South Africa’ Zindi raises $1m seed round for expansion.


Zindi, a professional network of data scientists based in South Africa, has raised a US$1 million seed funding round to help it continue its rapid expansion.

Zindi is a community of over 34,000 data scientists that use machine learning and AI to solve some of the world’s most important economic and societal concerns. It was founded in 2018 by Celina Lee, Megan Yates, and Ekow Duker with the concept that data science should be accessible to everyone.

Companies come to Zindi to find the best solutions and people for their businesses. Its registered users come from 150 different countries, and Zindi’s user base has roughly doubled in the last year. The company has completed over 100 challenges and provided over 100 machine learning solutions to clients.

The startup now plans further growth after raising a US$1 million seed round, led by the San Francisco-based Shakti VC, along with Launch Africa Ventures, Founders Factory Africa, and five35. Lee said Zindi had plans for further expansion.

“We are a platform with African roots but global reach. So far our main focus has been on penetrating the African market. We will be the go-to platform for every data scientist and aspiring data scientist on the continent. It is entirely possible that if we can get it right in Africa at scale, if we can create a world where companies, data sets, and talent are seamlessly connecting on the Zindi platform to create new exciting value, we could replicate this model in other emerging market contexts where many of the opportunities and challenges are similar,” she said.

“We already see, for example, data scientists from Kenya, Tunisia, and India who met on Zindi, teaming up to solve a problem for an organisation in South Africa. We shared a frustration seeing companies in Africa sitting on unprecedented amounts of data and an excitement about data science, AI and machine learning, but not knowing how to even start. They often assumed that they had to look outside of Africa to find the people they needed to help them.”

Zindi fills the gap here, with its mission of making data science and AI accessible to everyone.  

“This means all companies are able to unlock the power of their data; people are able to pursue careers in data science regardless of race, gender, or geography; and AI solutions are designed appropriately to positively impact everyday lives of all people around the world,” Lee said.

The startup charges companies for posting a challenge on Zindi, and then crowd-sources machine learning solutions for them. 

“This can be for anything from customer churn prediction and cross-selling products to predicting flood extents using weather data. Companies get hundreds of talented data scientists working on their problem, and in the end they own the IP of the top three solutions,” said Lee.

“We also make money in talent placement. We source top candidates with the right skill sets for companies. We are able to draw on the candidates’ actual performance and engagement on the Zindi platform.”