Tech firm Andela, which matches software developers from Africa and other emerging markets with global clients, has won unicorn status after raising $200m in a Series E funding round led by Japan’s Softbank Group.
With a $1.5bn valuation, the Nigerian startup joins Senegal’s Wave and Nigeria/US-based Flutterwave as the West African unicorns of 2021.
The latest funding allows the company to invest further in its AI software which the company says makes hiring quicker and easier by providing millions of data points to guide companies on where an individual would be most successful.
“Five years from now it will be easier to push a button and have talent readily available to you than it will be to go out and try to recruit locally,” Andela’s CEO and co-founder Jeremy Johnson told CNBC Africa.
“That’s what it’s ultimately about, finding the right fit between talent and a company. And if you can do that on a global scale you can dramatically improve access to opportunity, but also talent. And that’s what the world needs to bring us all together.”
When the pandemic struck, hiring freezes left the Andela in limbo, but as companies came to the realisation that they had to turn to remote working, Andela and others capitalised, Johnson says.
“The world is not moving back into an office based environment anytime soon.. and new hires want that level of flexibility. What we’ve seen is the trend over the next ten years for remote work has been compressed into the past 18 months,” Johnson told CNBC.
Over the past 12 months the company has gone from training talent from 7 countries to over 80 by announcing a move into Eastern Europe and South America, in June. But its pool of talent remains concentrated in Africa, Johnson told CNBC.
“Latin America and Eastern Europe are still growing quickly, but the bulk of the talent base is still across Africa. Nigeria continues to grow as quickly as any country, and (continues) to be the largest single country represented by Andela talent.”
Africa’s Andela mafia
Responding to the news, US-based product manager at Facebook Dare Obasanjo saluted the company for bridging the gap between talent and opportunity.
“Talent is evenly distributed but opportunity is not. Thanks for bringing opportunities to so many. Hats off.”
African venture capitalist and early investor in Andela and Flutterwave Idris Ayodeji Bello, said the company has transformed Africa’s tech ecosystem by creating an ‘Andela mafia’ – a group of former employees and founders whose companies, just like the ‘PayPal Mafia’ and ‘Careem Cartel’, went on to be some of the most influential entrepreneurs and investors in Silicon Valley.
“I started asking my Andela people to see if they knew any Andela alumni (defined loosely as someone who used to be a fellow or employee at Andela) who had gone on to either start a tech startup themselves, or play a leading role at one. Surprise, surprise. We came up with this list of over 50 Andela alumni who have since gone on to found companies or lead a startup.”