OoTheNigerian

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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!

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