MIT Is Setting Up A Global Startup Lab @ WITS University

MIT Global Start-up Labs (GSL) is a multidisciplinary group out of MISTI (MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives) that promotes development in emerging regions by cultivating young technology entrepreneurs. GSL develops a hands-on curriculum that provides the materials, software technologies, platforms, and networks that enable students in emerging regions to innovate in the area of information and communication technologies (ICTs).

The MIT Global Start-up lab is targeted at fostering innovation in emerging markets. In the currently running Johannesburg chapter, the Cambridge, Massachusetts based University is working with 30 local graduates, students, and entrepreneurs to launch new start-up companies over the three week program. This opportunity is available to developers, engineers, and designers who have an interest in mobile/web technology entrepreneurship. The core program consists of daily workshops and exercises linked to the development of a new mobile technology ventures that will be presented to potential investors and business partners on the Demo Day on Saturday, the 11th of July.

The core programme runs from 9 am – 5 pm, 6 days a week and the curriculum is part crash course in both entrepreneurship and web/mobile technologies and part practical application in what is taught: students build their own technology start-ups. This annual initiative, backed by Wits University through the “Joburg Centre for Software Engineering” (JCSE), is aimed at fostering technology entrepreneurship through start up incubators in emerging markets around the globe. The courses focus on opportunity search and validation, customer development, market research, pitching, and appropriate technology platforms, and the development of a minimum viable product.

The program is styled as a practical experience in the development of real life web/mobile technology solutions for various enterprises in any industry and is run every year by a 4-member team from MIT. The 2015 team comprises of:

–      Emily Zhang: MIT graduate student in Computer Science and Eng.

–      Oluwasoga Oni: MIT graduate student in System Design and Management

–      Anita Kibunguchy: MIT Sloan MBA

–      Bolaji Finnih: MIT Sloan Fellow

Participating students in this years’ edition provide a diverse array of talent and interests. Some of the concepts being developed include:

  • Entrée Foods, a gourmet meal delivery company providing online recipes and eclectic ingredients within South Africa
  • MASEK: an online fashion retail platform which also offers comparative shopping and social ratings
  • Mzanzi FM, a radio streaming service that delivers South-African music content (and radio) to the world
  • On-Fleeks’ Cool-Cash-Kidz entry is a mobile and web educational platform that accelerates financial literacy among South-African students
  • Smartgate provides remote access control for gates coupled with driver and vehicle verification services
  • Umvalo offers an innovative alternative to current network security appliances


About the JCSE

The Joburg Centre for Software Engineering (JCSE) is a three way partnership between government, academia and industry. Based at Wits University, the JCSE is multifaceted with various programmes and facilities positioning it as a focal point of a software development industry for South Africa and the rest of the continent.

The JCSE strongly supports the City’s “Joburg 2030 Vision”, which sees Johannesburg becoming a World Class city with service delivery and efficiencies that meet global best practice. It supports this goal by promoting best practice in software development within an African context; growing the country’s capacity to deliver world class software; and developing research and training initiatives to strengthen the local software development industry.