“I showed up at Cal Tech with other kids who had been using computers when they were 5 … who had been building their own video games at a much younger age. Literally, the first time I got my hands on a computer and I had to actually sort of go through my first programming exercise, it was all about, OK how does this work, and really sort of peeling that onion.” Abe Ankumah told Fortt Knoxx for CNBC.
As a young Ghanaian student, Ankumah had not been given the opportunity to access a computer yet he still yearned to work in the fields of computer science and electrical engineering. Ankumah continued, “Looking back at it, it’s crazy and also pretty humbling, [The] first time, freshman year at Cal Tech, I had to get exposed to computers, and I guess as they say the rest is history.”
Ankumah was born in Ghana as the youngest of five children. His mother and father worked in the travel and tourism industry in Ghana; opening the first travel agency in Ghana 45 years ago. At the age of 15, he was enrolled in an all-boys boarding school where the fierce competition involved waking up in the middle of the night to study. When it came time for him to attend college, he ended up applying to schools outside of Ghana due to the universities there being on strike.
Accepted to the California Institute of Technology or Caltech, Ankumah knew what he wanted to major in right away – he had a passion for electrical engineering and computer science.
After attending Harvard University to gain a Masters of Business Administration, in 2008 Ankumah cold-called his way into a position at Aruba Networks. From 2012 to 2013, he was the director of client products and alliances at Meraki, Inc.
After a short stint at Cisco Systems, in 2013, Ankumah along with Anand Srinivas and Daniel Kan founded Nyansa (knee-an-sah), a network analytics company. Ankumah described the company by saying, “Think about what Google Analytics does for websites — we do that for computer networks.”
“We basically take data that is riding over computer networks and surface a bunch of different insights that are used for business purposes,” he explained.
Nyansa – which means wisdom from learning in the Akan language spoken in Ghana – employs 30 workers and raised $15 million in Series B funding. Some of Nyansa’s clients are Uber, Proctor and Gamble, The International Red Cross and Tesla.
Ankumah’s parting advice? “Be a lifelong student. That doesn’t mean go enroll in a bunch of classes all the time. It’s a mindset. It means continuing to push yourself to learn rather than saying, ‘I’ve got this degree in this, and that’s what I’m going to do.’”