Ghanaian startup training graduates to become data scientists

Data science is the field in which algorithms coupled with scientific method and processes are used to obtain insights from data in various forms. This is what the Ghanaian startup, Blossom Academy, is doing – training graduates to be better data scientists.

Jeph Acheampong, the CEO and co-founder is not only training Ghanaian graduates. He and his company are equipping graduates from several West African countries. Blossom Academy trains these graduates with the needed resources and skills required of a successful data scientist.

Another extraordinary benefit the trainees gain is Blossom Academy after training them connects them with tech businesses in Africa.

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Interviewed by How We Made It In Africa, Blossom Academy’s CEO Jeph Acheampong talked about a couple of stuff.

1. Give us your elevator pitch.

Asked about the company’s elevator pitch, Acheampong said Blossom is the first data science academy in West Africa. The academy trains and pairs data science talent with tech businesses operating in Africa. He continued that the program is based on 3 pillars: competitive peer learning, project-based experience and mentor-based learning. Blossom go this way to advance sustainable capacity building in data analytics and machine learning.

2. How Blossom Academy is financed

Jeph Acheampong worked as a founding member of a rotational savings platform in the US. Prior to that he used to work on Wall Street. So apparently, it is the savings from these jobs which he pumped into Blossom Academy.
Acheampong recalls that they ran out of cash due to unforeseen costs. However, they had to fall on friends for financial support.

According to Acheampong, Blossom Academy is currently in conversations with a few investors to raise seed capital.

3. If given US$1m, where would it go?

Jeph said the company will primarily focus on growth in three areas:  Refine our curriculum to encompass other valuable skills such as data privacy and cybersecurity; Expand our training programme to Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa based on recent employer surveys; and lastly, pair our graduates to global tech businesses.

4. What risks does your business face?

“One risk is our inability to provide quality graduates with relevant data science skills. To mitigate this risk, we first identify the challenges of employer partners before designing our curriculum. Secondly, we incorporate a series of realistic projects into our training programme. For example, if a student is interested in finance, we will connect them to a fintech employer partner throughout the training programme to clean, analyse, and draw meaningful insights from the company’s data, while building a data-driven portfolio. In return, the partner company commits to guaranteeing the student a job interview – if needed.”

5. Most successful form of marketing so far

Blossom has been using ambassador marketing. The CEO says it works best for the company. Blossom Academy engages “highly-driven ambassadors in our cities of operation to help generate awareness about our programme.”

On the employer partnerships front, Blossom Academy employs the power LinkedIn. Their employer partner shares updates on LinkedIn. Also, referrals from their employer partners have been a helpful strategy, Acheampong said.

6. Most exciting entrepreneurial moment

“After collaborating with IBM Big Data University to provide courses during our initial recruitment process, we quickly realised the majority of applicants knew very little about data science. However, this did not deter one of our applicants, now a graduate, in the majority pool from going above and beyond. Bridget’s tenacity, coupled with the resources provided by the academy, led her to be recognised at the SC18 conference in Dallas Texas, where she shared the recognition with students from universities such as University of Delaware, Duke University, and Stanford University. She also received a substantial monetary award from Intel for continuous education in data science anywhere in the world. Witnessing this impact has been added motivation to build the future of Africa.”

7. Biggest mistake, and learned lesson

The CEO says during the first year of operations, they offered the training programme at no cost. But, the tactic flopped because some students did not take the opportunity seriously. This resulted in the instructors spending more time motivating the students as against giving them the best training possible. “We now realise having students contribute a minimal fee upon acceptance fosters better engagement,” Acheampong claimed.

8. Some untapped business opportunity in Africa.

Jeph said he has come into contact with tech startups in East Africa. And he found that sales professionals, marketers, and early-stage founders find it no-so-easy to reach decision makers. Jeph believes this is an opportunity for a database of relevant data on decision makers.

“I believe this creates an excellent opportunity for a pan-African company database that professionals can leverage to find relevant information on decision makers, such as business email addresses and phone numbers. On the other hand, this creates an added opportunity to leverage an AI-powered vetting and matching process to ensure that decision-makers are provided personalised recommendations on businesses they may find the most value connecting with.”

 

Original article appeared on How We Made It In Africa.

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