When Andela, a start-up based in New York, launched in Africa, it encountered a few challenges. At first, applicants had to be based in Lagos, but they also started to include those living in Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda. Today, it has engineers from North America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America. The sky is the limit for the company as it was recently propelled to unicorn status when Softback invested $200 million, bringing its total valuation to $1.5 billion. The man behind such success is Jeremy Johnson, Andela’s CEO and here are facts to help you know the CEO better.
1. He Started His First Company at 15
The corporate world focuses on adults, hence the “30 under 30” and “40 under 40” lists. However, the rate at which young people are engaging in entrepreneurial activities is also admirable. Companies like BeYOUtiful, and Are You Kidding were all started by kids under 15. Similarly, as a teenager, Johnson’s love for technology had consumed him, and he decided to make some money from it. He created a system for trading virtual currency and video games at the age of 15. He revealed that he hired people who did not know how old he was, and the business was profitable.
2. He Dropped Out of Princeton
A glance at Johnson’s LinkedIn profile can have you thinking that he graduated from Princeton University since he lists the years attended as 2003-2006. However, the CEO did not complete his studies, preferring to drop out and start his first education company at 21. Princeton was once ranked as the top Ivy League school that produces CEOs of tech companies with market caps of $1 billion. The ranking was disputed by Business Insider that instead found Stanford to be the top producer of tech-CEOs.
3. He is Usually Anxious during the First Stages of a Business
Johnson disclosed that when a business is in its initial stages, everything will keep the entrepreneur awake. When Andela was still in its early stages, Johnson would worry about creating an ideal structure to scale its operations. He also wanted to find the best placements for the fellows in the program. He had every reason to be anxious because according to Entrepreneur, the Bureau of Labor Statistics approximated 20% of small businesses fail within the first year and 30% fail within the second year. 50% of small businesses shut down within five years, while 70% do not make it past the tenth year of operation.
4. He Believes in Continuous Improvement
In the words of Vince Lombardi, we cannot attain perfection, but if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence. Johnson lives by these words and even pushes his fellows to be better than when they joined the company. He opines that even if they train the fellows to be world-class software developers, it is his responsibility to make them world-class leaders and human beings.
5. His Parents Inspired Him
Johnson’s entrepreneurial spirit is from watching his parents. According to How We Made It in Africa, Johnson’s parents are both entrepreneurs who worked on building a non-profit organization since their son was born. Since his parents’ non-profit operates an alternative school for high-risk youth, Johnson became passionate about education, founding a company that delivered online degree programs.
6. He is Not a Morning Person
It’s often said that the early bird catches the worm, and going by the list of successful CEOs who confess to waking up early, the adage holds some truth. Richard Branson, the CEO of Virgin Group, wakes up at 5.45 am even when he is on holiday on his private island. He likes to leave his curtains open so that the sun can wake him up. Some CEOs like Johnson prefer sleeping in and still get the job done. He admitted that no matter how hard he tries to be up early, he always finds himself waking up at around 8 am.
7. He Doesn’t Have a Specific Set of Questions for Prospective Employees
Candidates usually prepare themselves for job interviews by learning about the company and even the questions they can expect from the interviewing panel. It is a good tactic given that some CEOs have that one question that assesses how good a fit the prospective employee is. According to Fast Company, Carly Stein, CEO of Beekeeper’s Naturals, likes asking candidates about moments they failed. In contrast, Harold Hughes, CEO of Bandwagon, asks interviewees if they would rather be king or rich. However, Johnson is unpredictable. He said that the questions he asks are determined by the conversations held with candidates.
8. He is Open-Minded
Johnson does not stick to certain questions during interviews, which shows that he is ready to listen to potential candidates. Additionally, he was once advised to argue like he is right and listen like he is wrong, and to him, that is the best professional advice he has ever received. He reasons that people have different experiences, and if you take the time to listen, you can see things from their perspectives and understand.
9. He Can Be Quite Private
Andela was founded in 2014, but Johnson never disclosed any financial information regarding the company. However, in 2019, he announced that Andela had a projected income of $50 million. According to TechCrunch, he did not reveal why after five years he decided it was time to talk about the revenues. It was speculated that he needed to convince stakeholders that they were not in a financial crisis after laying off the staff. Still, the CEO acknowledged that despite the projected revenue, the company was yet to be profitable.
10. Why He Founded Andela
Johnson believes that Africa has the largest pool of untapped tech talent worldwide, reasoning that while human brilliance is evenly distributed globally, opportunities are not. He, therefore, started Andela to find the brightest students of Africa, train them to be world-class software developers, and place them in leading software companies like Microsoft.
Written by Allen Lee
Read more posts by Allen Lee