I went from rural Nigeria to an MIT-backed startup -- with a Nokia phone

Elvis Chidera, now working for MIT-backed startup dot Learn.

Story highlights

  • Dot Learn produces educational videos
  • Nigeria's rising tech scene

Elvis Chidera is a developer at dot Learn in Lagos, a startup which builds educational apps for students in emerging markets. The opinions in this article belong to the author.

(CNN)I'm a 19-year-old developer at an MIT-backed startup called dot Learn in Lagos, living in the bustle of Nigeria's largest city. But until recently my life was quite different.

Just a few years ago, I was living in rural southeastern Nigeria and had nothing but a basic Nokia 2690 phone -- and a big dream to improve the world using technology.
    Here's my journey from "village boy" to the epicenter of West Africa's tech boom.

      Learning to code

      Elvis Chidera.
      I began programming at 11 years old. As a kid I spent hours on websites and downloading and playing the latest games. After a while I became curious about how websites, which seemed to exist almost by magic, were built -- and how I could build one myself.
      My first step was, like most people, to Google it. This led me to the W3Schools tutorials, a handy site where you can learn to program.
        To build a website I needed a computer, but no one in my family could afford one. Luckily, my relative gave me a Nokia 2690 phone. It wasn't very advanced, but adequate enough for me to learn the language of programming.

        The new Zuckerberg?

        Nokia 2690 phone.
        Once I had become a capable programmer, the idea for my first web project was sparked after I watched The Social Network movie, which about the founding of Facebook.
        I was inspired by Mark Zuckerberg. But I wanted to go further and create something better. At that time Facebook was set up to connect people you already knew, but I wanted to create a platform which connected everybody.
        After some time and a lot of effort, my attempt to replace Facebook fell through. I couldn't get enough users to sign up on the website. The few that signed up didn't stick around because there was only a few people to chat with.

        A new idea, a new app

        The dot Learn team.
        I quickly moved onto my next idea: an app that makes it easy to send text messages to multiple people at once and at an affordable price. The cost of sending text messages in Nigeria was around $0.013, I planned on reducing it to $0.005.
        To build the app, I learned a new programming language called