By Prince Osuagwu & Emmanuel Elebeke
Nigeria and her sister country, Ghana may become clear leaders of Africa’s technology entrepreneurship should Samsung’s recent partnership with Meltwater Entrepreneural School of Technology, MEST, yield the expected results. The two organizations have commenced a partnership deal aimed at providing more opportunities, resources and tools to Nigerian and other West African entrepreneurs.
The deal will see MEST train, invest and incubate aspiring African software entrepreneurs, to add to the already 200 individual entrepreneurs who have graduated from the training program and over 20 tech startups launched via seed funding and mentorship.
Already MEST said these supports have already gulped a whopping $15 million. It however expressed optimism that the new deal will prepare the beneficiaries to become globally successful technology entrepreneurs. Samsung is expected to play pivotal role in each phase of the MEST program.
Under training, MEST will recruit top talent Nigerian and Ghanaian university graduates. According to MEST, once enrolled, Entrepreneurs-In-Training (EITs) receive a full scholarship to an intensive program that blends hands-on training in software development with business and communications education. During this period, EITs are also tasked with forming new business ideas based on the tech skills they’ve built, with the guidance of teaching fellows and staff.
On the other hand, Samsung will be involved from the early stages, starting with company ideas and pitching processes during the MEST training portion and will support MEST by providing in-kind as well as subsidized devices and tablets that can be used to test out and further develop their solutions. EITs it is said, will also have the opportunity to apply for internship positions at Samsung when available during MEST internship breaks in Lagos, Nigeria campus.
Upon graduating from the MEST training program, EITs stand to receive an initial round of seed funding from MEST (ranging from $50-$250,000) to pursue their business. Investment hinges on EITs’ “final exam” and is based on specific Key Performance Indicators, KPIs as well as the commercial viability of the business idea. Samsung Enterprise Business Partners in Nigeria will also have the opportunity to invest as well as have a minority stake in a new or existing company coming out of MEST.
Under the incubation plan, teams that receive investment are given subsidized office space, 24/7 electricity and internet, and access to MEST’s global network of advisors comprised of renowned venture capitalists and entrepreneurs from around the globe, all of whom support the distribution, marketing and sales of these newly incubated companies. In addition to this support, the MEST-Samsung partnership will help open doors for MEST incubator companies both consumer and B2B focused to partner on distribution of mobile applications and cross-marketing services.
Similarly, Samsung will work with MEST-incubated companies and facilitate introductions of market-fit and market-ready MEST startups to Samsung Enterprise Business Partners and Samsung Information and Mobility Business teams to further explore specific commercial and technical partnerships to pilot and scale these products/services through strategic projects addressing market needs in verticals such as education, financial services, healthcare, retail, transportation and hospitality.
Director, Enterprise Business for Samsung Electronics West Africa, Charles Ojei, said, “Startups incubated at MEST are developing innovative applications that can add value to end-users in West Africa and promote the adoptions of Samsung products, solutions and services. “MEST is among the first in the African continent to train software entrepreneurs for two years as well as guide them through investment programs that yield actual results.
Samsung is very excited to be involved in this full-circle program and look forward to supporting at each phase in a mutually beneficial relationship that is win-win for both parties. The MEST model builds local talent and capacity, enhances the tech ecosystem and also creates sustainable jobs and wealth within the community, and we are proud to be a part of that.”
For the Managing Director, MEST Incubator, Neal Hansch, “the major objective for MEST in 2015 is bringing on board strategic partners who can support our mission to empower hundreds of tech entrepreneurs in Africa. “We can’t think of a better or well-equipped partner in the space and we are very honored to have Samsung formally join us in our efforts and further catalyze growth in the African tech market.”
Since its inception, MEST said it has invested $15 million in supporting West African entrepreneurs with 200 individual entrepreneurs graduated from the training program and over 20 tech startups have been launched, via seed funding and mentorship from MEST. Beyond the training and investment program, MEST added that it also play active role in nurturing the nascent but growing space that is the African tech ecosystem, and holds frequent meet-ups, hackathons, and other opportunities for the community to cross-pollinate ideas and resources.
The two organizations said they plan to roll-out a series of co-sponsored events in Ghana and Nigeria, where new ideas and technology will have the opportunity to prosper. According to them, the two partners are formally kicking of their partnership at Mobile West Africa. This will be highlighted with a co-branded exhibition booth and will be promoting the Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge as well as MEST-incubated Suba, a free mobile app that allows people to share photos at events, giving everyone in attendance access to photos without having to be on a ‘friend’s list’.
Consequently, MEST assured that it will host an informational recruitment session and meet-up for Nigerian candidates who may wish to be considered for MEST’s next batch of EITs and called on interested individuals to apply directly on the MEST website. MEST has been recognized as one of Fast Company’s Top 10 “Most Innovative Companies in Africa” in 2015 and is regarded as “one of the largest private investments in Ghanaian economic development” by DFID.