Founder of Silicon Hills News

The shortage of tech talent is acute in Austin and every U.S. city.

The U.S. faces a shortage of as many as 21 million skilled workers by 2020 in manufacturing, energy, health care, technology, education and other fields, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

To fill job vacancies, Austin tech companies are going global.

Four Austin-based tech startups are finding software developers in Africa thanks to three-year-old Andela. The company, founded by Jeremy Johnson, Christina Sass, Ian Carnevale and Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, has hired around 250 developers based in its Lagos, Nigeria and Nairobi, Kenya campuses.

Africa is the continent with the fastest growing population in the world with 1.2 billion people and a median age of 19.5, according to Andela. The company provides selected applicants with training and mentoring to become world-class software developers.

“Outside of New York and San Francisco, Austin is the largest location for Andela,” said Johnson. He spoke last week at The Zebra, an insurance aggregation startup, based in downtown Austin.

Andela hosted a panel discussion on “The Future of Work Will Be Distributed” last Thursday at The Zebra’s headquarters.

Right now, Andela works with four companies in Austin including The Zebra.

The company doesn’t like to call what it does outsourcing. It calls it distributed work.

“Andela basically finds and connects people to top developers,” Johnson said.

The developers work out of Andela campuses around the world and serve as team members of high growth companies like The Zebra, he said. Andela is well funded to pull off such a massive endeavor. To date, Andela has raised $39 million including $24 million last June in a Series B investment led by Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and GV, formerly Google Ventures.

In the past two years, Andela has hired around 250 developers, of which 22 percent are women, from more than 50,000 applicants. The company has worked with more than 50 companies including Google and IBM. Each of its employees commit to working for four years with the company they are placed with, Johnson said. The retention rate is 97 percent, he said. At the end of the period, the developers either go to work directly for the companies they work with or they go to launch new companies.

In Austin, software developers change jobs, on average, every 18 months, said Meetesh Karia, Chief Technology Officer of The Zebra. He likes working with Andela’s developers. He also works with a small team in India and a small team in the Ukraine. The difference with the Andela developers is that they are more like a team member, he said. Technology tools like video conferencing, skype and Slack make it easy for developers in Austin to collaborate with developers in Lagos, Nigeria, he said. Those developers also travel to Austin to meet their team members in person and that makes creating great software even better, Karia said.

Kosy Anyanwa, Andela software developer based in Lagos, Nigeria, is working with The Zebra. She has been with Andela for a couple of years.

“Being at Andela I’ve worked with really smart people and I’ve learned a lot,” she said. “Working with The Zebra is a good company to work with.”

The company has a good cultural and her coworkers at The Zebra have a great sense of humor and that makes working with them even easier, she said.

Andela isn’t like outsourcing in the classical sense, Johnson said.

“We wanted to create a system that would allow for great software to get built,” he said. “The caliber of the people and the way they interact with each other. They engage like a teammate.”