The MEST Idea

From the Archives, Tuesday March 1st 2011

The MEST idea was announced in January 2007 at Meltwater's annual Kick-Off (an all-hands company event). We committed ourselves to a 10-year project in which we planned to build and oversee the development of a 2-year program in Africa that would train future software entrepreneurs. It was a big and bold idea from a small company.

I remember I was a little nervous before making the announcement: Would people think I was crazy? Would people think that I had gone nuts? How could Meltwater, a company with 230 employees at the time, take on such a monumental challenge? Very few of us had been to Africa (myself included) and certainly none of us had set up a school before. And what about funding? Was this really the best use of company reserves?

I am still moved when I think back to the outpouring of energy and enthusiasm as employees embraced the idea. Meltwater people were not only supportive, they loved the idea! Everybody understood that execution was not going to be easy. Everybody understood that this was going to be a big financial investment in addition to other company resources. But we were all determined to make it a success.

The sheer challenge of this project was also something that appealed to us. At Meltwater we have always taken pride in our ability to develop and groom high potential talent into successful business managers and executives. With MEST, we had an opportunity to take the skills and experiences developed in the commercial arena and apply them to a non-profit context. MEST was a project with great potential impact and a project closely linked to Meltwater's core values of belief in the potential of people.

One year later, in February 2008, the school was up and running. Since the start of the program, 4 generations of students, whom we refer to as Entrepreneurs-in-Training (EITs), have entered our program. Each class is made up of approximately 20 Ghanaian university graduates. The MEST Classes of 2009 and 2010 have already graduated. MEST alums have so far started a total of 7 companies which currently are in incubation in the MEST Incubator.

Looking at the progress so far I think we have come a long way in a short time. The most important part of our jobs is ahead of us, though. Our objective is to create successful software companies that in the long run can contribute to creating jobs and wealth locally in Africa. Our hope is that the MEST companies will inspire other African talent to become entrepreneurs and thereby contribute to creating a vibrant and exciting knowledge-based industry in Africa capitalizing on its untapped talent in it’s large, youthful population.

I hope the MEST blog will be an interactive place for the exchange of experiences and ideas on education of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship in general. I particularly encourage the MEST entrepreneurs and current EITs to contribute. To hear thoughts and input directly from you all will be invaluable. I also hope faculty, guest lecturers, and friends and partners of MEST will also contribute with thoughts and ideas. MEST clearly has a particular focus on Africa, but I believe a lot of our work is applicable anywhere and we welcome contributors from around the world.

Thank you for reading!