MEST Guest Lectures and Class of 2018 Graduation

Nazli Allie, Tuesday September 18th 2018

2018 marks MEST Africa's 10th year in operation and another successful year for our graduating class of Entrepreneurs-in-Training (EITs). Last month, 58 EITs from 6 countries successfully completed the programme to become the 11th graduating class.

This year’s cohort has survived and thrived through many challenges and have gotten stronger by going through them together. The class truly embodies the MEST founding concept that talent is distributed evenly around the world.

Day 1: Guest Lectures and Pitches

Before getting started with graduation, MEST held its quarterly guest lecture presentation which brought in leaders of industry to share their insights with the entrepreneurs, offering their best advice on the path of technology entrepreneurship.

Joining us for guest lectures were Aaron Gershenberg, founder of Silicon Valley Bank Capital’s fund of funds and direct funds; Anders Lier, an international impact investor from Nordic Impact; and Arjun Gupta​, the Founder and Chief Believer at TeleSoft Partners, a special situations venture capital firm. Gupta has worked extensively in the tech space for the past 2 decades and has overseen 60+ private technology companies, resulting in 40+ acquisitions and IPOs to date.

Here is a quick summary of their insights:

Aaron’s advice for entrepreneurs:

  1. Ask other people to challenge your assumptions, but don’t give up easily

  2. Find others who complement your strengths and weaknesses

  3. Figure out how to connect business and pleasure

  4. This is going to be a lonely, long and challenging journey. Build pursuance and determination so you can work through the challenges on the path to success

Just know that as an entrepreneur it can be very lonely, obviously it can be challenging. If you have that north star to focus on, I think that you can get through to chasms and canyons that you have to cross to get there.

Anders’ advice for entrepreneurs:

Anders works to nourish and increase the impact of the tech startup ecosystem globally. He is a believer that disruptive technology is a driving force in changing finance, business and culture so that impact and purpose becomes the standard.

Most of our lives are set in a linear mindset - but what happens when you think exponentially? “I believe that the biggest challenges in this world are the biggest business opportunities,” he said.

Anders went on to tell the EITs that impact investing is more than making money. There is a strong correlation between doing good and making money, and shared that he wanted first and foremost be a part of saving the planet.

His final advice:

  1. Moonshot Thinking. Always think 10 times bigger.

  2. Focus on what you want to solve and not what you want to be.

  3. Take exponential steps.

Always think about ways to create more impact and to do more good.

Arjun’s advice to entrepreneurs:

  1. Your closest friends and family are your greatest assets.

  2. Life will give you the most amazing and exciting opportunities, and it is up to you to say yes to them.

  3. Don’t let your situation define you.

  4. Work does not become work if you love what you do. If you love what you do, it becomes part of your life; it becomes living.

Never let your financial insecurity define you or the opportunities you take. I had nothing, and if I can make it, so can you.

Day 2: Graduation

It was an extraordinary privilege to have Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta  join us at the MEST 2018 graduation ceremony.

He joined Senior Faculty Tod Holcombe, MD Aaron Fu and Founder & CEO Jorn Lyseggen at the podium, offering reflections and best wishes to the graduating class.

“I believe the future of work is different. With the 4th industrial revolution, changing is about creating opportunity for our continent. I think that Ghana should become a super hub for technology, and we need more talent that puts us on the map as the place that just radiates the new Africa that we all need.”

He also said that if it is within his capacity, he would look into policy and see how to support incredible programmes like this,reminding the EITs that they have a friend at the ministry.

“Be fearless; success is not an issue. It’s really about significance; how have you impacted your generation because at every point in time? Remember that  you are much better off than somebody else. Don't be negative; think positive.”
You have to think differently. You have the responsibility to give or to help. So let’s go out there and do it.

Words from Founder & CEO Jorn Lyseggen

MEST Africa’s programme is built on the idea that talent is everywhere, and based on the class of 2018 and the pitches seen the previous day, this class has thoroughly proven that their talent is abundant.
There is no question in my mind that you can do anything you set your mind to, and there is no question in my mind that you all will make an important contribution to the future of your respective countries.

Jorn reminded the class that the population on this continent will double the next 20 years. “Within another 20 years there is another billion people to feed and provide for, another billion people that need housing, electricity, education, jobs and all that comes with it.” This can of course be an open prospect; this is not going to be an easy undertaking.

At MEST we believe that entrepreneurship plays a crucial role in meeting Africa’s future needs. We believe entrepreneurs will contribute to society through jobs and creation of wealth. In this day and time they create the most lucrative jobs. The next billion users of social network and software will come Africa, and it is up to us, and our graduates, to take on this responsibility, and to empower and encourage others to do the same.

“The opportunity here is for home grown talent to build African startups and African software, and to take their fair share of the value that is about to come. That is what the MEST programme is all about; it’s built on the belief that Africa needs commercially valuable skills. It is built on the belief that talent is universal and that software can be created anywhere.”
Our hope is that software entrepreneurs that comes from MEST will inspire generations of African youth to become entrepreneurs. Our hope is that the MEST entrepreneurs will help ignite the lucrative African super industry creating jobs and wealth and contributing to meet the needs and future needs of the African continent. That’s the real mission of the programme. That’s why we are proud to send you out into the world and do your part in that.

We have started recruitment for the next group of bright minds to join our 2020 cohort of Entrepreneurs in Training at MEST. If you think you have what it takes, you can apply here.