Kenyan ed-tech startup Yusudi plans significant scale-up with grant funding

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Kenyan ed-tech startup Yusudi is planning to serve significantly more learners from a wider geographic area after securing grant funding worth US$250,000.

Launched in January 2016 after co-founders Nastia Gutsol and Charlotte De Ridder met in Mexico while working for NGO AIESEC, Yusudi creates tech-powered learning programmes that aim to change the way people learn.

“We complement and replace the often standardised and outdated learning methods for skills development; to enable an adaptive, individual-focused, highly practical and empowering way to become better at one’s desired activities, be it for business, career or personal growth purposes,” De Ridder told Disrupt Africa.

Currently, the startup runs two programmes. The first, and most advanced, is Jijali, an AI-powered, adaptive, virtual, professional skills development programme that targets youths aged between 18 and 30 that are unemployed or underemployed to grow their professional and business skills. It combines online learning modules, virtual coaching and in-person workshops, with the AI able to adapt learning content based on skill levels and learning types.

The second is its Skills2Grow programme, a career accelerator targeting recent graduates that offers training in business development, digital marketing and sales, alongside critical skills such as negotiation and emotional intelligence. These programmes, De Ridder said, ensure learners grow into attractive professionals, with their impact demonstrated by Yusudi’s 87 per cent post-placement hiring rate.

“Traditional skills development programmes focus on teaching the masses,” she said. “They provide content, design tests and evaluations for the average learner, generally ignoring the individual strengths and weaknesses of its students. In the 21st Century, the youth no longer want to wait for an average training curriculum. Youth want to learn in their own way, ensuring content is relevant to them.”

This is what Yusudi – and Jijali in particular – was built for. While its first two phases were fully funded by the Finnish Embassy and Co-op Bank Foundation, the startup recently raised US$250,000 in grant funding from Global Giving in partnership with Impact Assets and Blue Haven Initiative. De Ridder said the  two-year grant would allow it to continue to launch its personalised virtual online learning platform into its third phase.

“Five hundred learners went through the programme during the first two phases. We intend to train 2,000 new learners in the third phase of Jijali,” she said.

“The first two phases of the programme were targeting applicants from Nairobi County. With the third phase, we expect applicants from all over Kenya.”

Yusudi, which charges a monthly subscription fee for use of Jijali, is on the move, then, but De Ridder said it had taken a lot of work to get where it is now, mostly in terms of establishing credibility.

“The key challenge we faced when launching was to build a credible brand that youth would trust. There a lot of people that have been scammed by “training programme” offerings. We worked hard to build a brand that people could trust,” said De Ridder.

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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