Richard Brandt, fellow of the West Africa + Tunisia + Europe Startup Mentoring in 2018-2019
Please introduce yourself: What is your background?
My name is Richard Brandt. I am the Founder and CEO of Codetrain, a special training programme that transforms people into professional software developers and then matches them to companies for employment.
I have always been passionate about using STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) to solve social problems. I received my BSc in Mathematics from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST). During my national service I volunteered to help improve the math grades of school students in a poor rural community in the outskirts of Accra, Ghana. That year, there was a significant improvement in the students’ math grades.
After KNUST, I attended the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) where I studied software development and entrepreneurship for two years. While at MEST, my team won the World Youth Summit Award with an innovative solution that aimed at reducing maternal mortality in developing countries.
What made you start your own company? What’s your motivation behind it?
The future of the world’s talent resource is Africa, with Africa having the world’s biggest youth population. The proliferation of smartphones, high speed internet and the digitization of the economy has resulted in a high demand for software developers, both locally in Africa and internationally. However, there are not enough software developers to meet this demand. I started Codetrain to address this problem by offering a professional training in software to Africa’s youth, starting in Ghana.
How did you learn about enpact’s mentoring program? How has it helped you on your journey?
A friend messaged me asking me to look at the program and see if I would be interested. The mentoring program has helped me immensely in my journey as an entrepreneur. I was matched to a mentor, Daniela Lopes; and she was instrumental in helping me get a better understanding of my business in the first place. She also helped me to set clear objectives for growth. I furthermore took part in two training camps, one in Berlin, and the other in Accra during which I advanced my knowledge in entrepreneurship, leadership, pitch training, branding and more. This yielded immediate results for my company’s performance. For instance, my company grew from three to 10 employees, we expanded our training hub in Accra to three times the previous size, we improved our revenues, we opened another branch in the next biggest city in Ghana, Kumasi, and we reached 250 trained professional software developers at an 81% placement rate. All this happened after we improved our business model, as well as the value that we offer to our students and our partner companies that hire them. We also improved the underlying purpose for which Codetrain stands for – making the dreams of Africa’s youth come true. With the improvement in our business model, my company won the 3rd position in the Techpoint Africa Build Pitchstorm competition among 11 other startups selected from African countries.
In Ghana, even though entrepreneurs face a lot of challenges, the good news is that most of these challenges can be addressed with funding, but difficulty in getting access to funding blocks a lot of promising startups from reaching their potential growth rate.
What is your most valuable advice for entrepreneurs or aspiring founders around the world?
My advice to entrepreneurs would be that they should be openminded about their ideas so that they can be responsive to the needs of the market. Most often, we entrepreneurs get so married to our ideas that we neglect what is most important – the market needs. I would also want to say, that it is always helpful to get a team of dedicated people that believe in your vision and can make steady contributions to the growth of the startup. I believe such teams can achieve most things they are planning.
What is unique about your industry in your market? What will it look like in the next 5 years?
The digitization of the world’s economy has necessitated the need for tech talent globally with top tech firms now turning to Africa for talent. With Africa having the biggest youth population in the world with smart, talented people, we stand at a unique position to become the next global tech talent base. In the next 5 years, there will be tech parks across Africa, hiring African talent who will solve tech problems for companies across the globe in various industries.