Lessons learned: Consulting with Ghanaian tech startups II

MEST, Wednesday August 31st 2011

In my previous post - 'Consulting with Ghanaian tech entrepreneurs: An MBA's experience', I ended the post with a promise to share with you tips for potential MBA consultants and entrepreneurs-in-training, (EITs) from my experience. Based on the experience brought from working together with the EITs, here’re a couple of advice I would have for the potential MBA consultants:

Potential MBA Advice

  • MBA advice #1: The MBA consultant's role comes with a number of expectations  from the entrepreneurs-in-training (EITs) and they vary depending on the stage of the team's business ideas.

  • MBA advice #2: You may expect anything from being a coach, a devil’s advocate or an advisor – sometimes you need to force yourself not to give ready solutions (but let the team understand the concept well by themselves).

  • MBA advice #3: Sometimes you need to challenge the ideas by raising difficult questions, to make sure their business ideas are well thought through.

  • MBA advice #4: The EITs are serious about their projects and they expect the time you commit for them to be used effectively - sticking to commitments and adjusting your role to the situation is crucial.

  • MBA advice #5: Make sure not to miss the trip to Ghana! :) Visiting MEST was filled with inspiring and exciting moments which cannot be missed – they shape you as a professional and make you a dedicated believer in people’s ability to push this world forward with bright ideas and an unshaken will to make them come true.

EIT Advice - And here are also a few tips for EITs from my experience working with my team:

  • EIT advice #1: Start thinking about your business ideas as early as possible! Time is flying and there’re so many things to cover! You’ll spend hundreds of hours researching the market, talking to people, trying to make sense out of tons of information collected.

  • EIT advice #2: Before you start working with an MBA consultant think a bit about the workflow you’d like to follow. It could involve i.e. creating a dedicated space on Google Docs for shared documents, using a freeware, project management tool (where you can set milestones, track progress, assign tasks to each of the team members, etc.) - this will also help you a lot in your reports to your faculty.

Life in Accra, Ghana
I mentioned above about NOT missing the opportunity to visit Accra - in April, we (all 5 consultants) were flown in from our various locations to the MEST campus in Accra Ghana. And there’re several reasons you (potential consultant) shouldn't miss this trip.

First one - the city - If you ask me about my strongest memories from Accra (apart from MEST) I’m going to answer: tro-tros & markets – right in this order :) I’m aware that what I actually saw during my one-day, flash-like excursion was just a tiny part of what the city has to offer. But nevertheless this stays with you for quite a while even after being back home. The incredibly friendly people, the sun, the traffic, the noise – yes, this all is a bit overwhelming but if right now I had a chance to jump in the plane and get back there, I'll say yes and wouldn’t think twice :)

Experiencing MEST is even more exciting. Just think about this – attracting some of Ghana’s brightest young minds, exposing them to extensive IT-based, entrepreneurial training, providing them with life examples of successful, prominent entrepreneurs and creating an environment for developing business ideas  (through training and incubation). This is the only program of this kind I’m aware of and it’s awesome!

My stay at MEST during my visit to Ghana was scheduled in a way to give us an opportunity to meet with all teams graduating during the year. We spent most of the time together with the teams discussing their ideas, giving feedback and delivering a couple of practical workshops, equipping the students with additional tips for their business plans and pitching ideas. What I particularly consider as something really valuable were all the informal chit-chats I managed to have with students, faculty and also the entrepreneurs running their businesses in the MEST Incubator . These couple of days spent in MEST left a strong feeling of something incredibly important and fun taking place over there.

For all of you representing the global startup ecosystem – keep a close eye on MEST and Accra! :)