Google is launching a new accelerator program today. The Launchpad Accelerator will provide mobile startups in India, Brazil and Indonesia with mentorship, training, support, and up to $50,000 in equity-free funding.
As Roy Glasberg, Google’s Global lead for its Launchpad programs, told me, the accelerator was born out of Google’s existing Launchpad program for startups and its global series of events that launched about two-and-a-half years ago.
As Google looked at how it could have more impact on the startup ecosystem, the team realized that there were essentially two ways to scale its efforts. On the one hand, this meant expanding its online presence with better training tools and efforts like Google’s Udacity nanodegrees, as well launching projects like the Launchpad Days and Summits the company has now held in more than 30 countries. On the other hand, though, Google also wanted to be able to offer high-impact mentoring relationships to some startups and that’s where this new accelerator program comes in.
Glasberg told me that the company is specifically looking for startups that can have a high impact on their local markets. “The end goal of this program is to identify game changers in the market and be the game changer for them,” he said. The company decided on an equity-free approach because it doesn’t want to tarnish this work with thoughts about ROI and equity.
So what’s the program going to look? Google will fly startups to Mountain View for a two-week bootcamp first. There, they will meet with mentors from both inside and outside Google. Glasberg described this as a “pressure environment” where the team will help these startups to plan for their next five and a half months in the program (which happens in their home countries). During this time, the startups will work through a number of individualized tasks to help them sharpen their marketing and go-to-market strategies, user experience design and other aspects of their services. About half of the mentors are Google employees and the other half are professionals from the wider startup community.
Once they get back home, they will get space to work and access to both Google’s local and international network of mentors, as well as credits to use Google’s developer platforms.
The first class of twenty startups will arrive in Mountain View in mid-January and includes startups like Brazil’s ProDeaf, which translates spoken language into sign language using 3D avatars, and Indonesia’s fintech startup Jojonomic.
Google plans to bring about 50 new startups into the accelerator program every year, but Glasberg also tells me that the company hopes to work with another 200 or so in a more hands-off program that doesn’t involve the boot camp in Mountain View. Indeed, he stressed that Google really wants to keep this program as flexible as possible. Maybe a startup needs more than six months to make a difference, for example, and in that case, Google may work with the team a bit longer. Or instead of cloud credits, the team may need AdWords credits to market it project. Or a team from then hands-off group shows a lot of promise and Google decides to move it to the full accelerator program.
Besides making a difference for these individual startups, Google also hopes to make an impact on the wider startup ecosystem in these countries by building an alumni network. “We want to give all startups the best resources they can get,” Glasberg said. “No matter where they are.”
Google expects to expand this program to additional countries in the long run. If you are in India, Brazil and Indonesia, though, you can now apply to become part of the second class, which will begin in mid-2016.