It is amazing how much change can be caused by one person’s idea. The Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) is a result of Jorn Lyseggen’s believe that with guidance and support people can achieve remarkable results. Established by the non-profit Meltwater Foundation, MEST developed its program 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. The intensive coursework includes learning about software development and entrepreneurship from faculty who often have at least 20 years of experience. In addition, the EITs work with recent university graduates and current MBA students from top universities. Furthermore, 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 into the particular industry it is entering sometimes even helping in a specific geographic market.

In 2018, 17 member startups finished the training program and seven of them received $100,000 each from MEST. The startups from Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, Cote d’Ivoire and Zimbabwe are solving problems for African businesses by using a variety of technology that includes IoT and AI.

The startups and their products and services are:

CodeIn provides an end-to-end testing and hiring platform to unlock work opportunities for freelance software developers in Africa and the world.

Nvoicia will use machine learning to unlock liquidity for SMEs via accessible and consistently assessed invoice discounting.

ShareHouse is on a path towards being the Airbnb for warehouses. They are driven by a mission to democratize and bring efficiency to warehouses that have been out of reasonable reach for many SMEs.

Truckr is bringing efficiencies to an industry with excess capacity in Africa by tailoring affordable software and hardware for the land freight industry in Africa.

Bace has cutting edge facial recognition technology to solve the problem of identity fraud in Africa.

Jumeni is starting with waste management as a base sector, but has already seen interest from businesses requiring remote workforce management.

Judy is using AI to empower lawyers in Africa.

In addition to the training, MEST is responsible for bringing some of the leading tech investors to Africa. Arjun Gupta, founder of TeleSoft Partners and Anders Lier, chairman of Nordic Impact are just two people and firms that are bringing potential capital and global insights to help accelerate the startup ecosystem in Africa.

John Hoffmire is the Chairman of the Center on Business and Poverty and the Carmen Porco Chair of Sustainable Business at the Center.