OoTheNigerian

sometimes, I make a lot of sense.

Why Andela’s Nigeria Story is Important

16 June 2016 by Oo Nwoye

Today, the world got to know that Mark Zuckerberg led the round to invest in Andela’s Series B.  It was carried by Forbes, WSJ, INC, CNET and many others. Like Quartz

It is a massive story that would be carried around the world because, aside from the fact that it is Zuckerberg, it is the very first investment of the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative $40 billion behemoth.

It would have been all good, however the narrative of Andela especially with regard to Nigeria’s role seemed one kain. Besides the fact that in many publications, there was (prior to my twitter rants) NO mention of the critical role the Nigerian cofounder (Iyinoluwa) played, in birthing Andela. Lagos, where Andela was founded was reduced to one of two African campuses of a New York startup.

The WSJ reports:

Thursday, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative LLC plans to announce an investment in Andela Inc., a New York-based startup that trains software developers in Lagos, Nigeria and Nairobi, Kenya. 

My issue isn’t with the elevation of New York’s role in creating Andela it has to do with the diminishing of Lagos, Nigeria.

A Quick Recap

The TechCabal post announcing the Fora Pivot which became known as Andela

What is not known is that Andela was launched via a blogpost in 2014 as a Fora (Iyin’s previous startup cofounded with his schoolmate mate Ian) pivot. The idea was arguably seeded on TechCabal some days earlier (see comment section) when Iyinoluwa (aka E) grandiosely declared a world class developer could be trained in months.

Fora had been having challenges getting off the ground as an accredited long distance institution targeting Africans. With the encouragement and support of his American friend Jeremy and his first (Fora) backer South African Pule, decided to pivot to a business model.

To prove there was demand, E put out that post without anything on ground. The blog post was the MVP, Fora’s CTO and now Andela’s Director of Training, Nadayar executed on training. Once demand was proven on the supply side of the business (trainable developers), it was time to form Andela as a new entity.

Andela was made possible because of the Voltron formed BETWEEN Nigeria and USA. Founded in Nigeria, financed in New York. A great combination.

A profile from Ventures Africa last year highlights the important aspects of the founding of Andela

The seed for Andela came from one of the company’s other co-founders, Iyin “E” Aboyeji, a 23-year-old Nigerian and law graduate from the University of Waterloo two hours west of Toronto, Canada. E, as he is known by most people, is also a serial entrepreneur with two previous start-ups, Bookneto and Fora.co, an online pan-African platform that distributes tertiary and professional educational material

 

Andela launched on 1 September 2014, with six students selected from a developer boot camp, in the office building it currently occupies on Herbert Macaulay Road not far from the famed Co-Creation Hub, an incubator at the centre of Nigeria’s tech revolution.

 

Why This History Matters

Until lions have their own historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunter

It is hard being Nigerian especially when it concerns the internet. We are pattern matched in a disrespectful way almost all the time and there is a lot of tangible cost to Nigerian Internet Entrepreneurs.

So success stories MATTER SO MUCH when we are trying to change the narrative.  What is the best way to prove to an investor that you can start a multi-million startup from Nigeria? Show the investor a multi-million dollar startup that was started from Nigeria.

How can you easily convince a Nigerian that with the right partnerships, they can co found a multi million dollar startup from Nigeria? Show them a Nigerian that has done so.

How can you tell a 23 year old he is not too young to be ambitious? Show him a 23 year old that launched a startup with a blog post.

Can an African Angel investor discover the next Andela? Yup! Cos Pule did!

Bosun of CcHub saw (against naysayers like myself) that the Yaba Tech Cluster of Nigeria would BIRTH great things. It helped birth Andela. Now that the validation of Andela as a success is going global, Lagos has been reduced to one of the campuses of New York based startup. (Nairobi is even mentioned first in some reports!) 

Pictures also Matter!

In the Forbes article, the picture used positions the familiar benevolent white folks with the grateful African recipient of a good gesture. Or in other cases the students that are being trained. It should have been the right time to include the picture of the NIGERIAN co-founder E, who helped make this happen. They say a picture says a thousand words. That picture would inspire millions the world over by SHOWING not telling, we can do it right here from Nigeria.

Most of all, the Loyola classmates and Warri neighbours of E deserve some braggin’ rights! “See our boy doing great things!”

Andela is filling an extremely important piece of the African techosystem – building the talent of tomorrow so I wish them nothing but exponential success. But as they go on to do greater things, they should not forget where they came from.

The Andela Team: Ian, Christina, E, Jeremy

In conclusion, it is expected of the press to tell the accurate stories. When they fail in that regard, it is our responsibility to correct it immediately before Mongo Park goes to discover River Niger again :)

PS: It is important to clarify that in no way am I suggesting that there is sinister plot to wipe away the Nigerian roots of Andela. I believe historical oversights happen without realising the importance of some of its aspects.

Thanks Banke and Sam for your feedback for this post!

Have You Read These?

I am a founder of Fonebase Labs, a Nigerian technology company. Our products are Fonenode - a telephony API, Callbase , a virtual contact center and WriteRack the best way to tweetstorm. Feel free to holla at me (ositanwoye@gmail) if need be.

16 comments | Categories: Nigeria, Startups, Technology | Tags: , , , ,

  • ChiomaChuka

    Oo you’re behind WriteRack? Wow…

  • ChiomaChuka

    Solid article by the way.. I just got carried away reading what products Fonebase Labs has out. I love WriteRack. TechHer uses it every Thursday for TechHerTeach, a teaching series we run on Twitter unboxing tech-related terms/concepts for our community.

    • Very glad to hear that.

      We hope to bring out a few new improvements soon.

      • ChiomaChuka

        Yes, we do. Been such a helpful resource since we found out about it. Nice, re improvements. If I may, especially around arranging the tweets in such a way that you don’t have a number that ends up just having a full stop or some other random punctuation mark.

  • Glad you wrote this because frankly I was getting so disgusted by Andela’s very whitewashed public image.

  • Jude

    How much of Andela’s equity is held by Nigerians though? How many Nigerians are on the board? Where is it incorporated? How many shareholders are Nigerian? Money talks. Sentiment, not so much.

  • Frank

    I am curious. Is there any indication of how many shares Iyin has in Andela? Has his share worth tripled with the new valuation?

  • Rich

    But even local media ain’t helping matters, see TheCable re: ‘Nigerian’ startup

  • Godswill Okwara

    Boss, awesome article here. Please keep being Oo, speaking up when necessary.

  • I’ve been following this topic since the news broke and have been expecting Iyin to comment about this. But I think that is asking for too much. Why should he comment about a non-issue? That Andela was not credited as a Nigerian startup? After he has raised $24M? Do you think we really cares? Has Iyin ever present Andela as a Nigerian startup? Visit Andela.com, the contact number is a US phone number. The NY office is their corporate office. Iyin, personally, has referred to the Lagos and Nairobi operations as campuses? So did the foreign media present the story in a wrong way? No! Foreign media only rewrote the script Andela and Jeremy has been busy crafting for the past two years?

    I think some Nigerians just got themselves unnecessarily worked out about this non-issue. We should take solace in the fact that this isn’t the first time a Nigerian startup has raised big money. Jumia and Konga have done this long time ago. Visit their Crunchbase pages for comfirmation.

  • Lotanna Ezeogu

    haba “E”?…everyone gets a full name but E…worris dat?

  • William Obanla

    Love to be a partner with you

  • Nzube

    There is a reason to feel hard done by but I think we are pointing our guns in the wrong direction. If you read the comments section of the news article in WSJ (http://www.wsj.com/articles/zuckerbergs-venture-to-invest-in-startup-andela-1466049783) you will find a different POV.

    My take is that, we in Africa need to find a way to train our millionaires and billionaires, that there can be value, as well as societal good, derived from investing in our start-ups. Our governments need to do more. We cannot and should not depend on foreign capital.

    On a side note, the geo-politics of starting up is certainly worth a more in-depth article. Andela, for example is not a ‘Nigerian’ head quartered start-up. It isn’t even a ‘US’ registered startup either. You may find it perplexing, but Iyinoluwa, his colleagues and their registered company are actually Canadian! Maybe as part of the deal, a US registered entity is in the works? Or perhaps Panamanian? Who knows!

  • Iyinoluwa Aboyeji

    This is E, Andela’s co-founder.

    First of all, I’d like to make it clear that I really appreciate the thought behind this article. Oo is somebody I respect and a true voice for our ecosystem. I owe him a lot. We all do. However, I’d like to add some more context to all of this and perhaps reminisce a little…

    Since it would be impossible to do justice to the founding story of Andela in a comment, I decided to elaborate in a Medium post : https://medium.com/@iaboyeji/how-andela-was-founded-f32b22808b8a#.4klap0l26