To do something that matters
My job as a Sales Consultant at the Meltwater News office in Malmö, Sweden was my first “proper” job, and the start of my career. I was attracted to the innovative and energetic attitude amongst the people I met from the company, and the underdog, challenging-the-norms kind of attitude the company exuded. This small, Norwegian software company had the ambition to become the market leader in its space of online media monitoring. I found that gutsy and intriguing.
In January 2007, after being with the company for just over four months I joined all the 250 Meltwater employees at the annual Kick-Off, an all-hands company event. During the yearly update, the CEO of Meltwater, Jorn Lyseggen, announced that in the coming year, on top of new offices and product lines, he was planning to launch a school for IT entrepreneurs in Africa.
The idea was based on the notion that software can be developed anywhere - all it takes is a couple of smart people, a good idea and a laptop with Internet connection. Africa, like all other continents, has a large population of driven and intelligent people, many of whom are looking for an opportunity to create a change in the lives of themselves and others. There is no reason whatsoever that successful software companies could not spring up from the African continent, as they do elsewhere.
At the time, I knew Jorn as the CEO of the Meltwater Group but I had not met him in person, and this announcement really spoke to me. Most people would not normally associate innovative software solutions and successful startups with the African continent. But why not? Why would my fellow Swedes who launched Skype or Spotify be any better suited for doing this than people from other parts of the world - for example, Africa? Why wouldn’t one of our Ghanaian students be able to launch a branch of their own software company in Stockholm or Silicon Valley? I wanted to be a part of this project to help prove this point.
I was fortunate enough to begin working with MEST, from the initial “idea stage” to today. One year after the plan was announced, we opened the school. Now, three and a half years later, four classes have been admitted into MEST and we currently have seven companies in the associated business incubator and several of the new companies look very promising.
The trainees and teachers at MEST inspire me every day and, if you ask me, it is just a matter of time until we have an internationally successful company launched out of Africa and MEST.
We look forward to keeping you posted on how it develops! :)
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