Reflections from the Incubator

At African Innovation Prize and Rwanda Entrepreneurship Week we have been blessed with meeting a huge volume of people that are smart, committed and helping us in our ambition to inspire and support student innovation in Rwanda. As the first project in Beyond Profit’s social innovation incubator, this year started full of uncertainties – could we achieve our ambition to deliver a fantastic business plan competition and run an entrepreneurship conference focused specifically on Rwandan university students? Now, with only a month to go before our conference and the imminent culmination of our business planning competition in Rwanda – we are delighted to answer that question with a yes. A useful lesson we have all learned however is that we have only done so through the enormous volume of support and advice that we have been lucky enough to access. Every type of organisation and individual has helped us realise our ambitions: from Beyond Profit to multinational corporations, from entrepreneurial individuals to knowledgeable NGOs, and from foundations to university bodies and students in both Cambridge and Kigali.

To our major donors and partners we owe the largest thank you – and typically in the world of social enterprise – they come from a range of sources. Most importantly, the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology has been an incredibly generous and responsive partner, and we are privileged to be working with such a prestigious institution. In terms of financial contribution: Brussels Airlines, Staples, the Segal Foundation and Sarah D’Avigdor Goldsmid Trust the have all been instrumental to the creation of African Innovation Prize and Rwanda Entrepreneurship Week. Brussels Airlines, which hosts over 85 weekly flights to African countries, has gifted us a ticket to help us cover the costs of getting to Kigali. Staples too, as well as being invaluable to students in dissertation print-panic, is covering all of our printing costs for the conference. Both the Segal Family Foundation and the Sarah D’Avigdor Goldsmid Trust have had the trust and vision to invest in an early-stage initiative that they believe can deliver significant change in Rwanda. Alongside these significant contributions also sit those from Manchester Grammar School, St Johns College, and the Clare College Eric Lane Award – who have demonstrated their commitment to initiatives of their former or current students through their donations.

And of course – there is the huge well of support from other organisations interested in spurring entrepreneurship, as well as generous individuals. Organisations such as Venture Capital for Africa, Royal Commonwealth Society, Springboard, the Humanitarian Centre, Keystone Tutors, Endeavor, and New Leadership have been fantastically helpful, and open to sharing their contacts and ideas. We have also been bowled over by the enthusiasm of family and friends who have added financial support to their emotional support, the responsiveness and energy of student participants in Rwanda, and the generosity of those who give of their time as a judge on the business plan competition, or an entrepreneur speaking at the conference. We now have over 130 students registered to attend the conference, and a host of submissions to the business plan competition. Entrepreneurial ideas are coming thick and fast, and will be nudged on to the next level of enterprise development, through the African Innovation Prize and Rwanda Entrepreneurship Week interventions.

From all the Cambridge student team – a huge thank you to all of you for investing in inspiring and supporting student innovation and entrepreneurship in Rwanda. Your energy and contribution has been humbling for us organisers – and is only matched by that of the student participants in Rwanda, who are busy using your contributions, to generate enterprise ideas, future businesses and prosperity for their country. A huge thank you to you all, and for those in Rwanda – see you in a month.

The University of Cambridge organizing team (Baillie Aaron, Alex Handy, Julia Fan Li, Jackie Stenson, Sarah Teacher) will be hosting Rwanda Entrepreneurship Week at Kigali Institute of Science and Technology July 25-30, 2011 in Kigali. If you are interested in sponsoring or attending the networking session as a Rwandan business/entrepreneur, please contact:

To find out more about Rwanda Entrepreneurship Week, and the African Innovation Prize, please go to: the organizers on Twitter: @AIPrize, and check out their blog for more information and to register for the conference:

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