Google accelerator focuses on emerging markets

24 start-ups from 15 countries are participating in Google Launchpad Accelerator.
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24 start-ups from 15 countries are participating in Google Launchpad Accelerator.

Technology conglomerate Google has chosen 24 start-ups from developing markets around the world, including South Africa, out of thousands of applications to participate in a two-week boot camp to take their business to the global stage.

In its fifth year, Google Launchpad Accelerator is taking place in San Francisco this week. It focuses on start-ups that already have a product, with a good market fit, and are ready to scale.

During the intensive two weeks at Google's offices, start-ups are exposed to expert professionals and mentors in the technology and business space, as well as take part in workshops on machine learning and artificial intelligence.

The programme is tailored to each start-up specifically. When they are accepted into the initiative, their problems are assessed and they are paired with the mentor who has the best skill set to help them when they get to San Francisco.

After the boot camp, the start-ups will take part remotely in a six-month mentorship programme.

This year, there are three start-ups from Africa: Aerobotics from SA, as well as Helium Health and OneFi from Nigeria.

Cape Town-based Aerobotics helps farmers optimise their yields and reduce costs through its aerial data analytics platform, which combines on-the-ground and satellite data with footage from drones.

Helium Health provides smart, rugged, all-in-one electronic medical records for Africa, and OneFi has created Paylater, an online provider of digital financial services for the underbanked in West Africa.

There are two companies with $1 billion evaluations taking part in the accelerator. Roy Glasberg, global lead for Google Developers Launchpad, says this is the first time any accelerator in the world has taken on such large start-ups.

Both 'unicorns' are based in Brazil. Nubank is a financial technology company offering a fully digital and branchless experience, and Viva Real is an online real estate marketplace that connects buyers, sellers and renters with properties in Brazil. There is one other Brazilian start-up, Loggi, which creates new-wave logistics.

Other participating South American start-ups include Etermax, a creator of social gaming apps, and Restorando, a dining-out marketplace, from Argentina. There is also Clip, a service that allows users to accept payments with any credit or debit card, at anytime and anywhere, and Kubo.financiero, a P2P lending platform, from Mexico.

Central and Eastern Europe start-ups taking part are Synetiq from Hungary, Szopi from Poland, and App in the Air and Voximplant from Russia.

Synetiq uses machine learning and biometric emotional insights to help brands and media producers create high-performing video adverts. Szopi offers a same-day delivery platform for groceries and pharmaceuticals. App in the Air is a personal travel assistant for flight tracking and exploring airports, and Voximplant offers a versatile cloud communications platform.

India has one of the largest contingents, with four start-ups: BabyChakra, m.Paani, NIRAMAI and SocialCops.

BabyChakra is an app that helps Indian parents from pregnancy to parenting. m.Paani provides businesses with real-time consumer insights. NIRAMAI has developed a breast cancer screening solution that detects cancer at an early stage. SocialCops empowers organisations to make better decisions through data.

Other participants include:

  • Kulina from Indonesia is a meal subscription service that uses technology to optimise inefficiencies in supply chain and logistics.
  • Maya Apa from Bangladesh, a digital well-being assistant that connects users to real doctors and therapists.
  • VividTech from Pakistan is an interactive customer service solution.
  • Ayannah from the Philippines enables affordable and accessible digital financial services to be delivered to the world's emerging middle-class.
  • Priceza from Thailand offers a search engine and price comparison app for shopping.
  • Monkey Junior from Vietnam creates educational solutions for kids up to 10 to learn languages, maths and science.

Google differentiates its accelerator from others available in Silicon Valley because it provides equity-free support.

Over the past five years, Google has worked with over 12 000 start-ups from across the world in its various programmes (other than the Launchpad Accelerator, it also has programmes for start-ups in ideation or testing phase).

Glasberg says Google has learnt a lot from the process and has decided it would rather have close, meaningful, longer term relationships with a smaller number of start-ups.

Alumni from the programme are sometimes invited back to be mentors, or if their business has pivoted since the last time they participated, they can take part in the launchpad again.

Lauren Kate Rawlins
ITWeb digital and innovation editor.

Lauren made the move to online journalism after a stint with broadsheets in Durban. She now writes about the different ways businesses are embracing digital transformation, how small start-ups are disrupting big industry, and how the machines are slowing taking over. She investigates the far flung corners of the web and interrogates the algorithms our social lives revolve around. She researches emerging technologies and puts into words how 21st century living, more and more, resembles a scene in a science fiction novel.

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