Fellow Feature: Jakub Byc of Engineers Without BordersThis week we sat down with MEST Incubator Fellow Jakub Byc. Read on to learn why he is inspired by MEST’s Entrepreneurs in Training and Incubator companies, his favorite MEST moment, and more!
Where are you from?
I was born in Rome, Italy, but I was raised and live in Toronto, Canada.
What were you doing before you came to MEST? What is your area of expertise?
Before joining MEST through Engineers without Borders (EWB), I was volunteering with a micro-finance program in Uganda. Through this, I helped rural communities set up village bank accounts and taught them the fundamentals of personal finance.
By trade, I’m an industrial engineer and my areas of expertise are in process improvement and supply chain logistics. Prior to Uganda, I worked for a pharmaceutical company and a retail company doing supply chain logistics.
Why did you come to MEST?
I came to MEST through Engineers Without Borders (EWB) and I applied for EWB because I wanted to use my engineering background in a different context, focusing more on social impact and entrepreneurship. I’ve always been keen on learning more about the startup environment especially in Africa. It’s a dynamic I’m not used to so I wanted to see what it would be like.
Who/what inspires you?
In my short time here, I’ve been very inspired by the EITs and Incubator companies. The brilliant ideas they have and the dedication and passion they have for those ideas has surpassed those expectations for sure. I think I’ve learned a lot more from them than anybody else in my time here.
What is your favorite memory from your time at MEST so far?
Hands down, graduation. That entire week and weekend was probably one of the most memorable moments for me, not just from my time in Ghana, but ever! The energy was amazing, the vibe was good, and it was great to see the EITs just celebrate and let loose.
What is one piece of advice you’d like to give the EITs and companies at the Incubator?
I’d say that I think goal setting is really important and even though your goals may evolve especially early on, it’s important to set actionable points that are actively striving towards achieving those goals. Don’t lose sight of your company’s vision.
What’s your favorite food?
I love all food, but I’m Polish at heart and I would love a home-cooked meal with pierogi. I would kill for that right now. My favorite food in Ghana has been kelewele with roasted nuts.
What do you like most about Ghana?
Besides kelewele, my favorite thing about Ghana is the friendly and welcoming vibe of the people. Even people you meet on the street are friendly and smiling.
Who is your tech idol? Why?
Elon Musk. I love his big picture vision of where he sees humanity as a whole in the future. I’m obsessed with futurism and I want to go to Mars. I want to be on one of the first trips to Mars.
What is your favorite tech company? Why?
I’m not sure if they’re my favorite, but there’s this company in Toronto called Bunz. They’re a bartering system with no cash involved for when you have items you want to get rid of.
Essentially, you just go on it and post stuff you want to get rid of and trade it with other people. So if I have a lamp I want to get rid of and someone else is getting rid of used clothing, I can meetup with them and do a trade. It makes that connection. It’s actually a great way to meet people, too. It totally leverages the sharing economy and the idea of reducing waste. It started as a FaceBook group and now they’ve made it into a full fledged app.
Do you have any books about tech that you would suggest?
Not about tech, but about startups. The Lean Startup by Eric Ries was recommended to me by Ashwin when I first started working at the Incubator and it’s a great primer for people getting started in the startup world. It’s got a good process driven methodology that’s easy to understand.
What are your plans post-MEST?
I’m not sure. I would love to spend more time in Africa and more time working with startups, but right now everything is open.
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Due to COVID-19, MEST postpones training program to next year and doubles down on growing portfolio companies
At MEST, we continue to be deeply concerned about COVID-19 and have been closely monitoring developments locally and globally. Our number one priority remains the health and safety of our community and we will continue to follow local authority and health official guidelines.
Due to the ongoing nature of the pandemic and the uncertainty that the future of travel holds, we have been unable to conduct in-person interviews and host recruitment around Africa for our next cohort. For this reason, we have taken the decision to postpone the Training Program to next year.
While these circumstances are indeed unfortunate, we see this as an exciting opportunity at MEST to double down on providing support and mentorship to our existing portfolio companies and the African ecosystem.
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