“Those types of engineers that care about what they’re building, they’re the ones you want on your team all the time.”
Nigerian Kehinde Ogunde watched his small cousin play tic tac toe on a small sheet of paper and decided he would like to improve the tic tacker user experience. He wanted to automate the tic tac toe process, so within a day he created a computer application. “[My cousin] was so excited about it,” Ogunde says. Ogunde realized that he could use coding to put a smile on others’ faces, and use automation to find solutions to solve problems and make people happy. So he decided to become a developer and made software development the focus of his education.
Then, one day at church, a fellow worshiper said to Ogunde said “You look like a developer.” Boy. If we all had a nickel, amirite? Ogunde described himself as a developer in the making and showed his new friend some applications he had built, and the impressed developer spotter told Ogunde he needed to look into Andela.
Jeremy Johnson, Christina Sass, Ian Carnevale, and Iyinoluwa Aboyeji founded Andela in 2014, after discovering a boom of technology talent coming out of Africa in the midst of a global developer shortage. Given the lack of innovation in the area compared to Silicon Valley, most young African developers have gone on to run systems in banks or oil and gas corporations. Andela wanted to offer these developers the chance to see how startups are run around the world and provide them a path to build startups on the African continent.
Andela currently has locations in Lagos, Nigeria and Nairobi, Kenya. Developers hired by Andela spend six months building internal tools and contributing to open source projects before being placed with one of Andela’s fifty plus partner companies which range from Google to venture-backed startups like Utah’s Homie (more on that in a minute).
Since the company began, Andela has received over 50,000 applicants. 250 of those applicants have been hired as Andela developers. Ogunde is one of the hired. “The process wasn’t an easy one but I gave it all that I got,” Ogunde says, “By God’s grace I got into the program.” In response, Andela Director of Communications Christine Magee says, “He’s downplaying how talented he is.”
Ogunde excelled at Andela, and upon completing his six months, was hired as an Android developer at Homie. Though Ogunde was hired to work remotely, he spent a couple of weeks in Utah getting to know the Homie team. “It felt like a dream,” Ogunde says, reminiscing about the mountains he saw, the chicken and waffles he ate, and the new friends he met. “I really enjoyed every moment I spent with the [Homie] guys.”
Now, I’ve talked with A LOT of members of startup teams over the last couple of years. Most are enthusiastic and pretty stoked on their company/product. But I have never met anyone who enjoys their job, and the company for whom they work, more than Ogunde. Sorry. You’ll just never match his excitement. “His enthusiasm and smile motivates the rest of the team,” says Homie cofounder and CEO Johnny Hanna. “He improves morale.”
“Each time I watch a testimony from a Homie user, I am filled with joy. I really love that,” Ogunde says. The amazing thing about Ogunde’s love for Homie is that home buying and selling as we know it is not really a thing in Nigeria. For Ogunde it’s a foreign concept in the most literal sense. But he’s still unbelievably psyched that Homie is automating the process and saving users thousands of dollars. “Those types of engineers that care about what they’re building, they’re the ones you want on your team all the time,” says Homie cofounder and CTO Mike Trionfo.
Ogunde has succeeded not just in improving morale, but in improving the Homie product as well. “Kehinde has completely built our Android app,” says Trionfo. “Before him we were having a really hard time finding someone to do that.” In fact Trionfo turned to Andela after failing to find a local developer who could build the kind of app he wanted. Trionfo explains that he made it clear what he needed from a developer and how he needed his product developed. “Andela stood up to the challenge,” he said.
Homie hired a second Andela developer, Kuti, to help build the app, and hopes to work with Andela more in the future. “We like it when we’re able to give someone an opportunity to rise up above their current circumstance,” Trionfo says. Homie, and other companies like it, will be able to tap into the pool of African developer talent thanks to the continuing efforts of Andela. “We will continue to build bridges between tech ecosystems in Africa,” Magee says, citing the company’s plans to continue expanding across the continent. “Being a developer has been my goal. Andela gives me the platform to do that,” Ogunde says.