MEST, one of the earliest tech incubators in Africa, has opened two new hubs in Lagos and Cape Town, with well-known start-up mentor Aaron Fu as the organisation’s new managing director.
Launched in 2008 in Accra, Ghana, MEST is part training program, part seed fund, part incubator and part hub. It is funded by the Meltwater Foundation, the non-profit arm of analytics firm Meltwater.
On Tuesday MEST opened its Nigeria office and in South Africa on Thursday.
MEST is still “one of the first incubator programs of its kind [and] is still incredibly unique in the space,” Fu told me in an interview. “Since its inception, the Meltwater Foundation has invested $20-million into its training program, the MEST incubator network, and over 40 early stage MEST tech startups. Each year we receive over 6,000 applications for 60 spots in the training program, now with recruitment in five countries across the continent.”
“We currently accept 60 Entrepreneurs-in-Training (EITs) from six different countries, into our 1-year training program each year. Over the course of 12 months, they receive intensive training in business, technology and communications. In addition to practical classroom training, they’re exposed to a number of global guest lecturers and members of the MEST network including successful entrepreneurs and leaders across a number of different industries,” he added.
These young would be entrepreneurs spend the year building teams and working on their business idea, with regular pitches to the MEST board. The final exam, fittingly, is an investment pitch. Successful pitches receive funding – 40 companies so far – and join the incubator program.
Some of the notable successes from the Ghana program include two exits, Fu said: digital insurance company ClaimSync was acquired by GenKey, and mobile messaging platform Saya was acquired by Kirusa.