Yahya Bouhlel started coding in his early teens. Within this timeline, he did an internship at several companies in Palo Alto, California. Most of his work has revolved around building apps and iPhone games.
When he got home to Tunis, he met many students who wanted to build products like him every summer. And it was such a summer in 2017 that he had the concept of GOMYCODE.
After graduating from college in France and working for Amazon in London for a year, Amine Bouhlel, Yahya’s older sibling, moved back to Tunisia. His new job was opening a subsidiary for a French open source tech startup and that involved hiring developers on site. However, it was difficult to find a significant number in Tunis.
“I had just graduated from high school at the time and had a summer off. Amine struggled to find senior web developers,” CEO Yahya Bouhlel told Vidak For Congress in an interview. “So the idea of building a school or a learning experience came to the Silicon Valley spirit, and we started GOMYCODE as a summer project and camp and grew that year.” Amine, the company’s chief operating officer, held the title of CCO for Jumia Tunisia from 2018 to 2021.
Launched in 2017, the edtech today announces that it has closed an $8 million Series A round. It’s the biggest round at this stage on the continent (except Andela if it’s not counted as an edtech). AfricInvest, through its Cathay AfricInvest Innovation Fund (CAIF) and French development finance institution Proparco, jointly led the early growth round.
This brings GOMYCODE’s total funding to $8.85 million. It raised $850,000 seed in October 2020. One of its seed round investors, Wamda Capital, doubled in this new funding.
In addition to Tunisia, GOMYCODE is present in Bahrain, Morocco, Egypt, Algeria, Ivory Coast, Senegal and Nigeria. The startup hopes the Series A funding will boost its presence in 12 countries, including South Africa, Kenya, Ghana and Saudi Arabia. It also plans to deepen its presence in the countries already present, especially Egypt and Nigeria.
According to the UN, by 2030 the number of young people – people between the ages of 15 and 24 – in Africa will increase by 42%. One of the most pressing challenges the continent is currently facing – and will continue to face – is upskilling these people in a region where some countries have unemployment rates as high as 30%.
While there are different jobs in every facet of life, tech jobs are in high demand in the global economy today. As such, most enterprise-backed startups build around upskilling students and professionals in software engineering and generally technology-oriented skills. In Africa, a few of them are unicorn Andela, AltSchool, Gebeya, Decagon, Semicolon and others. They only work online or hybrid models (a combination of offline and online settings).
GOMYCODE uses the latter. It offers more than 30 learning paths ranging from web development to digital marketing and data science to artificial intelligence. Students are required to learn 50% of their time online and the other half in one of GOMYCODE’s network of 20 physical centers. Bouhlel says the company has local teachers in every country — more than 500 in number — and they teach students in more than 12 languages.
“We are meeting a demand that almost no other company on our scale can meet,” said the CEO. “Local traditional training centers offer outdated content and methodology, and international online players struggle to enroll African students due to their lack of knowledge of local markets and unaffordable prices. We have a mixed education model, we teach in 12 local languages and we position ourselves as a regional leader.”
Students on the platform go through two types of programs. One section consists of skills-based introductory courses that last up to 3 months and cost an average of $250. The other part includes 5-month career-oriented studies with an average cost of $750.
GOMYCODE says it works with various institutions to place its students. It claims to have successfully placed 80% of its students through a job placement program. On the other hand, it also works with corporate clients who use study now, pay for their employees later. This model accounts for only 10% of GOMYCODE’s revenues (the company’s total revenues have grown three times a year since its inception).
“There are many impact and mass market players. We target a wide range of students. So our courses are not just for graduates or professionals, or people from a specific social class,” he said. “GOMYCODE programs are aimed at mass markets, and our blended model makes us accessible and affordable, which you don’t see a lot of.”
The edtech platform has grown from 100 students in its first year to approximately 4,000 active students today. About 55% of the students come from Tunisia, with the rest being distributed among the seven other countries. With this new investment, GOMYCODE goes into full blitzscaling mode and hopes to reach 100,000 students in the next 2 years and open 50 centers in Africa and the Middle East. More than 1,000 students are already enrolling in one of the 30 courses each month, the company said.
Meanwhile, Khaled Ben Jilani, the senior partner at lead investor AfricInvest, believes the edtech market in Africa is untapped and that solutions like GOMYCODE “will have a huge positive impact on everyone in the technology and education ecosystem.”