Our beautiful land is undeniably blessed with so many things. From resources like Gold, Petroleum and Copper to something deeper like the entrepreneurial minds of our African youths. Alot of African youths today are walking around with billion dollar dreams and goals that, if executed, will disrupt various scenes around the continent. Such scenes include Technology, Entertainment and Agriculture to name a few.
Unfortunately, only a handful of these dreams move on to become startups where 90% of these startups end up failing. The basic reason for such mass failures is because the entrepreneurs probably never got the training and resources they needed to flourish.
And that’s where the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology or MEST, for short, comes in. Located in the beautiful city of Accra, MEST serves as a platform for providing adequate training, investment and nurturing for technological entrepreneurs. The goal is to create successful companies that will go on to create jobs and wealth locally in Africa. Founded in 2008 by Jørn Lyseggen, a Norwegian entrepreneur, MEST has successfully incubated over 25 early stage companies (according to them) and has a total of 36 companies in its portfolio. Amazing!
So how did it all start for MEST?
Originally announced by Meltwater Group (the parent company of MEST and also founded by Jørn Lyseggen) in 2007 to establish an entrepreneurial school in Africa, MEST officially took off in February 2008 in Accra, Ghana. After two years of training, in February 2010, the first set of Entrepreneurs In Training (EITs) graduated and the Incubator program was launched to help companies that would come from the graduated EITs.
2015 then became a significant year for MEST. In that year, they launched a 48-hour hackathon to bring together techies with the goal of providing software solution to businesses. The good works of MEST didn’t go unnoticed though as the Fast Company acknowledged MEST as one Africa’s top 10 most innovative companies. In the same year, an interesting partnership with Samsung to provide devices to EITs and proper software distribution was accomplished.
To inspire students and entrepreneurs around the continent, MEST has held two technological summits known as the Africa Technology Summit in the past three years. The first happened in November 2015 while the second happened in December 2016 and attracted speakers from top companies like Google and Interswitch.
How MEST Works?
Similar to Andela, MEST puts its students through software development courses and entrepreneurial training. The software development aspect exposes the EITs to programming languages, UI/UX, algorithms and more while the entrepreneurial training gives an in-depth look at business models, strategies, economics and all that good stuff to give them an edge in the complicated world of business. All of these last for 12 months after which, the business plan and pitching stage begins. At this stage, EITs are expected to use all they have acquired to build up a sustainable business model for their desired startup. After which, these EITs stand the chance to receive seed funding and enter the MEST Incubator. The funding is usually around $50K – $200K.
Besides the seed funding, startups would also have access to more resources such as physical infrastructures, events and education, dedicated advisors and more. Basically, these entrepreneurs are not on their own after their startups take flight and that’s why companies from MEST are doing great things around the world. For example, founders of meQasa, an online real estate market place, were listed on Forbes‘ “30 Most Promising Young Entrepreneurs in Africa“. A list of MEST’s portfolio companies can be found here.
The future for MEST
Seeing the potential of the African youths, MEST appears to be doing what it can to ensure that these precious and ambitious minds are not hidden or wasted. Without waiting on the government to come to our aid, job opportunities are being provided for African youths and power is slowly being returned to the people. And that is why the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology is now part of our AfroFuturistic Team.
Finally, starting out in Accra, MEST now has a presence in Lagos, Nigeria and has announced its plans to expand its presence across the continent with several new incubator spaces in various African countries.