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Celebrating 15 Years of the Legatum Center


“Innovation is a force that empowers individuals. It uplifts communities and transforms entire nations,” said President Mokgweetsi EK Masisi of Botswana during his keynote speech at the Innovation in Global Growth Markets: Prosperity through Entrepreneurship conference organized by the Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship at MIT in April.

Driving prosperity through innovation and entrepreneurship is central to the Legatum Center’s mission. This point was highlighted during the conference, which celebrated the center’s 15-year anniversary. Led by Faculty Director Dame Fiona Murray (Associate Dean for Innovation and Inclusion; William Porter (1967) Professor of Entrepreneurship; Co-Director, MIT Innovation Initiative) and Executive Director Dina Sherif, the Legatum Center has provided fellowships to innovation-driven student and established entrepreneurs since 2007. The fellows’ ventures in global growth markets contribute to prosperity within these countries.

Over 250 guests, including 42 Legatum Center Fellows, attended the conference to speak on panels, celebrate the center’s accomplishments, and connect with one another. In addition to President Masisi’s keynote speech, the conference featured remarks by MIT President Sally Kornbluth; MIT Sloan John C Head III Dean (Interim) Georgia Perakis (Professor, Operations Management, Operations Research & Statistics); and Sherif. The conference also included a day full of plenary and breakout sessions.

President Mokgweetsi EK Masisi of Botswana during his keynote speech at the conference.

Credit: Courtesy of the Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship at MIT


Creating a culture of global entrepreneurship

During the conference, the Legatum Center released an impact report titled “Celebrating Our First 15 Years of Supporting Principled Entrepreneurs from Global Growth Markets.”

“Through this report, you'll get the opportunity to read about the incredible impact of our fellows and what they have achieved in service of creating prosperity through entrepreneurship across the world,” said Sherif in her opening remarks.

The Legatum Center celebrated the publication of this report through an opening plenary session titled “15 Years of Impact: The Power of Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Driving Prosperity in Global Growth Markets.” Moderated by Sherif, the session featured Legatum Group CEO and Partner and Legatum Center Co-Founder Mark Stoleson; Scott Stern (David Sarnoff Professor of Management; Professor, Technological Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Strategic Management); impact report co-author Salma El Sayeh; 2009–2010 Legatum Student Fellow Javier Lozano, MBA ’10; 2021–2022 Foundry Fellow Chinedu Azodoh, MFin ’15; and 2018–2019 Legatum Student Fellow Genevieve Barnard Oni, MBA ’19.

This session touched on the Legatum Center’s origin story. The center was founded by Bangladeshi entrepreneur Iqbal Quadir and the Legatum Group, a private venture capital firm that invests in organizations that create global prosperity. Their goal was to attract promising entrepreneurs to MIT, providing them with the resources and education needed to build ventures in developing countries.

“It was about the entrepreneurs,” said Stoleson of the Legatum Center’s founding. “It was about attracting to a world-class institution like this the best and the brightest from around the world, and just giving them something of value that could equip them to go out and make stuff happen.”

The Legatum Center’s core program, its Student Fellowship, provides students with a tuition subsidy, as well as courses and experiential learning opportunities to prepare them to enter global growth markets. In 2021, the center established its Foundry Fellowship, which helps advanced stage entrepreneurs in Africa grow professionally through leadership coursework, access to MIT faculty, and tours of entrepreneurial ecosystems.

To date, the Legatum Center has supported 326 Student Fellows from 57 countries who have created 286 ventures, 75% of which are active today. These ventures have created over 17,000 direct jobs and served over 17 million customers in over 170 countries. They have also supported 23 Foundry Fellows from Nigeria, Egypt, Ghana, Gabon, Kenya, Senegal, Botswana, Ethiopia, Rwanda, South Africa, and Zambia. This concrete global impact is a defining feature of the Legatum Center.

Legatum Center Fellowships by the Numbers

  • 326

    Legatum Student Fellows

  • 57

    Countries represented by the Legatum Student Fellows

  • 286

    Ventures created by the Legatum Student Fellows

  • 75%

    Legatum Student Fellows' ventures still active

  • 17K+

    Direct jobs created by Legatum Student Fellows' ventures

  • 17M+

    Customers served by the Legatum Student Fellows' ventures

  • 170

    Countries served by the Legatum Student Fellows' ventures

  • 23

    Legatum Foundry Fellows

  • 11

    African countries represented by Legatum Foundry Fellows

“The Legatum Center is threading a needle that’s very special because built into its mission is the impact that entrepreneurship can have,” noted Stern.

Changing the world through values-based leadership

This impact is driven partly by the values that Legatum Center fellows possess. The Legatum Center’s curriculum encourages fellows to develop a values-based leadership style that emphasizes resilience, perseverance, and service to others.

“Having traveled around the world, we saw the connection between entrepreneurship and the transmission of values in a society,” said Stoleson about the Legatum Group.

The Legatum Center’s mission and emphasis on entrepreneurial values attracted Lozano to the Legatum Student Fellowship. Having started a nonprofit organization as a teenager, Lozano believed that for-profit companies could also be used to contribute to social good. However, he struggled with finding a community that understood his vision to serve others through a for-profit business. One day, he saw a poster advertising a conference at the Legatum Center that included the phrase “entrepreneurship for prosperity.”

“It was like I was always the misfit,” said Lozano. “And then I found the center that really resonated and could understand my passion and vision.”

Lozano co-founded Clinicas del Azúcur, a data-driven retail diabetes clinic in Mexico. It operates 40 Mexican clinics and has served over 320,000 patients. The company is now scheduled to open a clinic in the United States.

Legatum Center conference opening plenary session speakers Dina Sherif, Mark Stoleson, Javier Lozano, MBA ’10, Chinedu Azodoh, MFin ’15, Genevieve Barnard Oni, MBA '19, Scott Stern, and Salma El Sayeh (not pictured).

Credit: Courtesy of the Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship at MIT.


Azodoh is hard at work on scaling MAX, a vehicle subscription platform that he co-founded with 2014–2015 Legatum Student Fellow Adetayo Bamiduro, MBA ’15. Founded in Nigeria, the company is expanding their operations to other countries in Africa. Azodoh noted that careful relationship-building is needed to bring existing businesses to new locations with different cultures. He credits the Legatum Center with helping him develop the leadership skills to do this work.

“For me, the Foundry Fellowship was critical to realistically thinking about what it takes to enter a market,” said Azodoh.

Building a promising future together

Barnard Oni noted how her student fellowship helped her to launch the Nigerian medical diagnostics provider MDaaS Global. She learned many of the specifics of launching a business in a new market from the robust community of Legatum Center fellows. In fact, one of her co-founders is her husband Oluwasoga Oni, SM ’16, a 2015–2016 Legatum Student Fellow. At one point, MDaaS Global shared an office space with MAX.

“We call on fellow alums all the time,” said Barnard Oni.

Central to the center’s plans for the future is to develop its engaged community of entrepreneurs and ecosystem leaders who, together, will create new markets, strengthen ecosystems, and build the economies of the future. They are currently also exploring the possibility of scaling the Foundry Fellowship to Latin America, the Middle East, and South and Southeast Asia.

In addition, the Legatum Center is forging partnerships with national leaders and policy makers, beginning with its new collaboration with the government of the Republic of Botswana to foster a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship within Botswana.

“Things are changing, and we want you to be part of that story,” Sherif told the Legatum Fellows in attendance. “So please keep coming back and engaging with us more.”

Innovation in Global Growth Markets: Prosperity Through Entrepreneurship

For more info Haley Bierman Development Writer (617) 253-7318