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Google for Startups Accelerator is a program that was born in the Google Developers team and that Alphabet has implemented in more than 40 countries.
Its goal? To boost the growth of startups that are emerging in the ecosystem. To achieve this, the program brings entrepreneurs and startups closer to experts in different areas of Google, as well as various allies through workshops, courses and networking sessions.
The program arrived in Latin America in 2019. Since then, 107 Spanish-speaking startups have participated in it, and more than 100 in Brazil. Some that have been part of Google for Startups Accelerator are Canasta Rosa, Ben & Frank, Platzi, Konfio, Ualá, La Haus, Ripio, ComparaOnline, Tiendanube, Miroculus and Crack the Code.
Participating in 2022 are Aptuno (Colombia), Boitas (Mexico), Clara (Mexico), Come Bien (Mexico), Finerio (Mexico), Homely (Mexico), Saeko (Mexico), Uellbee (Mexico), Vopero (Uruguay) and Zumbale (Mexico).
To learn more about Google for Startups Accelerator and the benefits of being part of the program, we talked with Francisco Solsona, the leader of Google for Startups Accelerator for Latin America, and Maria del Mar Velez, the founder & CEO of Crack the Code and one of the founders in the region who have participated in this program.
Contxto (C.): How long has Google for Startups Accelerator been in the region?
Francisco Solsona (F.S.): In 2015 we started working with startups in one-week programs. Back then it was called Launchpad.
Then, the accelerator program was born. The first edition was in 2016. It was hybrid: 15 days in San Francisco and then six months of follow-up in the region. So all my colleagues [globally] and I were looking for startups in our countries to participate. We did this for a couple of years, but it didn’t scale and it was very expensive.
Finally, we decided to do a regional or country-based accelerator program. In 2019 the Latin American and Spanish-speaking program was born. However, with the arrival of the pandemic it became a virtual program; that change cost us a lot of work. Before that, our best practice was to be shoulder to shoulder with the entrepreneurs and their teams, as well as with the mentors.
C.: Why promote Google for Startups in Latin America?
F.S.: We think of our team as a point of contact for all of Google’s technology product areas with the ecosystems. This allows us to work directly with startups, which we see as the future of innovation and jobs in the region’s economy.
This way we can get closer, understand what their challenges are and receive immediate feedback on our products. This allows us to improve and reach our markets with a more solid offer.
It also allows us to extend a helping hand so that these startups can grow and get to know themselves better. We want to forge this relationship of trust to continue supporting them.
C.: What does a startup need to enter the program?
F.S.: We have a public registration form. We ask that they are companies that use technology as an essential part of their platforms, products and services.
In terms of size or maturity we are very open; they can be seed, A, B or even larger companies.
C.: Before the pandemic, how did the program work and how is it working now?
F.S.: At the end of the year we thought that at this point we would be in a hybrid or face-to-face world. But with omicron we are still in a 100% virtual format. All the workshops and sessions happen online, but later on we plan to move to a hybrid format.
There are things that are not the same or as good as face-to-face formats, but there are some advantages in digital formats. For example, everyone in the teams can participate, whereas before we did three weeks of work where two people from each team participated. Content such as workshops and best practices works better online.
In the future, we want a hybrid format so that some sessions are face-to-face, as this works very well for networking among the startups.
C.: How do startups that join Google for Startups Accelerator benefit?
F.S.: The main benefit is the contact with other entrepreneurs, as well as our network of experts and mentors. We seek to bring them talent, knowledge, ideas and experience in an appropriate way, depending on what they need.
They also have access to product groups and Google technologies (we give them up to $100,000 in Google Cloud credits if they use this platform). We also became a kind of one-stop shop for everyone, to connect them with the right person and the right team at Google.
C.: What are your goals for 2022?
F.S.: One of the focuses that we started a couple of years ago is to take care of the equity issue. So we want to make the whole program more inclusive.
This year we are going to launch programs to grow our mentor base. We want to have a representation of 50% women and 50% men. The same with programs for women founders at a very early stage. We did a pilot program last year, similar to the accelerator program, but in one week; it’s called Google for Startups Academy for women founders.
C.: What experience did Crack The Code gain from participating in the program?
María del Mar Velez (M.M.V.): We were part of the program at the end of 2020. I think we were the second co-work that was 100% virtual. It was valuable because for us who were in Peru, where the ecosystem is not so developed, it was an excellent platform to start developing a network of founders from all over the region, to have access to mentors, entrepreneurs, executives and people with global experience. This access was valuable.
The courses helped us to implement certain practices. I would say it was enriching from different angles. From then on, our company began to accelerate more aggressively during the pandemic.
C.: What did you like most about the program? Why?
M.M.V.: One of the sessions I liked most was one on OKR, because it really helped us get organized. Our business changed a lot in the face of the pandemic; we started hiring a lot of people.
[The OKR session] helped us to start outlining goals and metrics, so we knew if we were getting there or not. We sorted ourselves out as a team and as a company.
On the other hand, in one of these mentorships I met a partner of Kaszek, who was the fund that led our last round.
C.: After the investment round you had at the end of last year, what is coming for Crack the Code in 2022?
M.M.V.: What we are focusing on is growth and exposure of our brand regionally with a particular focus on Mexico.
We are also enhancing our academic and digital product for our mom and pop customers, as well as for our students.
C.: What market opportunity do you see in Mexico that gives you such a focus?
M.M.V.: It is an interesting country. In Latin America, it is the country that invests the highest percentage of its monthly budget in education (between 12% and 14%), compared to Brazil, which only invests between 4% and 6%.
Mexico is the technology hub in Latin America. All the big companies are based there. This means that workers are living this digital transformation very closely and are realizing how important it is that their children learn how to program. This makes the population more receptive to adopting our products and services.
It is one of the most important markets in the region that is growing tremendously.
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