Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan are betting on Africa as the next hotbed of technological talent.
Andela, the Lagos-based company that trains and deploys software developers, is closing a $24 million Series B round—with the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI), founded by Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan, leading the round.
This is CZI’s first major investment and first time leading a financing round since Zuckerberg and Chan launched the charitable foundation last December after the birth of their first daughter with the goal to advance human potential and promote equality.
GV (formerly Google Ventures) also joins this round, along with the early Twitter investor Spark Capital, the Omidyar Network, and the San Francisco-based Learn Capital, which all participated in Andela’s first round.
Silicon Valley has been relatively slow to turn to the opportunity investment of African digital start-ups; much of the external investment into online ventures on the continent has been European. But Andela has had a good pedigree of US venture capital seed backers from the start—including Steve Case, Founder Collective, Rothenberg Ventures, Melo7 Tech Partners, and Facebook early member Chris Hughes.
Andela, founded by Iyinoluwa Aboyeji and Jeremy Johnson, works like an outsourcing firm—but unlike traditional ones, it oversees all aspects of the talent supply chain. That’s because Andela is also an ultra-selective software developer program; in the past two years, Andela has only accepted the top 0.7% of the more than 40,000 applications it has received.
When a developer is accepted into Andela, he or she is relocated to the company’s offices in Lagos or Nairobi, and is trained in a specific technology stack. After six months, participants are then placed with tech company clients which have included Microsoft, IBM, the Muse, and Udacity.
With this investment, Andela plans to open an office in a third African country before the end of the year.
Andela was founded on the premise that talent is “evenly distributed around the world”—but opportunities to succeed are not. Last year, Aboyeji and Johnson wrote a piece in the Wall Street Journal (paywall). Zuckerberg was born in Westchester County, NY, it begins. “But what if he had been born into a working-class family in Nigeria or Kenya? Would Facebook exist?”
With Silicon Valley’s shortage of developers and the high youth employment rate in African countries like Nigeria, Andela could connect of Africa’s best coders with new global economy. Zuckerberg and Chan must have taken notice; Aboyeji and Johnson’s piece in the Journal was published three days after CZI launched.