African tech incubator, the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) announced late last week that Neal Hansch, former General Partner of Rustic Canyon Partners has been appointed as Incubator Managing Director of MEST. Based primarily in San Francisco, Hansch will bring his deep industry expertise and over 15 years of experience in the venture capital, technology operations and financial advisory sectors to MEST.
We recently caught up with Hansch to learn more about his background and motivations for joining the incubator as Managing Director.
Hansch grew up in a family of entrepreneurs and has from a very young age been fascinated by entrepreneurship. While in college, he started his own business in the early 1990s and moved to Silicon Valley during the late ’90s helping take many of Silicon Valley’s Internet companies public.
He later switched over to doing late stage investments and later on, worked in Corporate Development at American graphics and web development software company, Macromedia where he was responsible for global M&A transactions and strategic equity investments. Macromedia was later acquired by Adobe for $3.4 billion.
Hansch soon after joined Rustic Canyon Partners, an early-stage focused investment fund with $500MM under management.
Through his new role at MEST, Hansch hopes to bring attention to the MEST program and to Africa as a technology investment destination.
On his vision for MEST companies, Hansch says he hopes to see truly successful global and Pan African companies come out of the incubator. He anticipates helping facilitate business and corporate development deals for MEST companies looking to forge partnerships with Silicon Valley based companies.
“MEST entrepreneurs are incredibly mature and wise beyond their years,” Hansch told CPAfrica. “Most are first time entrepreneurs and when you take their energy and raw intelligence and give them nuts and bolts training, it’s amazing to see what they’ve done given their limited past professional experience.”
By working closely with MEST entrepreneurs, he hopes they can can get the best of both worlds and can take advantage of distribution channels and Meltwater resources from other parts of the world. He also hopes that MEST entrepreneurs will more robustly be able to tap into the centralised marketing, sales and back office support that the program provides so that they can focus more squarely on building and taking their products to market.
“In terms of the end game for some of these companies, what is needed ultimately in Africa is great outcomes. What ultimately brings attention, dollars and resources is success stories . The ideal scenario is one where they build their business bicoastally, raise venture dollars and get a big outcome in Silicon Valley. We all want to be able to point to a $100million or $1 billion outcome,” he said.
According to him, “MEST will always be about Africa but will also be about companies going global – helping them as they mature and make their way into other markets.”
These are certainly exciting times for Africa’s technology scene as global investors warm up to the continent’s prospects as an investment destination. We can’t wait to see how the program evolves over the next few years as they continue to churn out a new cadre of African tech entrepreneurs.