Eleven finalists from six African countries have been chosen by technology conglomerate Google to take part in the second class of the Launchpad Accelerator Africa programme which kicks off today in Lagos, Nigeria.
This programme was the first region-specific Launchpad Accelerator focusing on solving unique African problems.
“Google decided to launch an Africa-specific Accelerator to support start-ups as they build and scale great products, while matching them with the best of Google: its people, network and advanced technologies,” says Fola Olatunji-David, head of start-up success and services, Launchpad Africa.
“As a continent, Google is committed to contributing to the technology ecosystem because we believe that if young people have the right skills, they’ll build businesses, create jobs and boost economic growth across the continent.
“The growth of entrepreneurship in Africa is critical to the survival of our continent, and we see that a lot of the challenges facing Africans are consistent in most parts. We’re currently as a region creating about three million jobs per year, while more than 11 million job-seekers are entering the market.
“Google believes that empowering entrepreneurs and start-ups is essential to drive employment growth, and enable both economic and social development on the continent.”
The first Africa class graduated in June. Olatunji-David says those 12 start-ups have already: “Directly created 132 jobs and, between them, have raised over $7 million in funding. Their products are being used by approximately 4.5 million people.”
Google says over the next three years, the Launchpad Accelerator Africa programme will provide African start-ups with over $3 million in equity-free support, working space and access to expert advisers from Google, Silicon Valley and Africa. Participants receive travel and PR support during each three-month programme.
To qualify, start-ups had to be an early stage technology start-up, based in Sub-Saharan Africa, targeting the African market and have already raised seed funding. The start-up also had to be addressing a real challenge for their home city, country or Africa.
For the class that starts today, Google received more than 250 applications from 11 countries.
Two of the finalists taking part in the three-month programme are South African: Pineapple, an insurance company which lets users insure individual items using just a mobile app; and Preeva, an online platform that connects students with young educators who provide extra help at school and university.
The other participants are: AppZone, Formplus, Medsaf and Thank U Cash from Nigeria; Cloud9xp and PayGo Energy from Kenya; Chalkboard Education from Ghana; EzyAgric from Uganda; and Mintrics from Egypt.
Each finalist will receive three months of intense mentorship and support from Google, Cloud and Firebase credits, three weeks all-expense-paid training at Launchpad Accelerator Africa (Lagos and Johannesburg), and access to Google engineers, resources and mentors, during and after the programme.
In February, at the global Google Launchpad Accelerator event in San Francisco, Google said it would focus on helping start-ups that integrate machine learning (ML) or artificial intelligence (AI) into their business strategy.
Olatunji-David says: “AI and ML are playing increasingly important roles in the way every business works. We’ll therefore provide more resources to help all of our start-ups to see how AI and machine learning can improve the success of their business. Additionally, we’ll work to help start-ups understand the technical details of how to implement AI/ML best practices in their own products.
“AI and ML are already a key part of our global Launchpad Studio programme, and by bringing Google’s AI/ML expertise into our regional Launchpad Accelerator Africa programme as well, we’re demonstrating how important we believe they are to every market we operate in.