It is amazing how much change can be caused by one person’s idea and the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) is a result of Jorn Lyseggen’s idea that with guidance and support people can achieve remarkable results. Established by the non-profit Meltwater Foundation in Accra, Ghana in 2008 as an effort to create jobs and wealth locally in Africa, MEST provides training, investment, and mentoring for software entrepreneurs in three phases, training, incubation, and mentorship.
The first phase is a two year program developed for Entrepreneurs in Training (EITs) to learn the basics of programming, write a business plan, and develop a prototype. This intensive coursework includes learning about software development and entrepreneurship from faculty having at least 20 years of experience as well as working with recent university graduates and current MBA students at top universities, including Oxford’s.
Additionally Meltwater enhances its on-site training at MEST with guest lecturers from a number of different disciplines. MEST guest lecturers are typically CEOs, CTOs, Vice Presidents, entrepreneurs and other relevant professionals from around the world who are willing to share their deep industry experience with EITs.
The second phase is for EITs that graduate from the training program and succeed in being selected for the incubation program where initial seed funding, office space, and a network of advisors is provided. The criteria for selection in the incubator program includes the viability of the idea, the specifics of the software, the applicability in a world market, and the potential of the team to carry out the business plan.
The third phase for a company that completes the incubation program is mentorship where a team of dedicated mentors and a network of advisors guide the company in the particular industry it is entering sometimes even helping in a specific geographic market.
Saya is one of the companies currently in the incubator program and its product includes a group messaging app for feature phones. There are 3.8 billion non-smart phones in emerging markets and Saya is targeting these low priced yet internet capable devices with a Java solution to create smartphone-like features for traditional mobile phones. This technology is useful in regions without smartphone infrastructure and where disposable income is limited.
Developed by Robert Lamptey and his partner, Badu Boahen, the app allows mobile chat for up to 1000 times cheaper than traditional SMS messages costing around $0.01 each. Saya Mobile can offer a better solution at $0.01 per month because they include location based ads.
The app was released to a few thousand users and since it has a “suggest Saya to your friends” option to invite others from your contact list, it quickly went viral. Those initial few thousand users grew to 400,000 which then generated another 8.7 million invitations. Saya Mobile was one of seven finalists at TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco Sept 2012 and the first from Africa.
If you are a business leader with a history in software development and/or entrepreneurship, and you have an interest in participating in MEST, there are guest lecture opportunities for you.
To learn more, contact MEST at firstname.lastname@example.org or @MESTGhana