Google’s Launchpad Studio accelerator welcomes a cohort of blockchain and finance startups

Google has inducted a new class of startups into the Launchpad Studio accelerator it inaugurated last year; the first group was focused on gleaning new insights from medical data, and this one is about shaking up established financial markets and systems.

Some of the companies are well-known, established businesses — but this isn’t the usual type of accelerator that aims to take a fledgling business and bring it to market. Instead, Google supports the selected companies in the development of a project, generally involving applying machine learning to the space in which they operate. They call Studio a “product acceleration program.” (There are regular accelerators under the Launchpad brand, as well.)

This year the companies are all more or less in the financial space, offering banking, identity verification and retail services in locales around the world. Here’s the list, with Google’s descriptions of each:

  • Alchemy (USA), bridging blockchain and the real world

  • Axinan (Singapore), providing smart insurance for the digital economy

  • Aye Finance (India), transforming financing in India

  • Celo (USA), increasing financial inclusion through a mobile-first cryptocurrency

  • Frontier Car Group (Germany), investing in the transformation of used-car marketplaces

  • Go-Jek (Indonesia), improving the welfare and livelihoods of informal sectors

  • GuiaBolso (Brazil), improving the financial lives of Brazilians

  • Inclusive (Ghana), verifying identities across Africa

  • m.Paani (India), (em)powering local retailers and the next billion users in India

  • Starling Bank (UK), improving financial health with a 100% mobile-only bank

As you can see it’s quite an international group. But different areas have different opportunities and talents. Inclusive, for instance, emerged in Africa from the difficulty there in finding and verifying identity documents. I talked with the company’s founder, Paul Damalie, earlier this year.

It’s easy to imagine what interesting patterns or helpful knowledge might emerge from a careful analysis of millions of data points tied to demographics, locations, financial situations and so on.

(Update: Robinhood, which was previously listed as a participant in this cohort, is not in fact part of it. The company informed me that it was an internal communication issue, with no hard feelings.)

Google provides cloud computing resources, access to its stable of tame ML researchers and continuing support after the four-month period is over.

Congrats to the startups selected for the program; we’ll keep our ears open for whatever products emerge from their work.