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Google Launches Equity-Free Accelerator Program

By Sherrell Dorsey

Google continues to prove its influence in the startup ecosystem both online and off. Late last year, the Internet behemoth announced its latest initiative — Google Developers Launchpad Accelerator --  to help startups in Brazil, India and Indonesia create mobile technology products under the auspices of famed Google know-how. In addition to equipping startup teams with top Google developers and experts, the company plans to back these newcomers with up to $50,000 each in equity-free funding.

Unlike most business accelerator programs, the access to funding with no strings attached is an innovative move — one that will help startup founders stay focused on developing well-thought products instead of concerning themselves with the responsibilities of pleasing shareholders.

Roy Glasberg, Google’s global lead for Launchpad programming, told TechCrunch that the company is looking for startup teams that have the potential to 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.
The 20 selected teams will journey to Google’s corporate headquarters in Mountain View, California, for a two-week boot camp this month (all-expenses paid for up to three members per team). There, they’ll meet and work with top developers and engineering talent for a crash-course in app development, Google tools and business strategy, in an effort to "develop the world’s greatest apps."

From beginning to completion, the program is slated to incubate entrepreneurs in their respective countries for a total of six months. Specifically, operations will take place in Sao Paulo, Brazil; Bangalore, India; and Jakarta, Indonesia. Additional mentorship and support will be provided for those companies that need additional time to build and launch.

Google is well-endowed with a suite of business initiatives to help support areas of business growth from education to nonprofit management to city economic development. And it's no stranger to leveraging its talent, tools and marketing platforms to help small businesses and creative entrepreneurs re-think how access to the right technology can solve problems on the ground.

The countries selected for sourcing potential new mobile app ideas and talent were predicated on the notion that each represents large markets of people (more than 200 million) and are largely mobile-first nations — places where access to the Internet and high-tech communications typically happens via smartphone.

According to TechCrunch, an example of the participating startups includes ProDeaf, of Brazil, which translates spoken language into sign language using 3-D avatars, and Jojonomic, the finch startup from Indonesia.

In addition to having access to Google’s top developers and host of tech-industry who’s who, Google is also plugging teams with credits for its products which will come in handy for marketing through AdWords or other Google products.

The larger impact of this program, an extension of Google’s existing programs which include free online courses through Udacity, sets the bar even higher for Google -- which leads when it comes to influencing and providing technical assistance for the greater growth of the startup community.

Imagine the plethora of opportunities that would exist if other Silicon Valley giants like Facebook, AirBnB or Instagram could adopt similar models, leveraging their reach and tools through a business accelerator framework to help startup hopefuls launch smarter and quicker, while being backers behind the latest and most forward-thinking technologies.

After measuring the success metrics of the first few cycles of its Launchpad accelerator model, there’s no telling where Google might try similar programming. One can hope, however, that areas like Cape Town and Kenya where Internet connectivity is significantly driving entrepreneurship could be a potential new ground for sourcing talent delivering the next best app.

Image credit: Google Launchpad Accelerator Homepage

Sherrell Dorsey headshot

Sherrell Dorsey is a social impact storyteller, social entrepreneur and advocate for environmental, social and economic equity in underserved communities. Sherrell speaks and writes frequently on the topics of sustainability, technology, and digital inclusion.

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