Co-founder, Head of Strategic Partnerships and Director, Go1
“I’m an African passionate about solving significant problems with technology.”
In 2021, just six years after its founding, eLearning platform Go1 became South Africa’s first tech scale-up to be valued at more than $1 billion. This was thanks to the tenacity of its co-founders South African, Melvyn Lubega, and Australian, Andrew Barnes.
The last time FORBES AFRICA sat down with Lubega was when he made the 2018 FORBES AFRICA 30 Under 30 list, and sitting down with him now he notes that the biggest change since then, rather than the unicorn milestone, was Go1’s exponential growth.
“In 2018, I think we had just over 100 people in the business, whereas today, we have over 700,” Lubega says. “But it’s not only about hiring more bodies, but more so the depth at which [we are] able to understand the problem we are solving.”
Go1 was founded in 2015 by Lubega along with Barnes, who he met at Oxford and capitalized on a gap in the enterprise training market. The global workplace training platform has now aggregated over 100,000 courses into one subscription, and offers it to private organizations as well as governments around the world.
“I think it’s realizing the global opportunity in what we’re building, even though we had our local roots, [has] been the big difference in terms of the size of the prize and of the opportunities,” Lubega says.
Just six years after its founding, Go1 is expected to surpass the value of a billion dollars thanks to its most recent capital raise that is near closing with a formal announcement expected soon.
Lubega was born and raised in South Africa. However, his parents were born in Uganda. His grandfather, having fathered 30 children, had always been passionate about education and was a medical doctor himself. This, for Lubega, is where he drew inspiration around wanting to solve the vocational education conundrum on the continent.
“I’m an African passionate about solving significant problems with technology,” he explains. “Education has had such an impact in my life, and something which has been ingrained in me since I was young…The role of education and excellence have [allowed] me incredible opportunities.
“So we just want to see the transformative effect. Something that has been very humbling in the business and we’re very fortunate about is that we have been able to upskill over five million people.”
Furthermore, technology has been the catalyst of this change and has also been the pioneer of taking this edtech to new heights, which includes the unicorn status. The fact that most of the unicorns are in the tech space, in Lubega’s opinion, has a lot to do with what problems are being solved at the moment.
“I think entrepreneurs are often solving smaller problems. And I think in sectors where the biggest problems exist is where the most value can be created and hopefully captured.”
However, Lubega is very cautious about Go1’s unicorn title. “It is humbling but it certainly wasn’t a target for us, if I’m being honest,” Lubega says. “Because for us, we were still working and building our business. Yes, we’re growing… [But] the reality is that we were still just building our business and trying to have an impact, because even before we raised the unicorn round, we [are] still targeting to get to a billion learners.”