Andela co-founder on why entrepreneurs should “get obsessed” with the problem they’re trying to solve

Christina Sass

Andela is a company that trains African software developers and hires them out to global tech companies. In an interview in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, Christina Sass, co-founder and president of Andela, talked about the future of Africa’s tech sector and why entrepreneurs should “get obsessed” with the problem they’re trying to solve.

What’s your view of Africa’s tech sector?

I’m so excited about the next five to ten years. I think it’s an incredible time to be working on the continent of Africa. It’s the largest untapped pool of talent in the world. It’s also the youngest continent. We see [tech] talent coming of age and they have the possibility to scale solutions in every single industry that’s desperately needed – in global health, in agriculture, in energy and environment.

I see an Africa where technologists and people who are passionate about their home communities are solving problems locally and then spreading those technologies elsewhere. I also see an Africa that is leapfrogging a lot of the challenges that other tech sectors have had. The tech sector in Africa is one of the greatest ways that we will create a lot of employment and create a lot of solutions.

What opportunities do you see for women?

One of the greatest opportunities is to have a much more equal and sustainable tech sector by bringing women into the workforce much earlier. At Andela we have a companywide goal of having 35 percent women software developers. In Lagos, Nairobi and Kampala right now we’re at about 23 percent. The global average is 6 percent. So, if we can do that in Lagos, Nairobi, Kampala and soon Kigali, we can most certainly do that in Silicon Valley and other places. I see Africa really leading the way on having a much healthier and more equitable tech sector from the beginning.

What do you love about your job?

I love the opportunity to connect with young people across the continent that are full of energy and really want to create a better world and a better Africa. They really inspire us to work harder and better every day.

What’s your number one tip for new entrepreneurs?

Entrepreneurs that I know and deeply respect are obsessed with the problem that they’re trying to solve. They’ve usually tried to solve that problem many different ways before the current iteration of their business. I would tell young people who think they want to start something that it isn’t so much about having your name on the door. It’s about chipping away at how you solve that problem. Get obsessed with the problem you’re trying to solve.

What scares you?

Being an entrepreneur is terrifying in the early days. You have to be ready to knock down every single wall and sort of get over yourself, get over your own fear. There are challenges on a daily basis –- am I going to be big enough, am I going to be good enough, what if I fail? And you are most definitely going to fail. The question is, what are you going to do with that?

This article originally appeared on the IFC’s website under their Creating Markets section.