David Lanre Messan exudes entrepreneurial spirit. Over the course of his career as an idea strategist, he’s helped build hundreds of businesses in Africa and assisted countless young people with turning their ideas into startups.

“I incubate their businesses,” Messan says. “And after two years, I hand the businesses over to them. At that point, they’re creating jobs and impacting the unemployment space in Nigeria.”

His background in driving innovation spans several sectors, including beauty, the creative industry, technology, transportation and logistics, and sustainability.

Among the companies Messan has helped get off the ground is Maya Organics, a natural skincare line based in Lagos. He’s also fostered the growth of a social enterprise that incentivizes people to avoid littering, and mentored more than 25 digital strategists through an internship program that prepares them to enter the e-commerce industry.

For Messan, nurturing entrepreneurial ventures has been a way to positively impact his community by creating jobs and confronting social and environmental issues.

Bolstering His Professional Background

While his work has yielded a great deal of success, in early 2018, he found himself looking for ways to broaden his professional knowledge and advance his career.

“I needed to understand what my position would be over the next five years with the emerging economy in Africa,” Messan says. “Everything that I’d been doing was about local impact.”

His research led him to our online course Disruptive Strategy, taught by Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen.

“I needed to be a voice in Africa,” Messan says. “I knew that I needed to associate with a brand that would give me that confidence, as well as the opportunity to interact with a global community of like-minded people who can share their knowledge about the changing environment and business world.”

David Lanre Messan Speaking to Audience

Messan read a lot about disruption before enrolling at HBS Online, but wanted to deepen his knowledge of the subject through academic coursework.

“I wanted to understand the emerging technology space and how it’s changing the world of business,” Messan says. “And, particularly, how it’s changing the consumer space in which I operate.”

His experience in Disruptive Strategy helped him gain a new perspective on his career, which he continues to employ in his daily work.

“Clay Christensen was able to help me understand what disruption in itself means and how I can apply it to business,” Messan says.

Earlier this year, his newfound knowledge helped him assist a candidate running for president in Nigeria.

“I was able to bring a lot of my Disruptive Strategy skills to the table,” Messan says. “That moved me up the ladder within the team. I was originally in charge of grassroots campaigns. Then, they moved me from grassroots to the situation room. That was growth for me, simply because I was able to show that I have deep knowledge about disruption.”

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Fostering Community

Beyond the lessons learned in the course, Messan says being a part of the HBS Online Community has been immensely rewarding.

“The Community has been very resourceful,” he says. “People come with different perspectives to a subject. Every day, there is something new to learn. That alone lifts my spirits. I’m challenged.”

Messan currently serves as a Community Organizer for the Lagos Chapter. To date, the Chapter has held two events, with plans for more in the coming months, including a session where local business leaders can connect with former HBS Online participants and learn more about what our courses have to offer.

His involvement with Community has also led to business opportunities. Along with two fellow HBS Online participants, he co-founded the Mentor Africa Project, an initiative that helps young African entrepreneurs tap into global knowledge through an international mentorship program.

For Messan, Community is all about “sharing and collaboration,” and he sees his Organizer role as a way to embody that idea.

“Being a Community Organizer means that I’m pushing the values of what Harvard Business School Online represents,” he says.

Continuing to Drive Innovation in Africa

Looking ahead, Messan aims to use his understanding of disruption to spearhead new and impactful innovation projects in Africa.

David Lanre Messan with Group in Nigeria

He’s currently in the process of launching his latest startup, called Wigo, a community-based parcel pickup and delivery service.

“With Disruptive Strategy, I’ve been able to apply my knowledge to develop the resources and processes that enable the business to gain the attention of investors, as well as key stakeholders who see it as an innovation to tackling the problem of delivery in Nigeria,” Messan says.

He also plans to take additional courses to expand his skill set, and continues to leverage the power of the Community to connect with fellow learners and find opportunities for collaboration and growth.

Are you interested in joining our global Community of online learners? Explore our courses, and learn more about how you can benefit from connecting with like-minded professionals from around the world.

Matt Gavin

About the Author

Matt Gavin is a member of the marketing team at Harvard Business School Online. Prior to returning to his home state of Massachusetts and joining HBS Online, he lived in North Carolina, where he held roles in content writing and social media. He has a background in video production, and previously worked on several documentary films for Boston’s PBS station, WGBH. In his spare time, he enjoys running, cycling, exploring New England, and spending time with his family.