Based in Accra, Ghana, MEST Africa has become one of the continent’s largest tech hubs.
With a mission to provide an entrepreneurial training programme, seed fund and incubator for the next generation of Africa’s software entrepreneurs, the incubator recently invested $1.1 million in 11 startups from its 2019 graduating cohort—the largest backing for the organisation to date.
Each company will receive $100,000 in seed funds to help develop and establish operations throughout the continent.
The MEST entrepreneurial training programme brings aspiring African entrepreneurs together to participate in a fully funded, year-long programme in Accra, where they learn about business, technology and communications. Certain promising graduates of the entrepreneurial training programme receive seed funding from the MEST board and support to launch their companies through the MEST incubator, with a goal of scaling across African markets.
The incubator has a strong focus on Africa’s early-stage startups.
This year’s recipients will launch startups in four countries—all of which have a local MEST incubator—Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana and South Africa. The companies are based in a variety of sectors, such as AgriTech, FinTech, HealthTech, retail, beauty and entertainment.
This is the first year that a startup from the MEST training programme will be established in South Africa.
“We are incredibly impressed by the eleven teams we are investing in today, each consisting of a diverse set of pan-African co-founders,” said newly appointed MEST managing director Ashwin Ravichandran, as reported by Disrupt Africa.
The organisation is funded primarily by the Meltwater Foundation, founded by Norwegian entrepreneur and philanthropist Jorn Lyseggen.
“I believe that talent is everywhere though opportunity is not, and with the right support and guidance these aspiring entrepreneurs can achieve great things,” Jorn is quoted as saying on the MEST website.
For several years, the incubator has considered forming a proper venture capital fund.
“We have all the pieces in place right now, I think Jorn’s just figuring out the last steps before announcing it,” said Ashwin.
If MEST established a venture capital fund, the organisation would have more capital and invest in startups beyond the seed stage, specifically Series stage rounds for African companies.
The organisation has branches in Accra, Ghana; Lagos, Nigeria; Cape Town, South Africa; and Nairobi, Kenya. MEST hopes to soon establish an incubator hub in Cote d’Ivoire.