Google pledges $3m over 3 years to 60 African Start-ups


In a visit to Nigeria, at the Google for Nigeria Conference held at the end of July, Google CEO Sundar Pichai and other Google executives announced various initiatives they are working on. Google reiterated its dedication to Africa and announced support for African start-ups, new products and features for Nigerian users (some coming to rest of Africa.) They also announced initiatives in economic opportunity and education, with a focus on digital skills training.


When it comes to the aforementioned support for African start-ups, through the Launchpad Accelerator programme Google plans to provide training and access.  Training comes in the form of 2 weeks all-expenses-paid mentorship at Google HQ where access to Google engineers and resources is also availed. After the 2 weeks, a start-up is not simply cut off but they get to work closely with Google for 6 more months, whatever that really means.

The start-up also gets product credits, Google Cloud probably offering the biggest value. Access to full suite of Launchpad initiatives and connections (ooh, access economy). The connections alone could change the fortunes of a company.


Start-ups require capital and Google will provide $3 million in equity free funding which translates to $50k per start-up. That is huge as it means Google does not get to part own the start-ups. The founders and owners of the start-up retain 100% control of their company  unless and until they choose to partner with someone else. Google may be interested in part owning some companies but that is not a prerequisite for getting the funding.

All this will be implemented over the next 3 years and over 60 start-ups across Africa to benefit. The initial focus will be on Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya. Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and along with South Africa and Egypt they are the only 3 countries in Africa with over $200bn economies. Kenya is the tech capital of Africa. That explains why those countries will get first crack at it.

More countries in Africa will be added to the list of eligible countries in Africa and the hope is that Zimbabwe will be added sooner rather than later. Preparation should be done today so that if and when Zim is added to the list your start-up can be successful in getting the $50k and training that comes with it. You will only be eligible if you already have a product.

Is $50k enough though? A lot of factors will obviously come into play, the product being offered being the best example, but with creativity and willpower it is not hard to imagine a company soaring. In any case additional funding can be obtained if a start-up shows promise and growth after that initial round of funding.

Are these guys not spoiling the African start-ups? Some have wondered whether American start-ups for example have access to equity free funding as well. If African start-ups are treated with kid gloves are we not dooming them to fail? Can they then compete with the other companies that had to come up with creative business models and innovative ways to gain funding? It is all up for debate.

You may feel like 60 start-ups in the whole of Africa is insignificant. It is not. Giants may emerge from there, changing fortunes in one African community at a time. Google too is not ending with the 60 but will evaluate how the initial 60 fare and tweak the programme accordingly. After the 3 years even more start-ups from even more African countries will be eligible to join the programme.

If you have an operational company with a product already you would do well to follow developments in this programme so that you plan accordingly to raise the chance you become successful in obtaining the funding and mentorship.




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