ALA Makes a Splash at MIT Entrepreneurship Conference

April 18th, 2009

What do the African Football Academy, linear electromagnetic technology, and the Amazing Race of African Tradition have in common? They are three ideas that demonstrate the breadth and boldness of the concepts that our African Leadership Academy students pitched to a panel of judges during the MIT Global Startup Workshop in Cape Town last month.

By far the youngest members of this ‘Elevator Pitch’ competition, our ALA students wowed the judges with their poise and maturity, securing African Leadership Academy a Special Mention for most consistently polished and professional presentations. In 60 seconds (about as long as you might have in an elevator with your CEO as a captive audience), students had to define a clear need, identify an innovative solution and prove the viability of their idea with the confidence that would make the listener demand a second meeting. To our delight, at the final gala dinner Daniel Oreoluwa took home the Audience Choice award for his pitch on spring-based protective mechanisms for laptops.

Students were exposed to the cutting edge of entrepreneurial thought, much of which mirrored the philosophy and approach taught in Entrepreneurship class. Founder Fred Swaniker appeared as a panelist on the African Story, bringing the ALA narrative to life. William Kamkwamba’s Moving Windmills video on his engineering feats in rural Malawi opened a student panel discussion as well as many conversations with MIT engineers.

These students were not foreign to the notion of impressing judges with their competence and ideas. Attendance to the MIT conference was awarded to the student winners of an Entrepreneurship contest to design transformative video game concepts that would spark leadership amongst youth on the continent. Student teams’ two-minute video concepts were judged by a panel including the head of Branson School of Entrepreneurship, a professor of African History, a professional video game designer, a brand expert, and a teen user. Anne Shongwe of AFROES, the social enterprise who sponsored the class project, made the Cape Town trip possible.

Eight ALA students and two faculty attended the conference, increasing the overall conference country count by ten: Lennon Chimbumu (Zimbabwe), John Gitau (Kenya), William Kamkwamba (Malawi), Nonhlanhla Khumalo (South Africa), James Kiawoin (Liberia), Mainza Moono (Zambia), Daniel Oreoluwa (Nigeria), Ledet Solomon (Ethiopia), escorted by Entrepreneurship Faculty Dinah Hanson (Ghana) and Jessica Hastings (USA).



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