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In an effort to share what they have learned while a part of MIT's network of entrepreneurial knowledge, six current and former students have founded Ghana New Ventures Competition Inc. The organization is dedicated to promoting entrepreneurship in the developing African nation by way of competitions, workshops and lectures.
Inspired in part by the MIT $50K Entrepreneurship Competition, Victor Mallet, a senior in chemical engineering, and Baafour Asiamah-Adjei, a junior in mechanical engineering, began to discuss the project in 1999. The group now includes William Nii Tetteh, Kodjo Hesse and George Heming, all juniors in electrical engineering and computer science; and Mawuli Tse, a 1990 MIT graduate and co-founder of Africaonline, the first internet service provider on the continent.
The first event of the Ghana New Ventures Competition (GNVC) was held in Accra, Ghana in January. Working with members of the Ghanaian government and area business leaders, the MIT contingent organized a three-day workshop and business plan writing contest for university students. Each participant was part of a group consisting of other students and a mentor from Ghana's business community. The teams were asked to develop an idea for a new business and then write a plan to demonstrate its potential for profitability.
The participants came up with plans for businesses that included fitness centers, food vendors and laundromats. Entries were judged by area business leaders who considered startup costs, probable customer base and attractiveness to investors. The winning group, Strategic Accounting Solutions, was successful because it had most precisely targeted an untapped market.
"In post-Enron days, the winning team had identified the lack of record-keeping and proper accounting skills of many of the sole proprietorships in the central market area around the capital city, Accra. Their model was to become the accounting and bookkeeping partners of these businesses, which combined, generate huge undisclosed revenue," Mallet said.
The winning team was awarded $1,000 to start its business. GNVC's members left confident that other workshop participants would soon found startups as well.
GNVC will hold its next competition in August or September and has set forth goals that are appropriately ambitious for an organization promoting entrepreneurship. "This event was a prelude to a scaling up of the competition to occur year round, involve all the major tertiary institutions in Ghana and become the main driver of entrepreneurial activity in Ghana," Mallet said.
GNVC's sponsors include the Media Lab's Digital Nations consortium, the Public Service Center, the President's Fund and the Office of Minority Education. To learn more, click here .
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on March 13, 2002.