The Initiative aims to build upon the success it has achieved since its inception in 2011. Core to this success has been the Seed Transformation Program – which first launched in West Africa in 2013 and subsequently expanded to East Africa in 2016 – through which faculty, staff and coaches have trained more than 500 business leaders with the goal of promoting prosperity in these regions.
“The impact of Seed in West and East Africa has been astounding, with nearly two-thirds of participants reporting increased revenue and job creation,” said Jesper Sørensen, the Robert A. and Elizabeth R. Jeffe Professor of Organizational Behavior at the GSB and executive director of Seed. “We are five years into our journey, and just getting started. We believe – and have seen firsthand – that this unique model can help some of the most dynamic business leaders in these regions drive the kinds of firm growth that underlies sustainable regional prosperity. We are very eager to see its impact in India.”
Building on its success in Africa, Seed is expanding the program into India through its new location in Chennai, which will serve entrepreneurs from across the country. The first annual program will run from August 2017 to August 2018 and will be held at the state-of-the-art Infosys corporate campus.
Seed is working with partners from across Stanford to empower business leaders to lead their regions to greater prosperity. Seed consists of three distinct yet complementary programs: the Seed Transformation Program, a yearlong, on-the-ground leadership program for the founders and leaders of small and medium-sized enterprises; Seed Student Programs, providing educational opportunities and summer internships at participating companies; and Seed Research, which provides funding for critical research to discover breakthrough solutions to promote prosperity throughout the developing world.
The Seed Transformation Program provides unique value for participants by combining immersive class sessions in each region, taught by Stanford GSB faculty, with ongoing support and leadership development delivered by trained local Seed staff. Participants engage in four intensive, week-long sessions over the course of nine months on topics such as leadership, strategy, business ethics, accounting, marketing and value chain innovations. In the intervening weeks, skilled facilitators assist participants in applying insights from the classroom, developing their leadership teams and formulating a detailed plan for organizational transformation and growth. In addition, Seed facilitators work with participants in carefully constructed leadership peer groups, offering networking opportunities, resources and ideas to help implement the participants’ transformation plans. Following completion of the Seed Transformation Program, participants may apply to receive high-touch coaching as well as access to Stanford student interns and Seed consultants.
Flourishing from West to East Africa
After Seed’s founding in 2011, the first Seed Transformation Program launched in Accra, Ghana, in 2013 and expanded to Nairobi, Kenya, in 2016. Since then, the Seed Transformation Program has trained and mentored 565 entrepreneurs and senior staff members, leading to increased revenue and new job creation throughout the region. In addition, participating companies have raised almost $11 million in funding and 79 percent have grown their customer base.
“I’ve tried many ventures in my career, and learning about Seed was a miracle,” said Femi Oye, owner of GoSolar Africa, based in Nigeria. “With Seed, I learned to use simple solutions to address a complex problem. It gave me the knowledge to experiment, attempt the unthinkable and make great things happen.”
GoSolar Africa, a SMEFUNDS portfolio company, is an international energy company that focuses on developing solutions for individuals with limited access to electricity. When Oye was 9, his grandmother was diagnosed with respiratory problems resulting from cooking indoors – an illness that impacts many women, as well as their children. Oye created a unique stove that is very simple and inexpensive and burns ethanol gel, a fuel produced from biomass. Since completing the Seed Transformation Program in 2014, Oye has received a $1 million investment from Acumen and sold more than 600,000 stoves and over 7 million liters of biofuel, impacting the lives of more than 3 million individuals.
Changing Lives and Organizations in India
Seed Executive Director Sørensen is excited about the program’s expansion to India: “India is the world’s second-most populous country, known for its entrepreneurial dynamism. We know from experience, however, that starting a company is different from making it grow, and that sustainable economic growth depends on firms solving the puzzle of scaling. The Seed Transformation Program leverages Stanford’s deep insights into the leadership of rapidly growing enterprises. We believe that by transforming leaders and companies through this program we can contribute to increased prosperity for the companies and, more importantly, their communities.”
Stanford GSB’s Global Momentum
In addition to Seed, Stanford GSB has a broad range of programs supporting its significant momentum throughout India and Africa as it reaches the world’s most promising entrepreneurs and transforms the global economy.
This year, Stanford GSB is celebrating the fifth anniversary of the Africa MBA Fellowship and the eighth anniversary of the Reliance Dhirubhai Fellowship, both of which provide assistance for international students with financial need who wish to obtain an MBA at Stanford GSB. Stanford GSB also offers Stanford Ignite, a certificate program teaching innovators to formulate, develop and commercialize ideas, with programs around the world, including India.