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Vybe: Matchmaking for Africans by Africans

Vybe: Matchmaking for Africans by Africans
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Credits:

Photo by Iwaria

FULL TRANSCRIPT

Narrator: Where would you rather find love? From your inner circle? You know, leave fate to bring your soulmate your way. Or would go the unconventional way, scrolling through a list of potential partners from the comfort of your room? Maybe unconventional sounds easier and quicker, but what about trust issues and the general cultural bias, particularly in this part of the world?

As unpopular as the terrain is in Africa, the online dating industry continues to attract a fair number of tech entrepreneurs. Adetolani Eko, Moronke Anifowose and Osagie Omonzokpia make up a team of such entrepreneurs. 

On this episode of Built in Africa, we focus on Vybe, a Nigerian online dating startup that is designed to help Africans connect with other Africans both online and offline infuses a conventional touch into the online matchmaking process to retain the regular style of dating.

The software engineering trio of Adetolani, Moronke and Osagie began their foray into the business of love in April 2019. But it wasn’t without the initial skepticism.

Adetolani: We were a bit sceptical about it in the sense that there was no market leader that I could say, okay this is who we are following for this particular continent. 

Narrator: That’s Adetolani Eko, co-founder and CEO of Vybe. By the way, Vybe is spelt VYBE.

Adetolani: We decided to carry out some surveys and customer interviews. So we called different people we knew and also strangers. We didn’t tell them what we were working on, we just sort of asked them “what they thought about online dating? What are the general issues you face while looking for somebody or finding a partner online? Have you tried dating services? What was your experience, what were the things you liked and did not like?” 

Narrator: The result of the survey bolstered their resolve; they built an MVP app which they launched in April 2019. 

Adetolani: The feedback was amazing. We hit about 1000 users in less than 48 hours of launching the beta app. So we initially planned to do a sample size of about 500 users but users kept coming in and our servers even crashed at a point

Narrator: The less traditional means of finding love has been around for a while but it became widespread with an increase in the use of Internet tools. While it is yet to be widely embraced in some climes, the online dating industry is worth more than $3 million globally. However, the Nigerian market is quite young.

Because of this reality and the existence of competition, Vybe had to offer a different touch to make it stand out. The team had the perfect idea.

Adetolani: Because of the peculiarities of the African market, the market we are going after, we noticed that it’s not enough to do an online thing. We decided to create an offline section where people can meet from time to time. A good example of that was a speed dating event that we had some time, late 2019, where we brought different single people together and then you’d go on short speed dates. And the event was incredibly successful

Narrator: However, the numbers recorded from the physical events paled in comparison to online matches, but it was a necessary setback for the moment. Osagie Omonzokpia, the Chief Technology Officer explains why.

Osagie: The speed dating event was free but it was for registered users only. So you register and we select, because we wanted to control the size. Th

Selar: End-to-end eCommerce platform for Africa’s passion economy

Selar: End-to-end eCommerce platform for Africa’s passion economy
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FULL TRANSCRIPT

Narrator: Since 2008, after the likes of Uber and Airbnb ushered in the era of on-demand marketplaces, hardly a quarter has gone by without a new ‘Uber for X’ launching, at least in the US and other developed countries.

On-demand marketplaces made the sharing economy thrive. An economic model for peer-to-peer-based activities, the sharing economy allowed people to monetise their time for specific tasks or services. These marketplaces also automated the matching of supply and demand, as well as pricing.

Despite the many benefits of the sharing and gig economy, workers usually find what they do one-dimensional, prioritising consistency and efficiency over individuality.

Enter the passion economy, a model that allows individuals to monetise their skills.

On this episode of Built in Africa, we put the spotlight on how eCommerce platform, Selar is working to grow Africa’s passion economy.

Digital platforms that employ the passion economy model like YouTube, Substack, and OnlyFans highlight the user’s individuality. These platforms can be very niche, though, leaving a variety of content uncatered for.

In the same vein, some kinds of content would flop on these global platforms. However, they’d do well on a niche geographical platform.

Selar is one of such startups trying to take advantage of this opportunity. Based in Lagos, Nigeria, Selar (spelt S-E-L-A-R) wants to help Africans monetise their skill, knowledge, and content from anywhere in the world.

Douglas Kendyson: So if somebody is like writing like an eBook or if somebody is creating like a course.

Narrator: That was Douglas Kendyson, founder and CEO of Selar. Douglas says that when he started Selar, African digital product creators weren’t regarded as people who create much value.

Douglas Kendyson: I mean, maybe people rate like influencers. But nobody has really thought of digital product creators as a thing. However, for me, I just always felt, even while we were building it, that this sort of should be a thing.

Narrator: However, that notion is gradually changing, and he believes it’s thanks to the work platforms like Selar do, enabling digital creators to sell eBooks, courses, provide training and coaching, among other content.

Douglas Kendyson: So many people are creating very sensible value on different fronts and in different formats that they’re worth selling locally, and they’re selling locally. I mean, I have like coaches that sell coaching memberships and programmes for like 350k, 600k. It’s weird because you would think, I mean, Nigerians don’t have money for that, but people are paying for that a lot.

Narrator: For perspective, ₦350,000 to ₦600,000 converts to anywhere between $700 and $1500, depending on the exchange rate. For many Nigerians, this is worth way more than their combined salaries for a couple of months

The journey to building Selar started in 2016 when Douglas was a Customer Success Expert at Paystack. You may remember Paystack as the YC-backed Nigerian fintech startup that was acquired by Stripe for $200m in 2020.

In 2016, Paystack only worked with businesses and rarely with individuals.

Douglas Kendyson: But then we kept on getting like emails of people that just want to sell thei

Bonus: Town Hall meeting with Peter Salovey, President of Yale University

Bonus: Town Hall meeting with Peter Salovey, President of Yale University
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This episode is extracted from a Techpoint town hall meeting with Peter Salovey, president of Yale University, enjoy.

Build the money of the future at https://currency.techpoint.africa/

Bonus: Building global products with African design, a discussion

Bonus: Building global products with African design, a discussion
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Build the money of the future at https://currency.techpoint.africa/

Narrator: Intro

The speakers on the panel, in the order that you hear them are:

Panel moderator, Christine Edith Dikongué. She is the co-founder of AfricaHacks, a digital startup mentorship platform.Wiza Jalakasi, Head of Global BD & Research, Hover Developer Services and;Oluwatobi Otokiti, founder, ProductDive & Senior Growth Product Manager at Flutterwave

Panel session

01:36 – What does building products with African design mean to you (panelist)?

06:29 – What roles do languages and currency play in building products for Africans?

10:22 – Other specific considerations to keep in mind when building for different African regions

16:00 – Post-COVID, do product teams really need to be on the ground to build products that solve real problems for Africans?

17:37 – What are some frameworks, tools and platforms that African product designers can use to reach more people like them?

19:04 – Oluwatobi on whether product teams need to be on ground

21:52 – Building digital solutions that solve actual problems

28:55 – Audience question: Recommendations for first-time founders on getting their product into the market.

Narrator: Outro

Please subscribe, share and drop a review of this podcast, by searching for ‘Built in Africa’ on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartRadio or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also email us feedback at [email protected]

For more stories on startups and innovation in Africa, please visit techpoint.africa

TalentQL: Building a pipeline of quality African talent for the world

TalentQL: Building a pipeline of quality African talent for the world
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FULL TRANSCRIPT

Narrator: Africa!!! Home to 1.25 billion people, over 60% aged 25 and below. With such a youthful population, it is no surprise that potential talent abounds, especially in cutting edge sectors like tech. And with thousands of tech companies already established and hundreds more coming up, quality is brewing every day.

Over the past decade, a variety of tech talent companies have sprung forth on the continent, with the primary aim of connecting said talents to local and international clients. Names like Lagos and San-Francisco based Andela and Ethiopian-based Gebeya come to mind.

But for Adewale Yusuf, ex-publisher of Nigerian-based tech publication, Techpoint Africa, these names were just scratching the surface. More work needed to be done.

On this episode of the Built in Africa, we put the spotlight on how Nigerian-based startup, TalentQL, wants to build a pipeline of quality African talent for local and international companies.

Adewale would better appreciate the intricacies of the market in 2018 when Techpoint Africa held its first African tech talent meetup in Europe. This was done in partnership with US-based seed accelerator, Techstars.

Majority of the people in attendance were software engineers who originally plied their trade in Africa but now led dev teams in Berlin and other parts of Europe.  

Adewale Yusuf: From the developers that came, one thing I realised is, the only thing Africa has to offer the world is talent.

Narrator: That’s Adewale Yusuf. 

Inspired by the quality of talent present, he made up his mind to play a part in building tech talent in Africa. Right there and then, the seed for the idea of TalentQL was planted.

But it wasn’t until about 2 years after the meetup that the idea began to materialise. To kickstart the project, Adewale first stepped down as the publisher of Techpoint Africa. Meanwhile, he had enlisted the help of professionals in the talent recruitment space: Opeyemi Awoyemi and Akintunde Sultan.

Opeyemi is the co-founder of cloud-hosting company, Whogohost; and Jobberman, one of Africa’s largest online recruitment companies.

Akintunde, on the other hand, is the founder of non-profit tech accelerator, DevCareer. The organisation is well known for its efforts to equip up-and-coming African developers with laptops and guide them on a path to proficiency. It has attracted the attention of global beneficiaries, such as Twitter and Square CEO, Jack Dorsey. 

Together, the trio launched TalentQL in November 2020. A moniker for Talent Quiet Location, its mission is to hire, develop, and manage remote African talent for global companies.

But with a plethora of established companies which provide similar services, how will TalentQL stand out from the lot? 

Of utmost importance to the team is its intention to source for talent outside of Nigeria’s largest tech city of Lagos. 

Afrikrea: Building the online infrastructure for African culture commerce

Afrikrea: Building the online infrastructure for African culture commerce
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FULL TRANSCRIPT

Narrator: Growing up in Mali, Moulaye Tabouré was quite passionate about art and fashion. His studies took him to France, where he noticed the trend of Europeans taking particular interest in art and fashion depicting African culture.

Moulaye Tabouré: We realised that first, a lot of the artisans’ work that we had and came with from Africa were actually very praised and looked forward to in Europe

Narrator: That’s Moulaye Tabouré, co-founder and CEO of Ivorian-based eCommerce platform, Afrikrea.

In 2010, after over 5 years studying in France, Moulaye returned to Mali to work as an auditor with PricewaterhouseCoopers and, later, Alstrom. It was during this period that Mali came under intense pressure from militant Islamist terror groups like Ansar Dine.

Moulaye Tabouré: So the country was closing up; less and less tourism. Meaning more and more artisans were actually struggling to keep up. So they were starting to move away from ancestral craftsmanship to going to work, for example, in the mines just trying to survive and make ends meet for their families

Narrator: Meanwhile, a different group of designers began to gain international recognition from names like Burberry and IKEA fabrics because of their modern twist to African fashion.

Moulaye says these separate events led him to seriously consider how best to help African designers overcome their dependence on tourism to sell their products. 

On this episode of Built in Africa, we put the spotlight on how Ivorian startup, Afrikrea, is building the online infrastructure for African culture commerce.

Moulaye quickly realised that he could not start this project alone. So he reached out to his long-time friend, Kadry Diallo. Together, they began working on his idea as a side project codenamed ‘Afrikrea’. This was in 2014.

 Moulaye Tabouré: We noticed that in pretty much any country you go in the world, you have a museum for African art, you have people that sell African items in shops or any other market. Unfortunately, these artisans themselves in Africa, the ones creating it, the ones actually initiating all of these are not getting most of the value. 

Narrator: According to Statista, Africa’s eCommerce opportunity is estimated to be around $19.8 billion. On the other hand, McKinsey & Company estimates that by 2025, the local manufacturing industry will grow to more than $900 billion.

While this shows signs of promise for African online retailers to pursue a global push for Africa’s fashion industry, issues have come up to stifle collective progress. For one, cross-border shipping and handling, and marketing are barriers to African fashion designers reaching global demand actively.

Similarly, difficulties arising from accepting online payments from platforms like Shopify exist. As with other eCommerce platforms, Shopify encourages African online retailers but does not build its platform to cater to their specific needs like payments.

These were the problems Moulaye and Kadry sought to solve with Afrikrea. Their research led them to studying business models of successful art-based online marketplaces like US-based Etsy.

Moulaye Tabouré: If people could make DIY products in the US and sell them for billions of dollars on Etsy. It didn’t make sense that we couldn’t make something similar for African creatives recognised all over the world.

Nollywood’s first feature-length animated film: LBMM

Nollywood’s first feature-length animated film: LBMM
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Build the money of the future at https://currency.techpoint.africa/

FULL TRANSCRIPT

Narrator: It is a cozy Sunday afternoon as I walk into a dimly lit movie theatre in Lagos, Nigeria. 

Already seated are hundreds of guests, including celebrities and members of the press like myself. As I make my way to empty rows in the middle, I spot a few extra-young faces in front, two of which I later learn are part of the cast for the movie about to be screened to a select audience, 1 week ahead of its premiere.

Popcorn in hand, I settle in my seat beside other adults as the last of the theatre lights goes off. Then the huge screen lights up as the movie opens to pre-colonial scenes of Oloibiri, the South-South Nigeria town where crude oil was first discovered in commercial quantities in the 1950s. The lead character is Bukky, a happy-go-lucky eight-year-old whose blissful life is abruptly interrupted by major events that will change the course of her destiny.

Following a successful premiere event that was held on December 11, 2020, Lady Buckit and the Motley Mopster became Nigeria’s first feature-length animated movie to make it to the big screens. You may recall that a similar project, titled SADE, only made it to press briefs in 2018 but never took off for undisclosed reasons.

Animated in 4k resolution, at 24 frames per second (for a cinematic effect), the movie is estimated to have cost over $1m to produce. And with themes that centre around education, family morals and a fair share of humour, it infuses Nigerianisms with other seemingly foreign elements. Unusual names such as Ladybuckit, Sleeperhead, Pantylegs, Dustee, and Mopps come to mind. 

On this episode of Built in Africa, we explore how Nigeria’s first feature-length animation movie came to life, the brains behind the project, their process and what all this means for the Nigerian animation industry.

The seed for Lady Buckit and the Motley Mopsters was planted in Blessing Amidu’s heart during a casual family moment in 2017.

Blessing Amidu: “We were actually watching cartoons. I usually sit down with my kids watching cartoons” 

Narrator: That was Blessing Amidu, mother of four and Executive Producer of the movie.

On this particular day, one of her sons, who was five at the time, walked into her room wearing only his underwear and a pair of slippers in hand.

She fondly remembers teasing him for looking like a cartoon character. 

Her daughter, 12 at the time, had a light bulb moment and before they knew it, mother and daughter were bouncing off ideas for cartoon characters inspired by the five-year-old.

Blessing Amidu: “We put two and two together and then we started looking at the names. I went to bed, I woke up in the morning, and I had some names in my head. Then we started piecing the names together; Pantylegs, for example, came from my son because of his underwear

Narrator: The initial plan was to build an entertainment facility, reminiscent of Disneyland, so she founded Hot Ticket Productions, of which she is currently the Chief Executive Officer. 

But Blessing soon realised that she was putting the cart before the horse.

Blessing Amidu: It came to a point that we decided that what we needed to do was showcase the characters first on the international stage.

Narrator: Borrowing from Disney’s playbook, a story with relatable characters needs to be told first, before real-life experi

M-Lugha: Building digital interactive apps in African native languages

M-Lugha: Building digital interactive apps in African native languages
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Build the money of the future at https://currency.techpoint.africa/

Additional music from www.zapsplat.com. Photo Credit: Global Partnership for Education – GPE Flickr via Compfight

FULL TRANSCRIPT

[Voices: Call and response]

Narrator: The voices you just heard are from a regular pre-primary class in rural Kenya. Only that the language of instruction is neither English nor Kiswahili, the two officially recognised languages of instruction in the country.

Teaching in Kiswahili or English is not an issue if you were in Nairobi, Mombasa, or the 30% of counties that make up urban Kenya. But for kids in the remaining 70% of counties, it’s definitely inconvenient.  

Abdinoor Almahdi: Imagine walking into a classroom, you’re just like me (I only know Somali) but the syllabus is in English or in Swahili or in French or some other countries like Rwanda and Djibouti. It’s like adding insult to injury.

Narrator: That’s Abdinoor Almahdi, a Kenyan information technologist and telecommunications engineer, and the brain behind Kenyan edtech startup, M-Lugha.

On this episode of Built in Africa, we tell the story of a young innovator building digital interactive apps in several Kenyan native languages, to support early childhood learning, despite locational challenges.

Abdinoor grew up in Northern Kenya, a predominantly nomadic and pastoralist region, where most of the people speak only either Somali/Kalenji, as opposed to the country’s official languages of English and Kiswahili. 

Abdinoor Almahdi: And actually it is almost 80% of the landmass  of Kenya. When I say ‘Northern Kenya’, we’re talking about almost 10 counties. And it’s where actually they experience the most severe educational crisis because of the socio-economic issues we have, from famine to droughts, sometimes flooding and cross-border conflicts. And then above all, now we have a language barrier.

Narrator: A 2016 UNICEF report titled “The impact of language policy and practice on children’s learning” confirms that one of the fundamental challenges of learning in most African nations is the rich diversity of indigenous languages. More often than not, the language of instruction differs from children’s mother tongue.

Abdinoor Almahdi: Imagine telling me this is my head and then still translating it into English or French, like ‘this is your head’. So it’s like you’re translating from unknown to unknown, instead of known to unknown. I know my mother tongue, so why don’t you use what I know to teach what I don’t know? So actually the first few years of education, we struggle a lot. Some of them even drop out. Because you take more time learning the language than even actually acquiring skills.

Narrator: Fortunately, this worrying situation has not escaped the notice of the Kenyan government. About three years ago, the government introduced learning with an indegenous language into the new curriculum, such that textbooks for basic subjects were produced in Kiswahili. However because the focus is only up to the Grade 3 level, the initiative has limited reach, not to mention the generally unfavourable reception by stakeholders.

Abdinoor saw an opportunity in all these. 

Abdinoor Almahdi: Actually, from personal experience, I could not even read or write until Grade 7. Grade 8 is when I

Bento Africa: Influencing the monthly spend culture of Nigerians

Bento Africa: Influencing the monthly spend culture of Nigerians
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Credits:

Music by Mixaund – mixaund.bandcamp.com

Upbeat Corporate – JP Bianchini https://jpbianchini.com

FULL TRANSCRIPT

Narrator: For many companies, hiring can be one of the most daunting tasks. 

Ebun Okubanjo and Chidozie Okonkwo, serial entrepreneurs who run Fitness Central, a chain of wellness and fitness centres in Lagos, Nigeria know this all to well

In one particular incident, they were interviewing candidates to head their fitness centre. A particular applicant had an excellent resume with various qualifications and degrees but at the end of quite an underwhelming interview, the founders were left startled.

Ebun Okubanjo: “My co-founder said, ‘dude, his degrees are probably fake’.”

Narrator: That’s Ebun Okubanjo, Co-founder and CEO of Bento.

Ebun Okubanjo: “I was like, ‘how can you have fake degrees?’, I was naive. And he was like, ‘dude, there’s a market for it’. So I thought to myself, ‘if someone is faking a degree to get a job as a head of fitness, then people must be out there faking degrees to get jobs as accountants, as nurses, as lawyers and a whole bunch of stuff’.”

Narrator: On this episode of Built in Africa, we take a look at how Nigerian payroll software startup, Bento is working to influence the monthly spend culture of Nigerians.

The interview experience inspired Ebun and Chidozie to launch Verifi.ng, an HR platform originally built to help companies in Nigeria verify the credentials of potential employees.

Ebun Okubanjo: “We started it off as a hobby. The idea was to help employers verify degrees. So, everytime you get a CV, we plug in to all the schools and we would use the matriculation number to let you know if that degree or certificate is real”.

Narrator: But they hit a roadblock. Most of the schools they approached did not have reliable data

Ebun Okubanjo: “Now, while we were working with the schools, we decided to make a company out of it. We asked ourselves, ‘ beyond education, what else do you need to do if you are onboarding a new employee?’ Often times, employers would do work history verification

Narrator: But then again, verifying employee’s work history can be a challenge. Many employees have found ways to game the system by using friends and family to pose as past employers. 

So how do you solve a problem like this? fake past employers?

Ebun Okubanjo: “Salaries! That’s it, it’s salaries! The day they started paying you and the day they stopped paying you is how we do employment verification. Unless you worked for free. And very quickly, we realised that salary data was out there and it existed in a way that was fragmented, didn’t make sense, wasn’t coherent, we couldn’t use it for employment verification and we couldn’t use it for anything else

So we now realised that we had to go all the way back. So we can’t clean up the data at the schools, because that’s just a mess. But we felt that we can clean up salary data, not historical but from this particular moment going forward”

Narrator: This was back in 2016, Since then, Verifi.ng has signed up businesses cutting across different sectors including Mavin Records, Hotels.ng, Lost in Lagos, Bamboo, Branch and even Techpoint Africa, helping them to pay salaries, taxes, pensions, and health insurance for their employees.

In 2020, Verifi.ng was renamed to Bento Africa. Ebun explains the reasoning behind this.

Ebun Okubanjo: “Well, as the story and the focus of the company changed, where it n

Obinna Ukwuani: Robotics in Africa and Digital Initiatives at Bank of Kigali, Rwanda

Obinna Ukwuani: Robotics in Africa and Digital Initiatives at Bank of Kigali, Rwanda
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Credits:

Music by Mixaund – mixaund.bandcamp.com

FULL TRANSCRIPT

Narrator 1: In June 2020, Obinna Ukwuani, a Nigerian serial entrepreneur, was appointed Chief Digital Officer for the Bank of Kigali, the largest commercial bank in the East African nation of Rwanda. Such Pan-African appointments are not new, but the circumstances surrounding his, make Obinna’s story truly compelling. .

Born and raised in Washington DC, a high school valedictorian, with an economics degree from MIT to boot, you could easily expect Obinna to take his pick of jobs from some of the best companies in North America. But he had his eyes set elsewhere.

Obinna Ukwuani: “For whatever reason, I just really felt a desire to be a part of working in Nigeria, building up Nigeria, nation-building, creating opportunities, in my own small way. I felt I was gifted and I wanted my best work to be in a place where the impact would be maximised and closest to home.”

Narrator 1: On this episode of Built in Africa, Obinna Ukwuani takes us on his journey from shaping the development of robotics in Africa, to spearheading digital initiatives at the Bank of Kigali, Rwanda. 

Obinna’s passion for nation-building did not just come out of the blue.

Obinna Ukwuani: “When I was 11 or 12, my dad sent me and my older sister to boarding school in Enugu, Nigeria. I wasn’t a bad kid, I was always a top student, but he really felt a need to make sure that I understood where we came from.”

Narrator 1: According to Obinna, those two years were pretty tough, but he admits they had the intended effect of helping him understand his roots in Nigeria.

Obinna Ukwuani: “When I had finished my education there and I returned to the US to finish the last 3 years of high school. I graduated, was accepted into MIT, I then travelled to Nigeria, I think the summer after my freshman year in the university. And when I got to Enugu – this had now been maybe 4 or 5 years since I had graduated – I met with my peers and friends I had made during the time that I had spent there, and we caught up and I was telling them about my experience. I told them I was in MIT but they actually didn’t really believe me.”

Narrator 1: To prove that he was going to MIT, Obinna’s friends asked him to build a website on the spot

Obinna Ukwuani: “So I just put together some HTML and CSS, did some Photoshop and all that stuff. And I actually built a website, sat down for hours and just did it. They were amazed.”

Narrator 1: Obinna’s encounter with his peers at Enugu literally inspired him to birth Exposure Robotics, an academy looking to expose young minds to the field of robotics, which he launched in the summer of 2012, while still at MIT. 

Prior to that, he had engaged with the District of Columbia Public Schools where he taught robotics fundamentals to high school students.&nbsp