Impact of IEEE Entrepreneurship Workshops

Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Programs and Initiatives

Impact of IEEE Entrepreneurship Workshops

By Ken Stauffer and Surya Raghu

On 22 April 2024, we will kick off the fourth year of IEEE New Initiatives Committee (IEEE NIC) funded IEEE Entrepreneurship Workshops with a 3-day workshop in Nairobi, Kenya, at Strathmore University. The workshop is in conjunction with the first IEEE East African Entrepreneurship Summit, which will occur on 25 April. It is co-sponsored or advertised by IEEE Entrepreneurship, IEEE Region 8 (IEEE R8), IEEE Africa Council, IEEE Kenya Section, IEEE Smart Village, and IEEE Region 8 Young Professionals.

These workshops have a long and successful history of teaching science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) scientists and engineers how to commercialize their ideas by launching their businesses. The instructors are entrepreneurs who have practical experience in launching their businesses. Topics participants will learn include taking an idea to market, creating a lean business model canvas,  traditional and digital marketing and sales, value proposition, finances, intellectual property, contracts and negotiation, leadership soft skills, and more. Local speakers contribute by sharing the local intellectual property laws, legal incorporation aspects, funding sources, success stories, and “lessons learned” from local entrepreneurs.

Approximately 40 individuals out of over 350 applications will be selected to attend the workshops in Nairobi. The 40 attendees will work in eight teams of four to five people to agree upon an idea they want to commercialize and then develop their team pitch to be presented by video. At the end of a 5-day workshop, the teams present their pitch in the room on the last day. A panel of judges selects the winning team, and the winning team gets a prize.

These workshops were funded by IEEE NIC beginning in 2020, but COVID-19 prevented any workshops that year. In 2021, we produced two virtual workshops on Webex in IEEE Region 9 and IEEE R8. Starting in 2022, we were able to deliver three face-to-face workshops in IEEE Region 1 (IEEE R1) (New York City) and IEEE R8 (Tunisia and Rwanda). In 2023, we produced four face-to-face workshops in IEEE Region 9 (IEEE R9) (Brazil and Panama) and IEEE R8 (South Africa and Morocco). 

This year, we plan to produce five workshops — the IEEE Entrepreneurship Africa Workshop in Nairobi, a Wits Innovation Centre (WIC) at Wits University in Johannesburg, a joint IEEE/United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) workshop in Angola, an IEEE PowerAfrica Conference tutorial, and a Train-the-Trainer workshop sponsored by Afretech in South Africa. We are planning a potential joint co-sponsored IEEE/UNESCO/Inter-American Institute for Global Change (IAI) and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) workshop in IEEE R9 in 2025 February.

By bringing together local, regional and global co-sponsors, including Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz), UNESCO, Afretech, Smart Africa Digital Academy (SADA), National Secretariat of Science, Technology and Innovation (Senacyt), we have built a unique, relevant, recognizable and sustainable IEEE product that not only serves IEEE young professionals, IEEE societies, regions and, sections but also introduces non-IEEE members to IEEE and encourages them to become IEEE members

Our programs continue to evolve based on the market needs, partner goals and objectives, our prior experience, and feedback from the participants. Special thanks to IEEE NIC for believing in and funding this project in 2020 and contributing to making it sustainable over the last four years. Continued support by IEEE for the coming years will play a vital role in sustaining and developing more partnerships for delivering these programs around the globe.