Michael Szymanski ’05
Alum serves African business incubator
Most of us can attribute some of our successes to the guidance of a strong role model. Aspiring entrepreneurs in Ghana, Africa, can now look to Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) for such guidance, thanks in part to Michael Szymanski ’05, the institution’s director of business development.
“One of the main things we are trying to do is create success stories,” Szymanski says. MEST aims to “create a demonstration effect [and] show how individuals can be successful entrepreneurs.”
Top graduates of MEST, described in a recent Wall Street Journal article, use Meltwater Foundation seed funding of $30,000 to $200,000 to develop software businesses that tap Ghanaian and global markets. One budding software company is creating a music-streaming program for mobile phones; another is developing a free mobile chat program; yet another helps digitize hospital insurance claims.
MEST gives students two years of training in business, software development, and communication and leadership skills. Graduates have the opportunity to present their plans for future software products and implement those plans in Meltwater’s business incubator, giving them access to global markets.
These MEST software companies create jobs and opportunities locally and help keep talented entrepreneurs in Africa, allowing them to “make an impact on Ghana from where they are,” Szymanski says. The software also creates solutions for Ghanaian businesses, including providing venues for them to sell their products online.
Szymanski, who plays a key role in MEST, says St. Norbert played a large part in bringing him to where he is today. As a student, Szymanski studied abroad and was actively involved in the Zambia Project. After his participation sent him to Zambia, he says he never stopped traveling. “I credit a lot of who I am today and the career paths that interested me to St. Norbert College.”
Now his work has him planting the Norbertine traditions of giving and community across the globe.