22 June 2015
Software and Africa are going to be a very interesting combination in the future, Meltwater founder and chief executive Jørn Lyseggen has said.
For Lyseggen, the world had to consider the “incredible fact” that by 2040, 50% of the world’s working population – between the ages of 18 and 60 – would be in Africa. “Africa will play a very incredible role in future politics on the global scene,” he said. “As a continent, I think it has a lot of potential.”
In 2008, Lyseggen launched the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (Mest) and the Mest Incubator programme in Ghana, which provides training, investment and mentoring for aspiring technology entrepreneurs. His goal is to create globally successful companies that create wealth and jobs locally in Africa.
Training software entrepreneurs for Africa
Lyseggen said he had been to Africa more than 50 times since 2007 for philanthropic purposes – wanting to build schools for software entrepreneurs. But he soon realised just how much potential its people had. “I see so much talent and I see so many driven people and there is no question in my mind that all the up-and- coming youth in Africa are going to make a big impact also in the software space.”
Thirty of the Entrepreneurs-In-Training selected each year to attend Mest are top graduates from Ghana and Nigeria. They receive comprehensive training across the spectrum of skills required to build successful tech businesses, including computer programming, software development, product management, finance, marketing, sales and leadership best practices.
Lyseggen warns budding entrepreneurs that the path can be hard. “It’s very taxing. For many it means you go from hand-to-mouth and you make very little money for many years,” he said.
“For some other people they will start out successfully. If you want to go into entrepreneurship, I think it’s a very good thing and I encourage everyone to do it. but you need to embrace that it is not going to be a picnic.”
The perfect employee
When recruiting employees to work at Meltwater, Lyseggen said he looked for inspiring people who were ambitious, talented, driven and capable. “But also positive people who are fun to hang around and also have a good heart, good values and good integrity.”
People who have managed to break through in a particular field at an early age are key to the type of employee he seeks. “We have people who are classically trained pianists. [and] others who are exceptional in sport,” he said.
“So, we have national or international champions in swimming, cycling, running, skiing [and] we have three Olympians in the company. We have a world champion fly fisher in the company. “One time I hired a Chinese girl who was number three in the world in Street Fighter 2, the game. We believe it says something about who you are. Whatever you put your mind to, you will probably be very successful.”