems to me there ought to be an opportunity to deepen relationships between developers, local employers and local institutions. Could also be a chance for Andela to use its knowledge to prod them on their curriculums.


#15

@kaylaluchy short answer, yes. Longer answer, we’ll have to balance our plans to expand in Lagos with our plans to get more diversity across Nigeria. We’ll want to prioritize locations that have clear talent and a lot of awesome young people interested in becoming world-class developers. AND locations where we can find the right support infrastructure and operate freely without any major obstruction from “external forces” :).


#16

Hi @SkweiRd

Great question boss. It’s only a matter of time until we see more.
It’s early days in our ecosystem, but an epic milestone like us leading this round highlights that Africa means business and that opportunities for us to lead them exist. Watch this space.


#17

Thanks @senisulyman

@SkweiRd for #4

How does Andela think about job creation in Africa? There is a limited number of devs you can take on at a time, and in theory, those devs might go on to found startups that create jobs, but how do we know that’s true? e.g. Are there any business theory/strategy or entrepreneurship courses in your curriculum that directly contributes to this goal?

We are currently building an Entrepreneurship track to support our developers who intend to launch companies that will tackle local and global problems. This program will provide access to resources, networks, and experiences that will equip the participants for better chances of success.

Also, there is the Andela Accelerator that was mentioned in the NYTimes article. Our goal is to pilot the accelerator in Lagos and continuously iterate on it while offering Andela alumni a platform to launch their companies that would go on to create more jobs in the ecosystem.


#18

Hey @Tomiwa_Aladekomo we’d have loved to do that. It’s actually what makes many of the best entrepreneurial ecosystems work. Even if they’re not co-located, universities and startups/tech companies feed each other. My biggest hesitation with this would be finding a partner who’s aligned with our views of what the future needs to look like, and who’s willing to engage meaningfully to make 1 + 1 = 3. We’re actually ready to support universities with our curriculum; a couple of folks here have actually tried to reach out without any success. If any faculty, ministry or institution takes computer science/engineering seriously and reaches out to us, we’d be more than happy to support. We’ve gained more traction working with other orgs, sharing our curriculum and supporting them with initiatives. Our Distributed Learning Community and Android Learning Community are both very active. If you have specific ideas that could work, definitely let me know.


#19

Sup @ADYK_41

Growth Growth Growth sir! Andela’s has been scaling & executing at an exceptional fast rate, hence why they’ve been able to continue to mobilize capital.


#20

That’s fair. Having recently engaged with a number of universities on a small project, I understand the challenge. Nevertheless its a critical part of building the ecosystem so worth continuing to explore. Might be worth an offline conversation.

Much respect for the work you’re doing and congratulations on the raise.