“Bangladesh is actually pretty good at freelancing!” says Jan Cayo Fiebig, CFO, Co-Founder and local chairman of CodersTrust. CodersTrust is an organization which provides microfinance for underprivileged students to learn coding. These students then can work in online market places like Elance and oDesk as freelancers and earn a fair living. We had the opportunity to sit with Jan at our SD Asia office and learn more about the future CodersTrust is building for the youth of Bangladesh.
Thank you for being with us. Let’s start with you, tell me a bit about yourself and how are you liking Bangladesh so far?
Jan: Well I’m the CFO and Co-founder of CodersTrust Global and the chairman of CodersTrust Bangladesh. I moved here 3 months ago and now I’ve officially settled in. Right now, in Denmark it’s a freezing 2 degrees and in Dhaka, I’m just walking around with my shirt on so I’m really loving it here!
Glad to hear you’re settling in fine…
Jan: Yeah, well about myself, I’m German and based out of Copenhagen, Denmark. I think for the last 6 or 7 years I’ve lived and worked in 8 countries. So I really love change and progress and Bangladesh is my new home now. My career started off as a consultant working for Accenture and then at AT Kearney. While working there, I realized that although I was working as hard as I would have if I had my own Startup, in the end I wasn’t the one executing the work, the clients were.
So then I shifted to a corporate life and worked for Mercedes Benz in Beijing, China. After I finished my masters from Canada, I started my own consulting firm for a brief stint. After that, while I was in Copenhagen, I met Ferdinand Kjærulff. A very dynamic, Copenhagen born entrepreneur and that’s when the journey of CodersTrust started!
Well you have a very illustrious career to speak of. What sparked the idea of CodersTrust in the first place though? Why not stick to your day jobs?
Jan: It started off with Ferdinand. He was a reconstruction officer in Iraq during the gulf war and his job was to go into cities and help rebuild it. In this one city he was working in, there was an internet café and there he saw the power of the internet. People used to come to this one single cafe everyday to check if the war was over. Ferdinand often hired freelancers and one of them told him about how he used to go 40 minutes down the road to an internet café and taught himself how to code just by watching videos on YouTube.
So seeing the power of the internet and how it can benefit people through education, Ferdinand had the idea of CodersTrust. For me, seeing how the different education systems operate in all the countries I’ve lived in, I was immediately hooked to the idea of universal access to paid education.
So why choose Bangladesh as your Startup ground?
Jan: If you look at the numbers, you have 500,000 freelancers in just the last four years with a 30 to 40 percent growth rate each year and that’s amazing! In the freelancing market, Bangladesh is the third largest in the world. However there is a problem and an opportunity at the same time.
You do the wrong jobs. You’re focusing on data entry, you do simple stuff. Somebody gives you a pdf file and you put it into excel. The only competition here is price, so you underbid each other and in the end you end up with a meager $ 1.50 per hour.
Who are your partners for CodersTrust?
Jan: We’re supported by DANIDA, the Danish International Development Agency, from where we receive the grant to invest in the talent in Bangladesh. We’ve also been fortunate enough to partner with Grameen Solutions and establish CodersTrust in Bangladesh. Our partners also include Elance and the IT university of Copenhagen.
Can you tell me how you’re creating value for these students?
Jan: When you take a look at the idea and the business itself, we want to get someone from zero to 10 dollars per hour and in that process we create value. Everyone who’s in this cycle is making money or benefits from CodersTrust.
When we go to telecommunication companies we tell them to look at this like a business case along with helping 100,000 students. Everyone uses internet and uses data for the job. If they use more data, you earn more money and when you help them get access to the internet then they earn more money! So we’ve been pitching for weeks and so far no one has said it’s a bad idea. Everyone’s excited about how we’re going integrate different partnerships into our business and build from it.
Well that sounds like a solid plan. Everyone wins out in the end!
Jan: Well yeah, that’s our goal. For now our job is to help our first 100 students and get them in the right track. We’ve shown how people from rural areas with no knowledge about coding can be taught basic coding and they’ve already excelled at it! I’ve seen the web page build by Ella, one of our students, and it looks amazing! She’s already great at her job and now our aim is to ramp it up and show that not just 5 but 100 students are able to excel just like her!
Visit CodersTrust to learn more and watch our exclusive video to hear Jan talk about the amazing job that they’re doing here in Bangladesh: