Queen’s University Jim Leech Mastercard Foundation Fellowship on Entrepreneurship

The Jim Leech Mastercard Foundation Fellowship on Entrepreneurship gives African students and recent graduates the opportunity to access training, resources, financial support, and a network of mentors to develop their entrepreneurial skills and start building their own ventures. The 8-month program develops the exceptional entrepreneurial skillset and mindset of leaders to drive social and financial impact.

Applications for the 2024 cohort are open!

Thank you for your interest in the Jim Leech Mastercard Foundation Fellowship program! The Jim Leech Mastercard Foundation Fellowship gives you the confidence, resources, knowledge, network, and financial support to build a startup with an impact. For African students and recent grads with a desire to solve pressing problems and bring entrepreneurial ideas to life, the program is split into three online courses where you will learn the foundations of entrepreneurship, receive virtual coaching, develop your own business idea, and demonstrate your commitment in order to advance to the next course.

Program dates:

Applications are due December 4, 2023, at midnight your local time.

Phase 1 – Explore Entrepreneurship January 2024 – February 2024
Phase 2 – Ignite Entrepreneurship March 2024 – April 2024
Phase 3 – Launch Entrepreneurship May 2024 – August 2024

If you have any questions, please get in touch with [email protected]

Program Benefits

Best-in-class Training

  • Business Bootcamp delivered by Queen’s University faculty and industry leaders who bring decades of combined entrepreneurship and C-Suite experience
  • The Disciplined Entrepreneurship framework, a proven step-by-step framework for scalable startups developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Pitch coaching and mastery
  • Live workshops on marketing, goal setting, and recruiting are held throughout the program
  • Opportunity to earn micro-credentials on Entrepreneurship awarded by Queen’s University for successful completion of the courses

Mentorship and Networking

  • Liaise with mentors and speakers leading innovation and entrepreneurship in North America
  • Access a Global Network of Queen’s entrepreneurial alumni
  • Join a cohort of thousands of like-minded students and recent grads from across Africa
  • Fellows are matched to industry leaders and entrepreneurs in the final phase of the program
  • Receive feedback at important startup milestones

Financial Support & Opportunities

  • Up to 60 Fellows will be selected in the final phase to receive a stipend of $500 CAD
  • Opportunities to pitch for prizes of up to $15,000 CAD in the pitch competition at the end of the program
  • Opportunities to travel to the Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre to build lasting connections that will help you further your business venture


We believe we do our best work when we tackle problems from diverse perspectives.

We are committed to eliminating barriers to entrepreneurship and making the program inclusive to as many people as possible. We are constantly iterating and improving the courses in response to user needs.

Examples include:

  • In 2020-2022, 60% of the cohort identified as women, and we strongly encourage women to apply to the program as we recognize the additional barriers women face when accessing employment or venturing into entrepreneurship.
  • In 2021-2022, the courses were adapted to be accessible by those with limited internet access, from downloading content to language support for French-speaking students
  • All Queen’s University badges earned in the course are free of cost and all badges and certificates are available online so that students can retrieve them anywhere, at any time, and easily share the details of their achievements. The certificates and badges have a unique ID that will be kept as a permanent record using
  • Blockchain technology.
  • Each participant receives direct access to a program coach to provide support and a group of over 15 mentors in the completion of the course.

Who We’re Looking For

We accept students and recent graduates from all academic disciplines, and from any African post-secondary institution. Whether you are already working on a business or you are looking to start something new, we can help you.

We are looking for participants who are committed to developing their entrepreneurial mindset and taking advantage of the resources provided to develop their own enterprises. The program is delivered virtually and can be completed at any pace, however, the most committed participants will commit at least 10 hours per week. In order to progress through the program phases, participants will submit assignments online, adhering to strict deadlines.

The program content is delivered in English. Mentorship may be offered in English and French. Assignments and pitches must be completed in English. Prospective fellows who are unable to speak or write English are still encouraged to apply and form teams with someone who can fulfill all the requirements of the program in English. Prospective fellows may also work with their local university to come up with a strategy to make sure they are able to access university resources that will help them navigate the challenge related to language ability.

Program Timeline

Phase 1: Explore (January-February)

1000+ exceptional candidates receive access to a curated list of online entrepreneurship courses and work through the first 11 steps of the Disciplined Entrepreneurship framework workbook. Candidates have several months to demonstrate their commitment to the entrepreneurial process by completing the training and progressing on their ideas’ milestones.

Guiding Questions:

  • Who is my customer?
  • What can I do for them?


  • Make observations through interviews or some other means
  • Clearly define and validate the problem you are solving by speaking to end users
  • Validate or invalidate key assumptions which are the basis of creating the solution you want to work on
  • Ideate – generate solutions to the problem you are solving
  • Create a journey map of your end user’s experience using your solution

Phase 2: Ignite (March-April)

180+ finalists with an outstanding commitment to the entrepreneurship process, who will have excelled at the milestones set out in phase one will be selected to join this phase. Under this phase, they will continue to go through an additional curated list of online entrepreneurship courses and work through the remaining steps of the Disciplined Entrepreneurship framework’s workbook. At the end of this phase, the participants will pitch their ideas, competing for the fellowship, and the most advanced and promising business ideas will become the finalists who receive the fellowship.

Guiding Questions:

  • How does your end user acquire your solution?
  • How will this be funded or become financially sustainable?


  • Develop channels to market and reach out to any necessary partners
  • Create a business model or a plan for funding your solution
  • Prototype your solution in the simplest way possible that still allows you to generate meaningful feedback from end users
  • Validate all critical assumptions by creating experiments and test your solution using your prototype

Phase 3: Launch and Fellowship (May-August)

Up to 60 Fellows will be selected to join DDQIC’s summer incubation program. During this phase, Fellows will get the opportunity to work on their ideas, access seed funding, and participate in weekly 3-2-1 pitch presentations about the work they are doing as they transform their ideas into scalable startups. In addition, Fellows will receive a $500 stipend and dedicated coaches and mentors from DDQIC’s Global Network of industry experts and entrepreneurs. Fellows will be able to compete in a pitch competition for more seed funding at the end of the program.

Guiding Questions:

  • How do you execute your solution?
  • How can you scale it?


  • Pilot your solution in a more real-life scenario
  • Generate expressions of interest, end users, or customers
  • Create a plan to scale

Graduation (August)

Startup entrepreneurs (Fellows) will complete their incubation program at the end of August. After graduation, Fellows will continue to receive post-incubation services, support, and pitch competition opportunities as part of DDQIC’s network.

High-performing Fellows will be invited to participate as ambassadors and mentors for future Jim Leech Mastercard Foundation Fellowships as well.


John Rowells

I am a passionate writer and career enthusiast. I share valuable insights and advice on navigating the world of careers. Join me on this journey of self-discovery and professional development as we unlock your full potential and achieve fulfilling work lives. Let's connect and achieve your career goals together.

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