#Breaking News for entrepreneurs ready to “Seed” your mind and your business!

#Breaking News for entrepreneurs ready to “Seed” your mind and your business!

__Calling all CEOs, founders and co-founders…

Over a year ago now, we held an Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) board meeting at Stanford in Silicon Valley, California, one of the greatest universities in the world, and I mentioned to you here that we as the AGRA board literally took classes like students. It was amazing. Remember I have always said, you must never stop learning!

That week I also discovered for the first time the “Stanford Institute for Innovation in Developing Economies”, what they call “Seed” for short. At that point, I immediately wrote a post here to tell you about this opportunity for African entrepreneurs and told you not to miss out! (I was mad at myself for not knowing about it already!) Well, I heard from Stanford recently that some of you took my advice and applied to take part. Congratulations!

__This year’s deadline is coming up again on 15 June for the January 2020 program. Are you ready?

Please go to https://stanford.io/2Qec8NE if you think you have what it takes!

Only apply if you are running a small or medium sized business and are interested in:

# Increasing your revenues

# Expanding your geographical reach

# Increasing your customers

# Creating jobs

# Raising capital

# Joining a global entrepreneurial network of amazing people…

For those of you new to this platform, the Seed program launched in 2011, and held its first business training program in Ghana in 2013, then Kenya in 2015. Now it has worked with entrepreneurs in 19 countries… 628 CEOs and founders and 2378 senior managers at last count!

Seed works on the ground out of Accra, Nairobi, Gaborone and Chennai, India (and they’re adding more, I’m told).

Stanford Seed participants from Africa so far have come from Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, DRC, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, South Africa, Uganda and Zambia.

Remember I always say “Look at the numbers!” Seed’s impact analysts report that entrepreneurs who have taken part in its year-long program have managed to accomplish the following:

63% created full time jobs,

64.4% increased revenues

50% expanded into new geographies

59% do business with each other

89% increased customers

$42m in capital was raised amongst them


Students don’t have to travel to California to participate. Stanford faculty (professors) and alumni volunteers actually travel abroad to these different places to train and give one-on-one mentoring to local business leaders at their own companies. The way they describe what they do:

__”We partner with entrepreneurs in emerging markets to build thriving enterprises that transform lives.”

Students of the Greek New Testament are familiar with “katalambano.” This means to “go out and seize an opportunity that’s on offer.”

__ Is it time for you to go out and #katalambano?

Please go online and do your homework to find out what the program has to offer, but here’s a snapshot:

# One-on-one business and leadership mentoring from experienced senior executives (If you are a top senior executive interested in coaching/mentoring, please check out the website to see if you qualify to take part).

# 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.

# Brilliant Stanford University undergraduates, post-graduates, and MBA students are available to volunteer to work as interns at your company.

# Much more.

Each day it’s your own responsibility to look for opportunities to change the story of your lives. This Seed program could be that opportunity… or it may be another one coming up soon.

What exactly are you waiting for? There is no time like the present!


Author:Strive Masiyiwa

Strive Masiyiwa is the founder and Executive Chairman of the Econet Group. He serves on several international boards including Unilever, and the Global Advisory boards of the Council on Foreign Relations and Stanford University. A board member of the Rockefeller Foundation for 15 years, he also serves as Chairman of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). He is a co-founder of the Carbon War Room, Pathways for Prosperity, and the Global Business Coalition on Education. He and his wife, Tsitsi, co-founded the Higherlife Foundation and are signators of the Giving Pledge.

30 Replies to “#Breaking News for entrepreneurs ready to “Seed” your mind and your business!”

  1. CHINA

    Arabia News – Bloomberg and the China Center for International Economic Exchanges has announced that the 2019 New Economy Forum will be held in Beijing from Nov. 20 to 22 on the shores of Yanqi Lake, looking out at the Great Wall. Nearly 500 of the world’s most influential business executives, technology innovators, government officials, experts and academics from over 60 countries and regions will gather in Beijing to propose solutions to the massive disruption that is occurring, as the balance of global economic power shifts toward the Asia Pacific. These include Michael R. Bloomberg, Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Bill Gates, Zeng Peiyan, Condoleezza Rice, Strive Masiyiwa, Jack Ma, Lawrence H. Summers and Lubna Al-Olayan from Saudi Arabia. http://www.arabnews.com/node/1500306/corporate-news

  2. Afterthought 4.
    “Seed” was established thanks to a generous $150m gift to Stanford University by Robert and Dottie King who have a heart for innovation and entrepreneurship. If you think you are ready, then please go for it and apply! Even if you’re not sure, why not try? I believe entrepreneurs like some of you, exposed to training like this, will build companies that will totally transform Africa.

    What does the program offer? Here’s another blurb so you don’t have to use too much data unless you’re really ready: “Conducted largely outside of the classroom, this high touch one-year leadership program challenges leaders to assess their company’s vision, redefine strategies, and make ambitious changes toward exponential growth that will drive impact through their products, services and job creation.”

    Take a look at the website and let others know about it too.


  3. #Breaking News from Distributed Power Africa [dpa Africa]

    As some of you astute entrepreneurs have heard, our Econet Energy division called dpa Africa [go to their website] last week signed a deal with Electricite de France [EDF], which is one of the largest power companies in the world.
    EDF generate 120GW power [almost 2x African continent] on all five continents!

    Put simply, we have decided to create the largest independent power company in Africa!!!
    We intend to use only renewable power sources such as solar, and wind.

    This deal has been in the making for more than a year.
    Please list at least 5x lessons from this announcement that you will remember from things I have said in the past.
    I will give a #ShoutOut to the best answers by “liking” the response.

    #Joshua said:
    “Pay attention because we have never been this way before.”
    Entrepreneurs pay attention and learn principles that they can apply to their own businesses.

  4. #Breaking News from Distributed Power Africa [dpa Africa]

    As some of you astute entrepreneurs have heard, our Econet Energy division called dpa Africa [go to their website] last week signed a deal with Electricite de France [EDF], which is one of the largest power companies in the world.
    EDF generate 120GW power [almost 2x African continent] on all five continents!

    Put simply, we have decided to create the largest independent power company in Africa!!!
    We intend to use only renewable power sources such as solar, and wind.

    This deal has been in the making for more than a year.
    Please list at least 5x lessons from this announcement that you will remember from things I have said in the past.
    I will give a #ShoutOut to the best answers by “liking” the response.

    #Joshua said:
    “Pay attention because we have never been this way before.”
    Entrepreneurs pay attention and learn principles that they can apply to their own businesses.

  5. #Pause:

    Commencement Address @William and Mary!

    One of the traditions of American Universities graduation ceremonies is a speech by a guest speaker, known as The Commencement Address. It is a great honor to be invited to address students and their parents.

    Last week I travelled to Virginia to make a Commencement Address to the students of International Relations of William and Mary. America’s second oldest university.

    It was my fourth Commencement Address. My previous addresses were at the following:
    -Morehouse College;
    -Hult University,
    -NYU Law.

    This is a great honor.

  6. #Pause:
    If you have participated in this SEED program before, or if you manage to get in the program, I would like to hear from you.

    If I were a young entrepreneur today, I would do everything in my power to get in. I would also borrow money to be able to participate.

    I have rarely seen a program this well designed.

    At any rate, I urge you to apply, because even if you don’t succeed, the learning will be huge for you.

  7. #Economics Matter:

    What is inflation?
    What causes a country to have inflation?

    #Do you really know?
    Does it really matter to you?

    In most African countries, the specter of inflation is the worst thing that can happen to consumers, entrepreneurs and workers.

    It is the ultimate “canker worm” that eats everything.

    #It is man made.
    #It can be easily avoided.
    #It can be easily fixed.

    Pay attention to economics:
    With all your understanding, pay attention to understanding economics!

    You will not learn economics from newspapers, unless you subscribe to global publications like the Financial Times, and The Economist.

  8. #Update on SEED,

    I have been told that they have received a record number of applications from members of this platform,
    Entrepreneurs from Botswana have apparently topped the list; how about that!

    If I had been a young entrepreneur, I would have sold my car to attend such a program!

  9. #Answer to the question I asked about @Distributed Power Africa’s announcement:

    #1. #Product:
    I have been convinced for a long time that we could develop a viable solar business. It was much harder than I originally thought, and many of our earliest attempts FAILED to take off. I did not give up.
    Persistence after 10 years and lots of disappointments finally paid off. It always does!

    #2. #People:
    Each time I failed, I looked for new people to help pursue the vision. Norman Moyo is a long time telecoms executive in the group. He first joined me in 1998. I knew his leadership and entrepreneurial capability.

    #3. #Process:
    In this business model we need to persuade our customers to sign 15 year contracts to buy power from us. Our lack of experience was a major handicap to winning large projects. It’s important to be realistic.

    Lesson #4:
    Learn to Delegate!
    I gave the CEO of Distributed Power Africa, the power and authority to find the right partners. He did the investigation, and negotiations. He would only come to me for advice when things got difficult.
    Douglas Mboweni [for instance] has been CEO of Econet Wireless Zimbabwe for about 15 years. He does not have to consult me on what products he intends to launch or what price to charge for service. The other day I called him to tell me about something called “Buddie Beatz”, because I read about it in a newspaper.
    I don’t know how many cars or shops they have, and I certainly don’t know what they charge for anything. If I did, then he would not be CEO, I would be!
    [I stepped down as CEO in 2000]

    For those of you who never read the Buffalo Hunter series, this would be a good time to go back to it!

  10. Busingye Gerald writes,

    Thank you for such kind remarks.
    It was really special for me. It is hard to explain what it felt like walking through the city of New Haven robed, and marching with the Professors, and cheered on by 35,000 people and students. Amazing!
    What made it particularly special was knowing that it was in part for the work I have done over the last five years, in mentoring you on this platform.
    Thank you for your part.

    Surely the Lord gave me a place of honor and to Him be all the glory.

  11. #Pause:

    Going forward, I really want to make this platform the place where entrepreneurs [both for profit and non profit] come to find opportunities like this one from Stanford.

    If you are currently enjoying a program of any kind we want to know, that has benefited you.
    Please share with others:

    Remember these words:
    “Freely you have given and freely you must also give”.

  12. Marial Daniel Kuol writes,

    Hello, am a South Sudanese. I want my country to be part of the “Seed Program” . Please enlighten me on how I can become part of this. Am so much interested.

    My reply,
    From here on, it is your job to research and investigate, until you find a way to get into such a program.
    Remember that no one owes you a living:
    When a small door opens the wise entrepreneur will #”Katalambano it”!
    Do you know what that means?
    Ask your colleagues!

  13. Uche writes,

    Strive Masiyiwa
    Thank you once again for all you’re doing! As I mentioned earlier, I’ve benefited from this program. I also was part of the African Women Entrepreneurship Cooperative (AWEC) cohort 1, that ended in March.

    I’ve been an ardent follower of your page. I’m a pharmacist turned teacher and running a tutoring centre in Abuja, Nigeria. I love everything education and I’m currently working with about 300 children after school. Our focus is on preparing students for competitive secondary school entrance exams, like the Loyola Jesuit College Abuja exam. We produce 40% of intakes there yearly.

    I would love to get to meet you someday, and I know I will. Keep motivating us sir!

    My reply,
    #Awesome contribution!

    We have a program to help young people study in places like the US.
    Currently we have 354 studying in the US that came out of our work.
    Nigeria is a power house that could take 10,000 a year. I have a vision for this and I need partners like you!
    I will ask our team at Higher Life to link up with you!

  14. Omoruyi Folarin Osas writes,

    I have been working on my application immediately you posted it sir. Also I am working on a pitch deck for other Opportunities that come during the year. I know there are going to be lots of opportunities. Best to stay prepared. I have been applying for a lot of grants this year.

    Thanks for sharing once again sir. I must play my part so God can play His part. What I do first, determines what God does second.

    This year will be much more.


    My reply,
    This year I want to do everything possible to identify more opportunities like this for you.
    I want your businesses to succeed much more than you can possibly imagine.
    Your success is Africa’s only hope.
    When an entrepreneur succeeds a nation succeeds.

  15. Kelly Chagira writes,

    Sir, am also itching to hear the lessons you have for us concerning the ongoing #TradeWars between USA and China. I have been reading extensively about it, now I would be honoured to hear the wisdom from you. Is it about big DATA control? No?

    My reply,
    I’m a member of several global platforms where these issues are discussed in great detail with some of with some of the leading experts and global leaders.

    #1. I’m on the board of Trustees of The Asia Society. It is one of the most influential organizations when it comes to US/Asia relationships. I’m the first African to join its board of trustees.

    #2. I’m a member of Michael Bloomberg’s Advisory board called the New Economic Forum. We are on our way to China later this year for one of our meetings.
    This week I did interviews with newspapers from China, and Hong Kong in which I discussed these issues.

    #3. I’m on the International Advisory Board of Council on Foreign Relations in America.

    #4. I’m on the International Advisory board of Stanford University.

    I discuss these type of issues every single day!
    I choose NOT to discuss them on this forum because that is not why I set it up for.
    If I started to discuss such issues here the whole Follower ship would change over night!
    This platform is for young entrepreneurs, and not for “talking heads”! [an English expression describing experts arguing with each other about an issue, whilst others just listen!]

    #For you as an African Entrepreneur, this is an #EagleStorm situation, in which you will be affected by what happens, and need to be resilient.

  16. Tinashe Roxley Kagande,

    Many years ago, a friend of mine had a curable disease [and he eventually succumbed to it]. One day during his illness he decided to come and see me. It took him 10 minutes to walk 20 m from the reception to my office, and he refused to be assisted.

    When he finally slumped into a chair, he began to explain to me that his problem was “swollen legs”, and he told me about witchcraft at his workplace!

    His problem was not “swollen legs” or witchcraft!

    When you don’t understand the cause of something, you look for someone or something else to blame. You spend your time analyzing the effect and not the cause.
    You refuse to be assisted by those who can actually assist you.

    You are smart enough to focus your attention of understanding real economics, and the true cause of inflation in your country.

    #Economics matters!

    We shall talk again no doubt, but not today!

  17. Ansu Kamara writes,

    I think I better have to add Economics as my own private module this year.

    “Formal-Education makes a living while Self-Education makes a fortune”

    My reply,
    I will quote that in future!

  18. Adesope Adeolu writes,

    Thanks for this timely reminder Sir Strive Masiyiwa.

    Reading the “wealth of nations” has really helped me a lot, to the extent that I always research everyday to know the economic composition, economic status, and the comparative advantage of most African, European, Asian countries.

    Its quite a wonderful opportunity to know about how these countries have emerged through tough times to become what they are today and how to leverage on their own success for my own business and success story too.

    My reply,
    I first read that book about 40 years ago, and it is one of the few books, I have forced myself to read again, and again.

    Another favorite of mine is called:
    The Wealth and Poverty of Nations [David Landes, 1998]

    There are many books like that which would help you understand what is going on in your national economy, and the impact of decisions made.

    I read somewhere that Mrs Thatcher used to give each of a her Ministers a book list every year of about 12 books and she would admonish them if they had not read them.

  19. Tyler Schooler writes,

    Thank you Busingye Gerald, Austin Uzim, and James J. Oketch. Persistence is the primary reason I’ve reached this point and had the opportunity to apply for Seed and fortunately be accepted. It was in 2008 that I moved from Oklahoma to Uganda at the age of 23 with a dream of starting a business there. I had never been to Uganda. I did not know what business I would start nor did I have any business experience, but I believed firmly that business can transform societies and people. For five years, I started different small business ventures in Uganda, FAILED at all of them, and lost the little savings I initially came with! Down to only $100 in my bank account at age 28, I had to decide whether to go back to Oklahoma or to find a way to remain persistent until my business vision could be realized. I chose to persist because my “failures” had given me a tremendous business education. Soon, I saw an opportunity to start a business that could enable multinational companies to create a stronger connection to their consumers through corporate gifting and branded merchandise. In the last six years, my company Rocket Africa has flourished and opened offices in five countries, serving clients across 10 countries in Africa. Our products have brought joy to hundreds of thousands of people. If there is one thing to learn from my story, it’s that persistence and faith are foundational pillars of the entrepreneurial journey. Visualize where you want to go every day, and then persist through hard work until you get there.

    My reply,
    Amazing testimony of true entrepreneurship!

    You are just amazing!

    I almost missed it!

    My Commencement Address at William and Mary was about people like you!

    I would really like to meet you and learn more about what you have been doing.

  20. #Reflection:

    “I was prepared to pay the price..”

    There was once an amazing evangelist called Kathryn Kuhlman. I remember listening to an interview she gave to Oral Roberts, who asked her the following questions:

    “..God has used you so much; why do you think this is so?”

    “It is because I was prepared to pay the price..” she answered. She then went on to detail how hard she had worked.

    I thought about this one year, when I travelled to Greece for the first time, looking at some of the mountainous areas, that Apostle Paul walked—on foot! It just seemed impossible that an old man walked in those areas. The passion and commitment is what enabled God to use him.

    How can God use someone who gets tired about reading two pages of a book? Or prefers to read news on a Twitter Feed, because it’s “nice and short”?! Or someone afraid to visit a neighboring province in their own country?
    How? How?
    Or someone just too scared to fail, in case they get laughed at?

    It’s not about your “ideas” but your “actions” following those ideas that really matter. It is also your willingness to fail, fail and keep trying like Tyler Schoolyer [a young American who travelled all the way from America to Uganda and started a business with just $100, which now operates in 6 African countries!]

  21. #Economics Matter!

    “Your country is in deep economic trouble. It will probably soon experience hyper inflation, and crash..”

    In the early 1990s I was invited to the home of the US Ambassador to Harare to a reception for a leading economist from Harvard University called Geoffrey Sachs. He was still in his thirties.

    He was just passing through our city as he was on his way to SA. This is what he said:
    “I asked the embassy to mail me some numbers. I have not had much time to dig deep into them, but from the little I have seen you guys are in deep trouble. It would not surprise me if your country goes into hyper inflation at some point, and collapses.”
    The small group in the room was completely stunned. Zimbabwe seemed to be doing quite well at the time, and was celebrated as one of Africa’s most successful countries.

    Some people challenged him, and said “Prof Sachs, you have been here less than an hour and you tell us our country will collapse?!” Someone said indignantly.
    “It’s right there in your numbers. “Sachs replied firmly before saying,
    “What more do I need to see?”

    After he left I heard many people complain and even call him arrogant. Little did they appreciate that their own ignorance was making them the arrogant ones:

    I did not say anything because I knew he was right. I too had seen the numbers, and even though my understanding of Economics was not at his level, I knew what he was talking about.

    I had tried to warn the government but had only succeeded to make enemies.
    It was before my battle for a cell phone license.

    Fast Forward:

    About 15 years later I bumped into him in Norway where he was a guest speaker. I introduced myself and reminded him of his visit. He remembered, and sighed sadly:

    By then Zimbabwe had experienced the worst hyper inflation in recorded history.

  22. #Economics Matters!

    A dear friend of mine was very fit, and loved running marathons. One day he noticed a small pimple on his face, and went to get something from the doctor. The doctor looked at it, and decided to do a blood test.
    “You have cancer.” The doctor later said to him.
    “How?! I’m fit and run marathons.”

    “That pimple is a sign of cancer. Soon you are going to be very, very sick.”

    He died soon after!

    A country can look robust, and yet inside the hard numbers show you that there is serious trouble ahead.
    There are tell tell signs, like the pimple, that cannot be hidden. It’s just there and those who understand, cannot be fooled.

    This is why it matters to understand what is really going on.

    Remember, with all your getting, get to understand economics [through proper study].

    The things that really matter in economics cannot always be seen.
    The real damage works like a cancer:
    By the time you see the full blown crisis, the damage has been done inside the system itself, and it is usually a series of missteps over a long time.

  23. #Pause:

    @Mentorship Matters!

    When I was a young entrepreneur, I learnt about a German government program to place retired German executives in small businesses like mine. I went to the German Embassy immediately and applied.
    A retired executive who had ran a successful German company came to visit for several weeks. He was so humble, and just sat in my small office, even though he had once ran a big company.
    Every day he listened to me talking to my staff and clients, and would sit with me at the end of each day as a coach.
    We became close buddies and at weekends my wife and I took him to all of Zimbabwe’s major tourist centers. He even visited my mother and my grandmother [ only special friends got that treatment]!

    I once had similar assistance from India and Japan.

    It did not just happen. I went looking for it.

    There are literally hundreds such programs today, out there. If you want them, you will find them!

    Sometimes it meant having to forego something personal like a new car or house.

    #MentorShip Matters!

  24. Writes,

    Njabulo Mthunzi Good day Mr Masiyiwa

    I am a 31yr old Zimbabwe based entrepreneur who provides IT consultancy to companies in Zimbabwe and Zambia.

    I would love to scale up my business one day and so in this regard I am kindly requesting for your approval/permission for me to spend a day (or two) at one of your Econet Zimbabwe offices (or any other of Econet office in Africa) to learn and understand the kind of structure, systems and processes you have put in place that enables you to run such a large organisation.


    My reply,
    For you to be able to run a big business one day [which I believe you have the passion to achieve] one of the things you must appreciate is that, I have no power to do what you are asking me to do:
    I don’t run Econet Wireless Zimbabwe!
    I have not run Econet Wireless Zimbabwe since March 2000!

    It is run by the CEO of the company Mr Douglas Mboweni. He does not report to me personally but to the board of Econet Wireless Zimbabwe.

    In order for me to send you there I would have to make a personal request to him, which he can decline.
    I would have to call him and say, “can you do me a personal favor?”

    I have no power [personally] to fire him, as he runs a public listed company. I’m not even the chairman of the board, and his chairman [who is independent from me] actually has the power and authority to sanction me if I interfere with the operations of the business.

    I tell you this so that you can appreciate that large companies are not run like personal businesses, particularly those that have thousands of public shareholders.

    There is nothing stopping you making such a request directly to him, and being a kind person, I’m sure he will consider it but not on the basis of a “directive or instruction” from me.

  25. Omoruyi writes,

    Deep wisdom here Chief on separating a Business from the Founder.

    A business has a life of its own, that must be respected. It doesn’t matter whether we are the founders.

    I am learning sir

    My reply,
    There are actually people who still think I can pick up the phone to the CEO of a company, say, Econet Lesotho, or Zimbabwe, and simply order them to increase the tariff, or to hire someone, at a whim!

    I have no such power!

    If the board of the company heard that I did something like that, they would rightly go crazy!

    Most investors, will insist that you sign an agreement that you can be removed as CEO for none performance or incompetence—-even if you own 90%!
    I would never invest in a business where I cannot remove the CEO for failure to run the business properly!

    Even Aliko Dangote cannot toss around his investors!

    The world of big companies is not a world of big men throwing their weight around, if you see someone who can do that, then [shh! Their business is not really that big!!!]

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