Wanted: CTO

Hello World,

Lean Africa’s CEO Erik Lönnroth is looking for a cofounder to join him as CTO in building a world-class mobile learning platform for the African market.

In April 2016, we launched our first consumer product SimuLia, an Android app that promotes reading among Kenyan kids by providing a digital library of illustrated stories in English and Swahili. We are already monetising users through monthly subscriptions and are now looking to expand the content offering and platform features to drive higher engagement, retention, and referrals.

We’re seeking a CTO who is excited about the prospect of delivering learning solutions directly into the hands of kids. Erik has spent the past year travelling in Tanzania and Kenya interviewing parents and children, running lean experiments, and honing a value proposition that resonates with local audiences. Our strategy is to bypass the bureaucratic inertia and procurement bottlenecks that have prevented so many other ed tech companies from reaching significant scale through schools, instead serving our solution directly to consumers. Due to the rapid growth of smartphones across the continent over the past three years, it is now possible to reach a mass market of users without passing through government channels. A world class learning platform in the pocket of every child is our vision, and the hardware portion of that goal is already on the way to being solved. Now for the software.

Our direct to consumer approach requires a rethink of traditional educational software. With no teacher there to guide or support the learner, it becomes less about curriculum and more about connecting with children’s natural curiosity. We know we’ll have succeeded when kids get home from school and immediately nag their parents to hand over the phone so they can play on the app. Achieving this will require awesome content from our publishing partners (two reputable publishers have already come on board, with a third in line), elements of gamification to hook users’ attention,  referral schemes to grow the customer base, and the support of parents who appreciate the educational value of our product.

We’ve already run a rigorous randomised control trial demonstrating that children who use the app regularly make rapid gains in reading fluency and comprehension. It’s an encouraging start, but our ambition doesn’t stop at learning to read. The next step is reading to learn – letting kids freely pursue their curiosity down various rabbit holes, reinforcing the idea that learning can be fun, empowering, and self-directed. How we facilitate this organic discovery process through a mobile interface is the product design challenge that lies ahead.

We need a CTO who is a full stack dev capable of handling front-end elements that captivate young learners as well as back-end databases that manage content, subscriptions, and payments. SimuLia is a hybrid Android app built on Cordova/PhoneGap, with server-side PHP scripts. Strong web development experience is essential for this role, though we may migrate to a fully native Android app eventually (there are currently no plans to develop for iOS, as it represents less than 10% of the African market).

As well as having the skills and maturity to build our platform and eventually manage a team of devs, the cofounder will be a trusted business partner to the CEO. He or she must be ready to jump on conference calls with investors, speak to users, pitch to publishers, interview job candidates, formulate strategy, and revel in the turmoil of running a tech startup in the constraints and uncertainties of a developing country market.

Erik is currently splitting his time between London and Nairobi. A CTO willing to live in one of these cities would be ideal, although remote work will also be considered.

Lean Africa is entirely bootstrapped and unable to pay salaries until we have raised a seed round. We recognise that not everyone is able or willing to support themselves on savings, so a few weeks of part-time work can be arranged for the cofounders to “date” before a firm mutual commitment is made. Once a seed round has been raised, the CTO is expected to drop all other commitments and come on full-time. 50% of equity will be offered to the right candidate.

If you are interested in being Erik’s CTO, shoot an email to erik [at] leanafrica [dot] org describing why you’d make an amazing cofounder with examples of cool stuff you’ve built. Also have a look at the SimuLia app and give your view on what you think could be improved. Don’t wait, get in touch now!