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Building Africa’s Next Generation of Software Entrepreneurs
Earlier this month, AB2020 creator Akosua Annobil took a tour of the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) in Accra to find out more about the institute that’s helping to build and invest in Africa’s next generation of software entrepreneurs. During the trip, she met with MEST graduates Priscilla Hazel, co-founder of hair community mobile app Tress, and Saviour Dzage, chief product developer for church management software app Asoriba (which was recently named Best African Startup at the inaugural Seedstars Africa event held in Casablanca, Morocco)
As MEST prepares to welcome its first pan-African class for 2016, the school’s head of business development Katie Sarro explains how the initiative works.
The Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) is an award-winning, intensive, two-year program that blends an MBA-type education with hands-on training in software development in a fast-paced, startup environment, writes Katie Sarro.
Inside MEST, the Entrepreneurs-in-Training (EITs) learn everything from the fundamentals of business management, entrepreneurship and finance to communications and programming. Students are taught by teaching fellows that include international entrepreneurs, MBA consultants and seasoned software developers, who each bring several years of experience from work in the United States, Europe and Asia. Together, these teaching fellows prepare the MEST students for building products and businesses that can compete in global markets.
Upon graduating from the MEST incubator, EITs stand to receive an initial round of seed funding (ranging from $50-$250,000) to pursue their business. Investment hinges on EITs’ ‘final exam’ (a business pitch to the board) and is based on specific KPIs as well as the commercial viability of the business idea.
Teams that receive investment are also given subsidized office space, 24/7 electricity and internet, and access to MEST’s global network of advisors comprised of renowned venture capitalists and entrepreneurs from around the globe.
Teams also have access to a group of EIRs / incubator fellows who, similar to the teaching fellows at the training program, hail from globally renown universities and corporates and have years of experience in software development, engineering, international business and entrepreneurship.
MEST was founded by Norwegian, software entrepreneur Jorn Lyseggen who believes that talent is everywhere, and with the right support and guidance people can achieve great things. That belief has been the continuing foundation of MEST and is proving that a new generation of young, successful global software entrepreneurs can originate in Africa.
This year, MEST welcomes its most pan-African class of EITs in the organization’s history! For the first time, budding entrepreneurs from Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya will work side by side at our flagship campus in Accra, Ghana. These new EITs were selected from thousands of applicants across both East and West Africa. We held group and individual interviews in each country, and candidates even met with Jorn as he grilled them on their true passions and desire to become the best software engineers and entrepreneurs on the continent.
This cohort is a blend of intellectual intelligence, interesting personalities, raw drive and ambition – but more importantly, all hold strongly the desire to build global software companies that can scale.
We can’t wait to get to work and see what this diverse range of determined individuals come up with – could it be the next Facebook of Google? We’ll soon find out!
Katie Sarro oversees external relationships and affairs at MEST, including business development, partnerships, investor relations, communications and marketing for the MEST training program, incubator and incubated companies. She is passionate about building community around tech in Africa on a global level and creating scalable, sustainable pathways for technology entrepreneurship and venture capital in the region.
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