Touching base with the African startups in the Google Launchpad Accelerator

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The second Google Developers Launchpad accelerator class is underway with the participating startups currently in Johannesburg for mentorship.

The Google Launchpad is a global mentoring programme for startups. During the programme startups are connected with Google’s best people, networks and technologies with a view to building and scaling their business.

The first class kicked off in March this year and 12 startups graduated from the programme. That first class created 132 jobs and has raised $7 million in funding collectively.

The second class is comprised of 11 startups from six African countries.

  • AppZone (Nigeria): AppZone builds Software as a service (SaaS) fintech software ecosystems for digital banks, allowing them to reduce operational costs while improving service delivery.
  • Chalkboard Education (Ghana): Allows educational institutions to make their curricula available via mobile devices (USSD, SMS, and internet). It also lets those institutes gather insights about student learning patterns and helps them create and adapt curricula for the mobile space.
  • Cloud9xp (Kenya): Cloud9xp is an online marketplace and booking service that allows people to buy and sell experiences in various locations across Africa and the Middle East.
  • EzyAgric (Uganda): EzyAgric is an on-demand platform that provides inclusive and data-driven access to finance, production and marketing services for farmers and agribusinesses in Uganda. It does so through a network of youth agents equipped with smartphones and other forms of agricultural technology, providing employment and helping farmers improve yields and market access in one go.
  • Formplus (Nigeria): Formplus allows companies to collect online and offline data through the use of customisable digital forms. The startup also provides analytics based on form answers and allows for payment collection via PayPal, Stripe and Flutterwave
  • Medsaf (Nigeria): Medsaf is a one-stop, curated medication marketplace for African hospitals and pharmacies.
  • Mintrics (Egypt): This social video intelligence platform helps brands and agencies understand how people are interacting with their social videos, giving them insight into what is and isn’t working and thereby maximising their ROI.
  • PayGo Energy (Kenya): PayGo’s smart meter and connected software service allows players in the LP gas (LPG) value chain to better service their customers, driving the adoption of clean cooking fuels.
  • Pineapple (South Africa): Pineapple’s unique machine learning technology allows users to easily insure individual items using just a mobile app.
  • Preeva (South Africa): Preeva is an online platform that connects students with young educators who provide tutoring help at school and university.
  • Thank U Cash (Nigeria): Thank U Cash is an online rewards platform that allows consumers to save and earn loyalty points that can be swapped for cash and merchants to benefit from extra spend.

“With this, it’s about empowering people to make better lives for themselves” Google Launchpad Accelerator Africa head of startup success and services, Fola Olatunji-David

As part of the programme startups receive three months of mentoring, Google Cloud and Firebase credits, training at Launchpad Accelerator Africa (Lagos and Johannesburg) and perhaps most importantly, access to resources, mentors and Google engineers.

While many might see this as Google’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) it isn’t. In fact when asked about it Launchpad Accelerator Africa head of startup success and services, Fola Olatunji-David, says it’s purely about business.

“With the Launchpad programme it’s purely a business because we believe that Google as an organisation thrives when all the organisations in the ecosystem thrive. Google thrives when more people are on the internet, when more people are earning, and when more people are learning how to build their business,” Olatunji-David told press.

So Google really wants startups to succeed but often we find that what a company hopes to do and what it ends up doing are very different things.

With this in mind we spoke to a few of the startups in Johannesburg this week to find out how the Launchpad is working for them.

“To sum it up it’s really helped us shape our business and point us in the direction that makes a lot more sense for the future,” Preeva chief executive officer and co-founder Max Herberstein tells us.

“It’s changed our lives. We’ve been introduced to a network of people that have had a massive influence on us and will continue to have a massive influence on us,” adds Herberstein.

Moving further north we spoke to Egyptian startup Mintrics. Being so far north presents unique problems for Mintrics and CEO Tarek Nasr tells us the Launchpad helps to bridge the North/South Africa divide.

“This gives us an opportunity to build relationships here and see what the market is like,” says Nasr.

“The concept of OKRs [objectives and key results] that Google is really big on has really helped us organise our thoughts and a lot of the sessions have been really beneficial,” the CEO adds.

The Launchpad Accelerator is working particularly well in Africa especially when you consider that one of the major challenges on the continent is access to funding.

By giving startups the tools they need and access to mentors Google removes the stress of “how do I pay for these tools” and a way to grow not just their business, but their communities as well.

Brendyn Lotz

Brendyn Lotz

Brendyn Lotz writes news, reviews, and opinion pieces for Hypertext. His interests include SMEs, innovation on the African continent, cybersecurity, blockchain, games, geek culture and YouTube.