International Studies & Programs

Scholars pitch business ideas at “Shark Tank” of the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Entrepreneurship Fund Competition

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Published: Thursday, 04 Apr 2019 Author: Global Youth Advancement Network

MCF Scholar pitches business idea to audienceOn Saturday, February 9, 2019, five MSU Mastercard Foundation Scholars pitched their ideas for Africa-based business ventures before their fellow Scholars, alumni and community members at the inaugural “Shark Tank” of the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Entrepreneurship Fund (MCF SEF) Competition. The MCF SEF is a $2 million fund allocated to the Mastercard Foundation’s tertiary partner institutions to provide funding to Scholars and alumni who have viable, sustainable and scalable social business ventures. The Fund helps Scholars overcome barriers to accessing capital, and empowers them to become catalysts for economic opportunities and transformative leaders in their community. MSU has been assigned $50,000 of the Fund to administer the competition over two years. 

Five out of 18 proposals were selected to present at the Shark Tank, with proposed ventures ranging from aquaponics in Togo, to a rental property mobile application to connect landlords and renters in Nigeria. The finalists discussed their ventures’ involvement with the local MSU community, such as working with The Hatch and Spartan Innovations, as well as internationally through community-based organizations such as youth groups. A common thread throughout the pitches was the desire to apply 21st century strategies to community needs by merging family traditions and livelihood strategies with their academic knowledge, work experiences and on-campus research. 

A panel of six judges — comprised of social, cultural, and undergraduate entrepreneurship experts, professors, and CEOs — evaluated the entrepreneurial ventures: Danielle DeVoss, Paul Jaques, Jose Jackson-Malete, Neil Kane, Venkata Matoory and Leonidas Murembya. The judges evaluated the Scholars’ pitches based on clarity, brevity, innovation, impact threshold, viability and sustainability. After the presentations, Scholars were provided with thoughtful feedback and were encouraged to build trust with customers, devise strategies to remain competitive and work against grant dependency. Scholars observing the presentations also had an opportunity to vote on their favorite ventures and provide feedback.  

The three winning scholars pose together
(From left) Miriam Kaburu,
Josué Kpodo and Deiv

Ultimately Josué Kpodo won first prize of $3,000, while Deiv Rakojoana won second prize ($2,000) and Miriam Kaburu won third prize ($1,000). Reflecting on his experience, Kpodo was grateful for the opportunity to participate in the “Shark Tank”.

“The competition was an unforgettable learning experience; every stage was an opportunity to learn something new,” Kpodo said. “For instance, Stage II of the competition asked us to develop a business plan in less than a month — a professional business plan usually requires several months to fully develop. The short deadline for Stage II challenged me to be creative and think outside the box, and overall improved my writing, time management and communication skills.”

Kpodo’s sentiment was echoed by Chima Maduka, a finalist at the “Shark Tank”. 

“The 'Shark Tank' was an opportunity to share my entrepreneurial ideas and receive invaluable feedback. It was challenging and exciting to dive into a business venture for the competition, rather than waiting for the ‘perfect’ timing to do so,” Maduka said. “I couldn't be prouder of myself as a Scholar, and couldn’t be more thankful to the Foundation for such a brilliant initiative.”

Mastercard Foundation Scholars at MSU will have a chance to apply for a new round of funding when the competition reopens in Fall 2019. 

group photo judges and scholars at competition

Click here to learn more about the Scholars Entrepreneurship Fund.