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Launching the Future

Google’s Launchpad Accelerator program supports start-ups with training and resources to make it big.

In December 2015, Google began Launchpad Accelerator, a program that helps start-ups get their businesses off the ground by providing them mentors, equity-free support and visibility in their prospective markets. While Google is choosing mobile app start-ups predominantly from India, Brazil, Indonesia and Mexico, it will eventually broaden its scope to include more countries and offer the program to start-ups in different technological markets.

In 2016—round two of the program—Google provided 24 start-ups from the four countries with cash and training as they got a “Google boost” during their six-month mentorship program from June to December. The third batch, including seven Indian start-ups, was announced in November 2016.

What does “Google boost” mean exactly? The start-ups get ongoing coaching, office space and $50,000 (Rs. 34,00,000 approximately) equity-free funding. The program also includes an all-expense-paid trip to Google Headquarters in Mountain View, California, to collaborate with Google’s engineers, product managers and regional venture capitalists. In exchange, Google gets its fingers on the pulse of markets exploding with mobile users.

Out of the hundreds of Indian start-ups that applied for the second batch, six were chosen—MagicPin, PlaySimple Games, Programming Hub, RedCarpet, ShareChat and Taskbob.

“In addition to a business plan and a clear outline of our product roadmap as well as financial and business goals, we underwent a video pitch and a technical interview by senior management of Google Israel,” says Sandeep Srinivasa, co-founder of RedCarpet.  “It was a pretty competitive process, with tons of start-ups, and we were chosen as one of the few start-ups representing India.”

RedCarpet gives Indian consumers the ability to purchase products on credit using their smartphone. It is working toward building better banking and credit possibilities for its customers.

“Combining Google’s artificial intelligence technology and Android smartphones with banking has the capacity to disrupt the clunky, old way that financial services are delivered across India,” says Srinivasa.

According to Roy Glasberg, global lead, Lauchpad Program & Accelerator, “We take very successful start-ups and turn them into successful companies.” In this sense, Google is looking for start-ups that have matured and are already established in their respective countries.

The selected Indian start-ups are already seeing drastic improvements in their revenue and overall success.

Programming Hub, a one-stop solution to learn all the top programming languages, sent three of its founders to Google Headquarters for a two-week bootcamp, where they were mentored by 70 to 80 people in various technological domains. Programming Hub founder Nigel H. Crasto emphasizes that the mentors’ “knowledge and expertise helped us understand our mistakes and improve our offering tremendously.” After just a few months in the program, he believes the company will benefit the Indian community tremendously. “We are motivating people in our country, especially the youth, to start their own ventures or start-ups,” while teaching programming to anyone who wants to learn a skill that can lead to a very lucrative career, says Crasto.

Of the other four Indian companies chosen to be part of the Launchpad Accelerator program, MagicPin is one that attracts a large number of youth as it offers a way to find local activities, events and deals on everything—from restaurants and fashion to yoga and gym memberships. PlaySimple Games is geared toward Indian children and young adults who enjoy a simple, creative and social gaming experience.

ShareChat, similar to the popular SnapChat app, allows users to share videos, jokes, songs and cartoons in Indian languages like Hindi, Telugu, Marathi, Gujarati, Punjabi and Malayalam. Users can find their daily horoscope, receive health tips, read latest quotes and even sign up for a dating match service.

The last of the six chosen start-ups was Taskbob. Based in Mumbai, it started off on the premise that people are spending too much time on chores and not enough time pursuing their passions. Taskbob’s mission is to provide an easy, quick way for users to find service providers in a variety of areas like home cleaning, handymen services, drivers, appliance repair or at-home beauty services.

Megan McDrew is a professor of sociology at Hartnell College. She is based in Monterey, California.