Hyperion Development, a software development training startup and the largest provider of computer science education in South Africa, could easily be the envy of many startups across the globe.
The five-year-old company has worked with, and in some cases, received backing from the likes of Facebook, Google, the Python Association, Oracle, the British Computing Society and the South African Department of Education.
The company provides software development and programming training to every tertiary institution in South Africa (and most of Southern Africa), as well as industry professionals from across the globe.
The company recently re-positioned as an international brand and is growing in the European and US markets.
“As a consumer-facing offering, our growth strategy is similar to that of leading online education companies such as Coursera, GetSmarter, and Udacity, but has evolved over the years,” founder Riaz Moola says.
Partnerships have had a major role in this growth, says Moola.
Moola has a similarly impressive background, he completed his undergraduate degree in Artificial Intelligence and Computer Science from the University of Edinburgh in 2014 and is also a Gates Scholar at Cambridge University, where he obtained his MPhil in Advanced Computer Science.
His extensive network is the result of him taking advantage of key entrepreneurship and professional opportunities – high impact incubation programmes, prestigious startup competitions, he also had a stint working for a high profile tech company.
“I previously worked at Google and our first relationship with them came out of this experience,” says Moola.
“Our Facebook partnership came out of winning their Africa Innovation Challenge Award.”
Hyperion Development was awarded a R3 million grant for Innovation in the Economic Empowerment division of the Facebook-funded awards.
No ‘Magic Wand’ – Below Moola talks about the real benefits of working with some of the world’s biggest companies.
Q: How critical were your first partnerships as a budding startup?
Hyperion was incubated by Launch.ed – the startup incubator programme of the University of Edinburgh. Launch.ed continues to help us to this day in understanding opportunities for growth in the Scottish market and provided mentorship at critical decision points in the business. We see a long-term research partnership with the University of Edinburgh that we are pursuing via Launch.ed.
Both organisations (the Python Software Foundation and Oracle) provided us with funding to develop and market some of our earlier courses in Python and Java.
These content partnerships taught us how to work with larger organisations to ensure our course content and certifications remain internationally excellent, allowing our graduates to find jobs in their desired tech sector.
We’ve now built on the experience learnt in these early content partnerships to build and launch career-aligned courses in mobile and web development with Google and Facebook.
Q: Were high-profile partnerships high on your growth strategy agenda from the beginning?
Partnerships have driven the strength of our brand and allowed us to raise funding to deploy on growth. Partnerships have been one of many key pieces that make up our overall growth strategy.
Q: Partnering with the likes of Facebook and Google is impressive – but what does it really mean for the business?
Working with some of the world’s most valuable brands has definitely helped us to grow, but establishing these relationships is a not a ‘magic wand’ that will make your business grow and your business model take off.
At the end of the day the only person you really have to convince is your customer, and if you can convince many customers at scale you’ve got a winning model. Facebook and Google are renowned for their ability to do just this – understanding how your own business can also is critical.
Q: What do you think makes Hyperion so attractive to tech giants like Facebook and Google?
It’s all about timing and a bit of luck. You have to be patient, but also relentless. Find those who will understand the problem you’re trying to solve at scale and see if you can align.
Understand it from their perspective – what do they truly care about in the context of that problem, and find if there’s any room to work with them on that in a way that supports your business model.
Q: What’s your formula for leveraging partnerships to their full potential?
I’m sure it’s been said many times before, but it really is about not giving up. In fact, I don’t think we’ve used partnerships to their full potential and this is still a part of the learning process.
Q: What would your advice be to other entrepreneurs to help them secure (and benefit) from valuable partnerships?
Propose an alignment, stay relentless, and remain patient are my suggestions!