The world of technology is in constant flux with shiny new things coming to market and startups rising up to tackle current and future challenges. The support systems for these startups have also continued to grow with a mix of everything from pure play capitalization, incubation and acceleration. Capitalization is the desired goal of most businesses starting up, to empower them to grow or meet other key performance indicators critical for business survival and growth. Incubation and acceleration are however critical to the realization of an investment milestone. Sometimes these two are used interchangeably but they carry distinct differences in the stage of company that they may accept. Incubation is really the early stage support structure that looks to provide scaffolding for a startups first months with programs often going nine months to a year, where pivots and dives into the dead pool are common. This should not be confused with co-working that seems to have taken major African cities by storm. Accelerators on the other hand serve to sharpen and focus startups that have achieved product – market fit and are have started scaling in terms of customers, market share, revenue, team et al.
Google has been quite active in the global startup space, offering free access via credits to tools that lower the technological barriers to market entry for innovators around the world and also committing both human and capital resources towards supporting promising startup teams in emerging markets through the Launchpad Accelerator. On the higher end of their acceleration cycle, we have seen companies such as Nigeria’s Delivery Science, Flutterwave, Gidi Mobile, and Paystack; South Africa’s Jumo and Kenya’s Twiga Foods benefit from mentorship, equity-free support, and access to Silicon Valley experts.
This year has marked the start of their regional initiatives targeted at 40 countries. Launchpad Africa, with a 3 month cycle looks to select startups based in, Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, Tanzania, South Africa and Uganda with a committed fund of $ 3million deployed over three years and a target number of participating companies pegged at 60 over the same period.
Going even further beyond the digital skills initiatives that they have supported in the past, a partnership with Udacity is offering scholarships starting May 8th, covering web development and mobile application development on Android with tracks for both the novice and experienced programmer.
On the web development track there are two paths; beginners – no programming experience required, 2-month access to Intro to HTML + CSS with the output as the ability to design and build stunning and engaging websites and intermediate – some programming experience required, 2-month access to Offline Web Applications with the goal of building next-generation and responsive web applications and grow as a developer. Top 150 students from the Beginner Track will be awarded scholarships to the Front-End Web Developer Nanodegree Program. Top 100 students from the Intermediate Track will be awarded scholarships to the Mobile Web Specialist Nanodegree Program.
On the Android track; beginners – start to code from scratch with 2-month access to Android Basics: User Interface module and intermediate – start on building interactive multi-screen Android Apps with 2-month access to Developing Android Apps. Top 150 students from the Beginner Track will be awarded scholarships to the Android Basics Nanodegree Program. Top 100 students from the Intermediate Track will be awarded scholarships to the Android Developer Nanodegree Program.
Launchpad Studio is a niche accelerator, still part of the Google stable that I would love to see African startups make the cut. Based in San Francisco, at Google Developers Launchpad Space, Launchpad Studio works with startups to successfully complete a machine learning and artificial intelligence focused project during the term of the program.