When was your first encounter with the Internet?
For many Africans millennials, it was in the late 90s or early 2000s, at a time when access to the Internet was powered by cybercafés located in mostly urban areas. In Beninois software developer Ulrich Sossou’s case, it was in 2006, after he completed his high school leaving certificate examination in the Republic of Benin.
He got on the Internet to search for scholarship opportunities in American and Canadian universities and before long, Ulrich discovered something that would change the course of his life; the power of the Internet.
Ulrich’s father wanted him to further his education outside Benin, so he encouraged him to keep searching for scholarship opportunities. By this time, a small cyber cafe in Porto-Novo, the capital city of Benin, had become a second home to Ulrich.
“At a point, I began looking for ways to earn money off the Internet. I started with doing translations from English to French. This helped me learn English very quickly. I also began writing SAS pages,” he recalls.
Every day, Ulrich would leave Porto-Novo where the cybercafé was located for school in Cotonou. By evening, he’d return to Porto- Novo, spend the night working at the cafe. This continued for many months. He started his first internet business from a cyber café in Benin then became African Steve Jobs.
By the end of the year, he had picked up web development; building websites for foreign companies using WordPress. He did this for a little over a year until he was able to afford his own Internet connection and laptop.
“At this point, I was already earning more money than my father,” Ulrich said with a chuckle. “I told him not to bother with me studying abroad.”
A Career in Software Consulting
Throughout his university days, Ulrich continued to hone his software development skills and make money from building software systems for both large organisations and startups all over the world.
While working on Bootstrap Tour, Ulrich started a project for Stanford University.
“I developed a pilot system for online courses for their graduate school of business. A total of about 1000 students connected to the platform for various courses. I built the platform from scratch and maintained it for two years, while working on other projects for other companies.”
In 2014, while running Flyerco, Ulrich teamed up with Senam Beheton, founder of Etrilabs to start TEKXL, a venture builder that trains and invests in African startups.
These days, Ulrich cannot afford to stay put in Benin as he did in the early days. His tilt from software consulting towards entrepreneurship requires him to travel out of Benin regularly to access a larger market as well as funding.
When he’s not investing into the Benin tech community, Ulrich still consults for companies around the world.
“I’m also starting to work on ideas on how to improve customer support and marketing for small businesses in Africa”.
In the future, Ulrich Sossou wants to continue to develop world-class tech talents and entrepreneurs in Benin. He also plans to use his skills to solve as many African challenges as he can.