Much has been documented about the growth of the African tech ecosystem over the years, and much more stories need to be told. But African tech talents and entrepreneurs are not just winning on the home front. They are also making a visible impact across the globe.
As the number of African migrants to other developed countries keeps increasing, the number of African talents and entrepreneurs making waves abroad is also increasing.
These African immigrants were selected based on achievements in the outgoing year. Their startups either raised money, gained traction or were recognised for something commendable (like participating in Google for Startups Accelerator: Black Founders Class of 2022.)
For instance, Nigerian-born Tope Awotona, founder of Calendly, made Forbes’ list as one of America’s wealthiest immigrants in 2022. Would it have been possible if he remained in Africa?
Here are inspirational stories of African immigrants (and second generation immigrants) making waves in tech in the UK, USA and Canada. Inspite of the economic downturn in 2022, these immigrants have been part of the few success stories across the globe. The common strand is that each of these stories shows the vision, drive, and desire to make an impact.
They are Tope Awotona, Albert Owusu-Asare, Tsion Behailu, Joseph Kitonga, Tunde Omotoye, Damola Ogundipe, Zim Ugochukwu, Helen Adeosun, Kike Oniwinde and Muoyo Okome.
Awotona spent the first 15 years of his life in Nigeria, and moved to Atlanta with his family in 1996. He started out studying computer science at the University of Georgia, then he switched to business and management information. Upon graduation, he landed a job at IBM as a sales rep, before moving on to Perceptive Software, Vertafore, and Dell EMC.
His first three attempts at founding a startup: a dating website “single to taken”, “projectorstop” that sold projectors and “YardSteals”, a platform for home and yard equipment, all failed to take off. However, he got lucky on the fourth attempt.
Tope Awotona founded Calendly, a functional and effective scheduling tool that helps you schedule meetings, appointments and events without all the back and forth emails. The app is currently valued at over $3 billion.
Albert was born in Ghana, West Africa. He moved to the United States in 2012 to obtain his first degree and a double major in Computer science and Physics. Together with his course mate, he formed Cadana, a payment platform that works with employers to allow employees to have access to their salaries before payday.
Asides Cadana, Albert was formerly the Chief Technology Officer of Esusu, an American based startup co-founded by a Nigerian. He was also the Co-founder of Loggia, an application that helps students connect with activities going on their campuses.
Tsion was born in Ethiopia. He migrated to the United States from her country and had her university education at the University of California, Berkeley, where she studied Computer Science. After graduating from the University of California, she worked as a software engineer for Google before joining Arize AI as a Founding Engineer.
Arize AI is a startup that enables customers to monitor the performance of AI models using software that looks for things such as unforeseen biases in algorithms. The startup has raised $24.5 million in funding.
Joseph was born in Kenya before migrating to the United States of America with his family at the age of 13. He has founded four companies, serving as the sole founder of two and a co-founder of the other two.
He dropped out of college and founded Whats Popping LLC, a social event platform for discovering and sharing events. Thereafter, he co-founded ICOToday, a decentralized rating platform. He also co-founded Gullin, a platform for accredited investors to participate in Token Sales.
Joseph Kitonga worked for Microsoft before founding Vitable Health, a company which gives home health workers and others a primary care-based health insurance plan with virtual and at-home visits with no deductibles. The company has raised over $9 million from investors.
Having worked as a Human Resources Associate in Lagos, Nigeria for two years, Tunde Omotoye moved to Canada in 2015 as a graduate student. In 2020, leads HumanSquad, an immigration tech company helping immigrants navigate the complex Canadian immigration system.
In June 2022, the startup raised a six figure pre-seed investment led by Calm Fund. HumanSquad was also part of the Black Founders Class of 2022 of Google for Startups Accelerator.
The immigration tech company had earlier participated in an incubation programme by Ryerson DMZ, Canada and won the first edition of the Black Innovation pitch competition with a grant prize of $20,000 in 2021.
Damola Ogundipe emigrated from Nigeria to the US with his parents as a six-years-old. Having grown frustrated by the lack of civic engagement in the U.S., he founded Civic Eagle in 2019 to make it easy for public policy data to be discoverable, interpretable, and collaborative.
Civic Eagle has raised a total of $12.3M in funding over 9 rounds. Their latest funding was raised on May 11, 2022, from a Series A round. Civic Eagle is funded by 22 investors. Colin Kaepernick and S3 Ventures are the most recent investors.
Zim Ugochukwu was born to Nigerian parents in Mankato, Minnesota. She founded TravelNoire.com in 2013 after struggling to find images of young black travellers like herself on Instagram.
The site boasts a highly engaged social media presence with more than 700,000 Instagram followers, tools and tips to make travelling easier and a weekly online travel show, Travel Noire TV. Ugochukwu stands at the forefront of what is being called the Black Travel Movement.
Helen Adeosun, the daughter of Nigerian immigrants, started CareAcademy.com with a simple idea - to empower caregivers with the knowledge required to deliver the best care, support, guidance and compassion to older adults and improve the quality of their life. Helen is also the founder of sittercycle.com.
Prior to her entrepreneurial journey, she had worked with Teach for America, Boston Public Schools, and Pearson Education as well as a number of companies focused on caregiving issues. Helen Adeosun holds a B.A. from the University of Notre Dame and an EdM. in Education Policy and Management from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Kike Oniwinde is a former javelin thrower, and the co-founder of BYP Network, a platform that connects black professionals around the world to job opportunities and other black professionals in the UK. She has worked with the likes of Google, Facebook, Adobe and Airbnb
In 2020, the startup surpassed the £500,000 equity crowd-funding target on Seedrs and using the money raised to scale its leadership, sales and content teams in order to better serve the community.
With a network of 50,000 members, the London-based platform raised £10,000 in just seven days for Black workers risking their lives to work due to financial insecurities throughout the Coronavirus pandemic.
An expert in mobile app publishing, marketing, and monetization, Muoyo has built, published, and sold a portfolio of 100-plus mobile apps which have collectively been downloaded over 12 million times worldwide, including several achieving Top 10 and Top 100 status. He is the founder of App Magic and also doubles as a Senior Analytics Engineer at Netflix.
A former employee of IBM and Microsoft, he is the author of “The 7 Steps to App Success,” adviser of the App Moguls Accelerator, and host of the “Game of Grow” podcast, which debuted among the top 100 business podcasts on iTunes. Muoyo is the host of the Daily Spark Podcast and the founder of Daily Spark Media, alongside being a regular contributor to The Huffington Post.