Image credit: Louis Nderi, Stanford University Robert and Dottie King, Seed staff and Kenya participants, May 2016.

Pause: One more discovery from our inspiring visit to Stanford University!

__”Seed” for African entrepreneurs…

Whenever boards of directors of really progressive organizations meet, they always set aside time to learn about new things in their field. We call this agenda item “board learning.” When the AGRA board went to hold its meeting at one of the world’s finest universities, it was a great opportunity to learn things. Yes, we literally attended “class” like students. It was great!

One of the most exciting things we learnt about was a program called Stanford Seed (the Stanford Institute for Innovation in Developing Economies). You can find out more at: Applications will open again in March 2018.

Now let me confess immediately that I had not yet heard of Seed, which launched in 2011 and had its first training in Ghana in 2013 then Kenya in 2015. Clearly some of you already know of it, because you are part of the hundreds of established African business owners involved with this program.

I was just blown away, guys!

Stanford University has an endowment of $22,4bn and an annual research budget of over $1,6bn. That’s almost the budget of many small countries!

Stanford Seed participants from Africa have so far been drawn from Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, and Uganda.

I reviewed the curriculum and the materials, and saw what the entrepreneurs are being taught, and I really could not add more to it. This is exactly what we need to help small and medium-sized businesses grow.

So let’s talk: Are you an established CEO and/or entrepreneur leading a small or medium-sized business? Have you already opened your doors and now you’re ready to…

#Grow and scale your business?
#Grow your customer base?
#Increase revenue?
#Create new jobs?
#Make a real impact!

Let me tell you, if I were running a business that met their criteria, I would be joining. And just imagine, they charge only $5 000 per year! For that you get (among many things you can to find out about on the website):

# Access to Stanford’s education resources (some of the world’s greatest professors) through a series of one-week immersion sessions that take place throughout the year in Accra, Gaborone, Nairobi, Chennai (India) and other fast-growing cities.

# One-on-one mentoring from experienced senior business executives who volunteer with Seed from around the world! (If you are an interested senior executive, definitely check out the website.)

# Brilliant Stanford University undergraduates, post-graduates, and MBA students can also volunteer to work as interns at your company over an 8-10 week period, to share their fresh innovative ideas.

“Did you say $5000 per year for all this”?! we all asked in wonder. “How can this be?”

The answer was simple: An American entrepreneur and his wife decided they wanted to do something to help entrepreneurs in our beloved Africa, for no reason other than a “love for humanity,” as they did not make their money in Africa.

__So they decided to sponsor the Seed program with a gift of $150m.

“I want to meet this couple,” I begged. And sure enough I got to see them that evening, and I thanked them for their efforts.

Dottie and Robert King are a beautiful humble couple, who are very low key but passionate to help entrepreneurs like those who you see on the Seed website.

# Entrepreneurs empowered in this way can build companies that will totally transform Africa, creating both wealth and jobs.

I would love to see a program like the one at Seed be franchised to all African universities in every city. The day that happens… well, it’s up to us now!

I believe one day some Seed alumni will get together and share with others what have they learnt by taking up this vision themselves… becoming the next generation of (Robert and Dottie) Kings of Africa, and the world!

Ndatenda, Dottie and Robert King.

You have done good. May God bless you and your family always.



by 22 Replies

About Strive Masiyiwa

Strive Masiyiwa is the Founder and Executive Chairman of Econet, a diversified global telecommunications group with operations and investments in over 15 countries. His business interests also include renewable energy, financial services, media and hospitality. Masiyiwa serves on a number of international boards, including Unilever, Rockefeller Foundation, the Council on Foreign Relations’ Global Advisory Board, the Africa Progress Panel, the UN Secretary General's Advisory Board for Sustainable Energy, Morehouse College, Hilton Foundation's Humanitarian Prize Jury and the Kenjin-Tatsujin International Advisory Council. He is one of the founders, with Sir Richard Branson, of the global think tank, the Carbon War Room, and a founding member of the Global Business Coalition on Education. Masiyiwa took over the Chairmanship of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) from Kofi Annan. He is also Chair of the Micronutrient Initiative, a global organization focused on ending child hunger and improving nutrition. In 2012, Masiyiwa was invited by President Obama to address leaders at the Camp David G-8 Summit on how to increase food production and end hunger in parts of Africa. In 2014, Masiyiwa was selected to Fortune Magazine’s list of the “World’s 50 Greatest Leaders”. As a philanthropist, he is a member of the Giving Pledge, and his contributions to education, health and development have been widely recognized. Masiyiwa and his wife finance the Higher Life Foundation, which provides scholarships to over 42,000 African orphans. In 2015, he was the recipient of the International Rescue Committee’s Freedom Award and was presented with a UN Foundation Global Leadership Award for the work of the Africa Against Ebola Solidarity Trust, which he chairs and helped establish to fund the deployment of African healthcare workers to combat the outbreak in West Africa.

22 thoughts on “Pause: One more discovery from our inspiring visit to Stanford University!

  1. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 1.
    “Seize the opportunity before another…” Hundreds of entrepreneurs are benefiting from programs to help alleviate poverty in Africa. They may not be enough, but you should know those that exist as a starting point. I may not have known about this one, but then again I don’t qualify. To be honest with you, there are many programs out there, and as an entrepreneur you owe it to yourself to “search them out.”

    It’s hard thing to say, “No one owes you a living. You have to search out, and seize to yourself, every opportunity.” But that’s the hard cold truth! Students of the Greek New Testament are familiar with “katalambano.” This means to go out and seize an opportunity that’s on offer. It’s time for you to go out and #katalambano!

  2. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 2.
    Someone complained to me the other day that Kwesé TV has so many “news and business information channels.” And yes, it is true! Kwesé TV has the largest number of news channels in Africa. We have channels from every region of the world!

    My answer to them was simple: “I want my viewers to be the most seriously informed in all of Africa, because those who are informed are the ones who spot opportunities that might help them to prosper.”

    If you followed these channels for a year, it would change your life. But if you follow football for a year, it will not change your life.

  3. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 3.
    I speak like this because I, too, would have liked to see the “Manchester Derby” this past weekend, but I had a business meeting in East Africa, so I got up at 4am, read my bible, and headed to the airport. I will “katalambano” [Classical Greek for “Go out and seize the opportunity that is on offer” ] the opportunity, because no one owes me a living.” When I landed on Sunday, I opened th Kwese.espn website, read the results and the statistics of the game, then checked into a hotel and went straight to Bloomberg News to check on deals… Real deals.

  4. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 4.
    #Pressure? Yes. I want to put pressure on you, because you are the future of Africa. On your shoulders rest our hopes for a better life. I need you to take yourself seriously, very seriously.

  5. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 4.
    #Pressure? Yes. I want to put pressure on you, because you are the future of Africa. On your shoulders rest our hopes for a better life. I need you to take yourself seriously, very seriously.

  6. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Nwajagu writes,

    How do I join the seed website

    My reply,
    If I tell you, I would have done you a major disservice:
    Do you understand why?

    It means you will not develop the skills to help yourself. I have given you everything you need to know.

    Let me tell you there are already colleagues on this site who have by now already entered the website using their browser, and are busy studying all the materials. Such people know that to be able to get into the next admission competition will be very tough and you cannot waste time asking questions which you already have the ability to answer yourself.
    Remember by the end of this week, because of this post, over 10m people will have learnt about it!

  7. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    This program started in 2011, and by 2013 it was already available in Africa. It really bothered me that as an entrepreneur it took me over 6 years to learn about it!
    #Im getting slow in my old age, I tell you!!!
    As an entrepreneur there are things I’m supposed to not only know about, but I should be one of the first to know what is happening in my game?!

    Do you see those guys in the picture, they knew. Ask yourself how come they knew and you did not…

    Can you imagine a soccer fan who does not know the players in the team?!

    If entrepreneurship is your game, make yourself a passionate fan of the game. Make it your business to know what is happening in your game.

  8. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Amimo writes,

    I work in a company in kenya who is a beneficiary of the seed program. My MD has been in the program. Actually it is not a training of the MD alone, the whole management is trained by highly professional team from Stanford seed. We have been lucky to be given another brilliant Lebanese coach who is just top notch in whatever he does.

    My reply,
    This is one of the things that impressed me about this program.

    Let me share with you a secret, if I may [just don’t tell anyone, it’s our secret together]:
    #1. Your boss is very smart because he has discovered the cheapest way to “create” capital.
    Many people are “looking” for capital, but it is those who know how to “create” capital that are the ones who get to the very top.

    #2. These are the kind of people investors and banks are looking for!


  9. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Cris writes,

    Mng sir …
    I am a young entrepreneur From Rwanda …. Have fixed assets in terms of buildings from my family to start off a private school but have been looking for business patners to provide operating expenses n we start off …..
    Was hoping you could find me connections or look into it yoursef ….
    Will be happy for your help…..

    Thanks !

    My reply,
    Be very careful what you do because your approach could end in tears.
    Someone, maybe your father and or mother probably worked a life time to get those assets, you could lose everything in a few months if you are not careful.
    Make sure you start off with proper professional advice.
    Also go back through my posts over the years. You owe it to yourself and your family to get a fuller understanding.

  10. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Arinze writes,

    $150 m, and no one even hears of them….

    We have not lived until we do something for someone who can’t pay you back. Thanks to the awesome couple.

    Thanks Strive, chukwu gozie gi.

    My reply,
    Your comment:
    “We have not lived until we do something for someone who can’t pay you back..”

    Is one of the most profound comments I have seen on this platform. You have an amazing mindset.

    Thank you.

  11. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Ernest writes,

    I am a young entrepreneur who is a co-founder of a waste management and innovation company,We are yet to complete our legal processes and to launch our company into full operation in January,we will like to make waste attractive to Ghanaians by buying recycleable materials like plastic,cans which will help also tackle the big environmental issue in our country which depreciate land value,I see This great program as an avenue as an obstacle and milestone to me ,which I must fight hard to achieve ..Me and my team will work hard so that by the time the program starts we will have made a bit profit to invest in this opportunity to upgrade ourselves and move our organization forward.#Strive Masiyiwa.Thanks for sharing with the continent

    My reply,
    You have heard the expression:
    “Blessed To prosper”?
    You are going to prosper!
    Waste Management is totally unlimited:
    The beauty of this business is you can start very small, and you can grow until you are a Pan African company worth billions of dollars.

  12. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    I hope you saw my excited reply to the comment by Ernest who is setting up a Waste Management business in Ghana.
    This is a huge industry with unlimited opportunities in Africa.

    It also has many different dimensions.

    It is not just about removing waste like plastics, but there are interesting opportunities even in sewage and human waste management.
    There is a interesting initiative being tried in Senegal for a new type of Sewage Management system; does anyone know about it?
    […this is huge, huge, for someone out there! When I saw it I thought “wow! I can make billions with that technology!”…]

    # Whenever I see waste like plastics, rusting old cars, and other forms of garbage in African cities, I say to myself:
    “there are sleeping entrepreneurs here!”

  13. Strive Masiyiwa Post author


    Yesterday I was deeply saddened to learn of the untimely passing of my dear friend Kenyan Prof Calestous Juma.

    I came to know Calestous during the campaign to arrest the spread of Ebola in which he played an extraordinary role.
    He was a towering academic figure.

    Ever since then we became close friends, exchanging emails regularly on African development issues.

    I will miss him dearly.

    My heartfelt condolences to his family.

  14. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    I hear many people ask things like, “why can’t our government do this, or that?!”
    Others will refer to wealthy people and say “ why can’t so and so do this or that?!”

    Whenever I hear that I know it may not be done!

    If you want something done, find a way to make a start yourself, even if what you are doing appears so inconsequential.

    Take for instance these amazing universities like Stanford or Harvard; they were not started by governments but often by individuals.
    Many of the oldest universities in. America were started by small groups of dedicated church ministers who wanted to improve education in their communities.

    If you are looking for someone to get things done, look in the mirror!

    That is not to say you can not advocate for, or seek change through elected officials and government. Yes do that, but also remember that there is a lot you can do which no one is stopping you, and will even welcome.
    You want a Stanford in your country? Go back to the local university you attended and support it!

  15. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Pamela writes,

    Pamela Ebstyne King As Advent is a season of preparation and anticipation, so fitting to recognize an endeavor that prepares people for life-giving enterprises! Here’s to great vision of Bob and Dottie King, those who make it possible, and to those African leaders who will be equipped and empower many others. I’m proud to be their daughter-in-law! Here’s to anticipating more life-giving enterprises in 2018. The Thrive Center for Human Development

    My reply,
    Dear Pamela, thank you so much for this wonderful message.
    As you can see from the wonderful comments, we all appreciate what your in-laws (Bob and Dottie King) are doing for African entrepreneurs.
    God bless.

  16. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    As an entrepreneur there are at least 10 reasons I can think of on why you should attend a course like this one run by Stanford, if you ever get an opportunity.
    I will not bother with all ten, but I will just give you one:
    #Access to capital from both banks and investors.

    Do you understand why?
    Please comment, but spend time thinking about it first.

    Now if that is not an incentive for you, I don’t know what is!

    As a young entrepreneur I would have sold my car to be able to finance such a course.

  17. Jean-Philippe Aithnard

    Dear M. Masiyiwa
    I totally agree with you regarding the opportunity in waste management in Africa.
    A few month ealier, I was asking myself. “What is very abondant in Africa but need to be organised ?” The answer was clear : WASTE. it’s everywhere in every african country !
    The key is to find a business model that will work in our environment;
    I’m sure somebody will figure this out very soon!
    Thanks for the wisdom you are sharing

  18. Oluwatosin Abdulsalam

    Dear Mr. Strive Masiyiwa,

    I have seen the myriad of waves you have been making in Africa. I am a Nigerian who has been studying here in Germany since 2014. I had my masters studies here and I am currently undertaking my PhD studies. I teach in one of the oldest universities in Nigeria (Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria) and I am here on study leave.

    I will be glad if you could let me know whenever you are coming to Germany. It will be an honour to meet you and gain one or two things from your wealth of experience.

    On my business, due to the “science rush” of the 90s in Nigeria. A big chunk of the young adults in Nigeria now and in foresee-able future are science students. They are science students in a country where the university does not prepare them to be able to solve their problems. I am a lecturer in the university and I can categorically tell you that the bulk of them are not employable in their field though they graduated from universities. I have set-up a competition where I award 100,000 naira to a student that could come up with a business idea that employs microbiology to solve a societal problem every year. Also, I am setting up a Private Research Laboratory in Nigeria where we have products like bio-fertilizers, we sell models for cleaning natural water bodies while undertaking mushroom farming (this help get potable and less hazardous water while providing nutrition or economic empowerment to the people doing the cleaning) and many other products. The goal is to show African students that it is possible to link research labs to market also in Africa. Therefore, inspiring them to think and be self-sustaining in their fields after graduation.

    Kind Regards,
    Oluwatosin Abdulsalam.

  19. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Boateng writes,

    I don’t do so much T.V but I will do so because of kwese T.V …really need to expand my footwear business from local to global…

    My reply,
    Last night I watched my favorite Kwese channel, Kwese Inc. One of the shows was about a young Nigerian entrepreneur who makes shoes. It was so inspiring.
    I also watched “Beyond The Tank” which is about businesses that have already got money from the Sharks. I did not even know about that show.
    The team has also added Dragons Den Canada which I found really interesting.
    Never watched so many hours of TV in one night!

    Did any of you see those shows?


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