Meet Aaron Fu, The New Boss Of Africa's Largest Tech Incubator

Led by sequence businessman Jorn Lyseggen, Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST), is a Pan-African entrepreneurial training program, seed fund, and incubator that was combined for a purpose of realizing talent and merging it with opportunity. MEST has been a fortitude of a array of world-class African tech and module companies – Kudobuzz, meQasa and Tress. Also heading a container with moving examples of African startup exits such as medical explain doing association ClaimSync (acquired by Netherlands-based GenKey) and mobile discuss app Saya Mobile (acquired by US-based multinational Kirusa).

Headquartered in Accra, Ghana, MEST has so distant invested $20 million given opening a doors in 2008 to determined African entrepreneurs and has left on to partisan talent from not usually Ghana, though Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa and Cote D’ivoire. MEST now has a footprint in Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa, and is in a routine of opening earthy incubator spaces in Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa.

I spoke to former Managing Partner of NEST.vc, Aaron Fu who has recently been allocated as a New Managing Director of MEST on a firm’s skeleton for enlargement and a outcome this will have on a tech startup landscape in Africa.

MEST has been operative with and investing in entrepreneurs in Ghana for a array of years, tell us a small some-more about what a module does. 

Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) is a Pan-African record and entrepreneurial training program, seed account and incubator, building world-class, globally successful tech companies. We’re headquartered in Accra, Ghana and have what we impute to as ‘Entrepreneurs in Training’ (EITs) from Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria, Cote D’Ivoire and Zimbabwe. We accept thousands of applications a year, and a many earnest possibilities are hand-selected to form a 60-person conspirator and brought to Accra for an finish one-year training program. Over a march of a twelve months, EITs form teams, come adult with ideas, countenance them in a marketplace and representation them to a board. The final hearing is an investment representation for funding. The many earnest teams accept seed appropriation to assistance launch their businesses, and enter a MEST incubator where they continue to accept mentorship and support. We are anxious that MEST is truly building into a Pan-African (and global) program. We’re intensely unapproachable of a cohorts and their successes. Some of a companies that have done poignant strides embody Asoriba, MeQasa, Tress and Kudobuzz.


Aaron Fu, MEST Managing Director

Aaron Fu, MEST Managing Director

You’ve worked in a VC and entrepreneurial space in Africa for some time – give us a small some-more credentials about your time operative on a continent and also, how a marketplace has changed.

I’ve had endless believe operative in a African technology, investment and startup landscapes as good as with investment firms and startups in normal corporate roles. I’ve worked with organisations including Standard Chartered Bank and Societe Generale, via Asia, Europe, Australia and Africa. In terms of my practice specific to Africa, I’ve spent a lot of time in East Africa and South Africa heading a African arm of VC Nest, and built platforms with a support of innovative companies like Visa, MTN, World Bank and Barclays.

It’s been sparkling to be a partial of a enlargement of a tech startup ecosystem in Africa, and over a many new 2 years I’ve been quite blissful to see a arise of 2 pivotal trends. First, hubs and accelerators in Africa have been actively reevaluating their business models and relaunching many some-more focused and targeted programs, Kenya’s iHub relaunch progressing this year and Nigerian CcHub’s new PitchDrive in Europe are examples of this. Second, there has been an augmenting concentration on providing support to after theatre startups (some impute to them as scale-ups) like a World Bank’s XL Africa Accelerator to safeguard movement from seed to array A and B continues.

Having had a successful career during Nest VC, because have we selected to join MEST during this time?

I’m anxious to join an organization like MEST with a group that’s creation such implausible strides on a continent. Following MEST’s journey, it has been extraordinary to declare how truly Pan-African in inlet they have become, as evidenced by a opposite village they’ve built in Accra. There has been a accordant and solid shift in concentration from a quite Ghana-based module to a some-more thorough Pan-African one. I’m vehement to consider about how we can continue this tour and pull out this enlargement to a rest of a continent. Having been both an businessman and investor, we trust in holding a founder-first proceed to scaling startups. we demeanour brazen to heading MEST and holding a already estimable impact to a subsequent turn as we continue to forge clever roots and settle incubators in vital cities opposite a continent. Apart from Ghana, we now have a footprint in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa. This year a module also welcomed a initial Francophone entrepreneurs from Côte d’Ivoire.

My believe with investing and using corporate accelerators in Africa has also led me to wish to have an impact serve upstream in a startup cycle, operative with founders before they form ideas and teams, operative with startups before they join accelerators. Towards this we will continue to work unequivocally closely with a financier and accelerator communities to combine in ancillary a subsequent era of African startups during all stages of their journey, as they start, find product marketplace fit, and scale.

It is good documented that MEST Founder and CEO Jorn Lyseggen is ardent about providing event to untapped tech talent on a continent. How do we see yourself contributing to Jorn’s prophesy and MEST’s leading journey?

Jorn is a idealist and founded MEST on a thought that there is a good pool of talent on a continent, though unfortunately event and entrance to appropriation and mentorship is lacking. we share his enthusiasm, expostulate and faith that with a scold support and superintendence it is 100% probable for a subsequent Facebook or Google to come from anywhere in a universe – and because not Africa? we demeanour brazen to personification a partial in deepening and broadening MEST’s participation opposite pivotal regions of a continent, while expanding a network in Africa and opposite a globe. The thought is to make it easy for a entrepreneurs to launch their businesses in their home countries or seamlessly enhance into new markets as they start to grow.

Talk me by how MEST operates. When seeking out partnerships and investors, what form of companies do we attract?

As stated, we go by thousands of applications any year to collect out what we feel will be many earnest EITs with intensity to emanate successful and tolerable companies. Teams finish an finish year-long program, training business, record and communications, while combining teams, validating ideas and building companies. They representation ideas 3-4 times via a year, and a final examination is to broach an investment pitch. Successful teams accept collateral to launch their businesses and enter a MEST incubator, where they will accept continued support and mentorship.

MEST is singular in that we not usually yield training in module enlargement (core programming languages, internet and mobile applications etc.), we also yield training on business and entrepreneurship (strategy and marketing, business devise development, financial and accounting, gaunt startup methodology etc.) and offer entrepreneurs entrance to funding. Additionally, a entrepreneurs don’t enter a module with an thought or group already shaped – they have a space to exam out 3-4 opposite teams and ideas via a year so they can find what works best for them.

In terms of a investors and corporate partnerships, we take honour in delicately selecting vital partners who will assistance us improved support a entrepreneurs in reaching their full potential. The companies we chose to partner with have a common seductiveness in boosting a African tech ecosystem as a means of fostering mercantile enlargement in particular countries and on a continent. To date, we’ve been advantageous to work with a likes of Vodafone, Samsung Business, Kosmos Energy, Interswitch, Internet.org, SAP, Stripe and Amazon Web Services. We are now posterior serve corporate and code partnerships that will yield additional resources and support for a entrepreneurs as they grow and scale.

What are your hopes for a tech entrepreneurial landscape in Africa over a subsequent few years?

My wishlist for a tech startup landscape in Africa in a subsequent few years has to start with some poignant exits. The good news is we’re good on a approach this year, already saying both Kenya’s Twiga (a B2B commerce and logistics platform) and Nigeria’s Flutterwave (a Pan-African payments platform) lift some-more than $10m in a singular round. Substantial exits will initial emanate rockstar purpose models, total of success a subsequent era can be desirous by, and second, it will transparent collateral both locally and globally as a pathway to earnings for tech investors becomes proven and clear.

My second wish is for some-more founders in Africa to continue to keep a razor pointy concentration on building businesses, not apps. Like a entrepreneurs we have a payoff of operative with, we share mindfulness and unrestrained during a extensive and sparkling new technologies they have during their disposal, a enterprise to only explore, exam and examination with a possibilities of a record is tough to conflict for sure. But a tech startup we trust needs to be about business initial and record second. For us as an ecosystem, to grasp a exits we want, we need to channel and concentration these energies of investigation to pivotal patron problems and build robust, localized business models around technology.  

My final wish, if you’ll indulge me, is unequivocally that a landscape becomes a many some-more collaborative and companion one. By partnership we meant internal startups pity believe around patron merger and ESOP structuring, with hubs and ecosystems opposite Africa frequently collaborating to share opportunities. By interconnectivity we meant where some-more entrepreneurs in South Africa actively demeanour during Ghana as an enlargement event forward of Europe, and some-more entrepreneurs in Ghana demeanour during South Africa as a bottom for their engineering group forward of India. Obviously we are unapproachable of a tellurian strech many MEST startups have already achieved, though there’s so many event for markets and resources right here in Africa that have mostly been overlooked.

Follow me on Twitter @MfonobongNsehe. Email: mfon.nsehe @ gmail . com

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