Are you looking for a very large pool of software developers in Africa? My friend, look no more, check Devcenter. TechMoran in a chat with the co-founder of Devcenter, Akinola Falomo as he shares a lot of insights about his startup. The rationale behind creating Devcenter, how far they have grown, how they are being funded and lots more are entailed in this chat. You would do well to read it.
First, why did you go the way of building an online community for software developers? Why not any other conventional online community?
We started Devcenter out of an itch that we desperately needed to scratch. I had tried to build a startup in Lagos and had trouble finding developers to develop the software – we kept hearing about awesome developers but couldn’t find them. So we created the first version of Devcenter to allow Nigerian developers share what they were working on. Eventually, we wanted to work on an open source parser for bank statements and created a Slack Channel for developers who were interested. After that project, it naturally morphed into other projects.
You launched Devcenter jobs mid last year. Have you made a very significant impact in providing jobs for software developers?
We launched an MVP mid last year but the product has gone through a lot of iterations to where it is now. We have made a small impact but we’re not where we want to be yet. So far we’ve paid 20 million Naira out to developers in our current pool. As we grow, we are working hard to give developers access to more jobs.
How has the funding journey been like at Devcenter? Did you bootstrap the startup at first? How about investments?
For the first few years, running as a community, and up until the end of last year we were completely bootstrapped. We raised a seed round from VGG and other investors.
Have you ever had to deal with a developer who did NOT satisfy his/her client? How did you go about it?
Yes but not very often. We are very big “system thinkers” at Devcenter. We believe that by creating system using processes, we are able to achieve better results. We essentially work through the project deliverables with the developers and designers involved until delivery of the project. Our core promise to clients is to deliver projects on time and at budget.
What is your philosophy towards work as a co-founder of Devcenter?
First, we are trying to redefine what “work” means in Africa. I believe it will become more distributed and remote. My philosophy towards work is to to push through obstacles and carry out the action that needs to be done. Every few months, I try new strategies for work to see how we can be more optimal. Thanks to books like Deep work by Cal Newport and Scrum by Jeff Sutherland, I have a non conventional view of how work should be done.
Can you give us a peek into the team behind Devcenter? Are they software developers too, or is it just you at the helm of affairs?
We’re growing a world class team at Devcenter – we currently have a product development team, project management team as well as marketing and sales teams. These people have been carefully handpicked to fit the kind of product and community we’re building.
How do you hire? I want to think you do not fancy academic degrees, because most software developers don’t have/use/want one. Is this true?
Hiring developers for our talent pool is a process we continually optimize, we are learning new things everyday. At the moment, we use a mix of coding tests, portfolio checks, referrals and one-on-one interviews. We are looking to improve this with behavioral learning using certain parameters to predict the developer’s attitude.
What qualities do you hammer on most for your software developers to have when dealing with clients?
When you look at our business properly, you would notice it’s a time business. We need to deliver the client’s work as at when promised and we make sure all the developers in our pool are tested for delivery at optimal times. Also, the developer’s soft skills, this is also very important in relating with the project manager on the job and also the client in few cases.
How about if a software developer does not want money in return for a job? What if they want to co-found the product they are developing?
Currently, we don’t have this option but it is something we are looking to explore in a couple of years.
What steps have you made to recruit the raw software developing talents still on the streets of the continent, and not on Devcenter?
We currently support and have hosted a lot of developer outreach programs. We have hosted Hackathons, meetups and shared developer tools and tutorials via our newsletter. In Square, our online community, we have fostered interactions between several skill levels of developers. Square allows newbies connect with professionals and grow in a loving environment.
I’d need a few words for young software developers, and upcoming tech entrepreneurs.
I’m not really a fan of this question but I’ll say; look for, and follow the signal,and ignore the noise.