Tag Archives: Entrepreneurs

11 startups addressing global problems—here’s how we’re helping


When we announced our Google for Startups Accelerator on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in November, we did not foresee how dramatically day-to-day life would soon change. The COVID-19 pandemic and its widespread health, social and economic consequences have made the goal of the program—to help founders build technology to  solve serious issues facing our world—even more pressing. 

We received almost 1,200 applications from across Europe, the Middle East and Africa and—together with an external jury—we carefully evaluated each of these ideas. Today, we’re announcing the 11 startups selected to participate in our inaugural Google for Startups Accelerator on the SDGs. These startups address a wide range of social and environmental challenges, and are working toward at least one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals outlined by the U.N. 

Apic.ai (Germany) uses honeybees as biosensors in the fight to protect biodiversity. 

Cervest.earth (UK) provides personalized insights on the impact of climatic and extreme events, predicting the risks and effects of climate volatility in real-time, for any location on the planet. 

Ellipsis.earth (UK) uses drone imagery and machine learning to identify and track plastic pollution, aiming to provide a global database of the types of plastic waste found in our oceans, beaches and rivers.

Everimpact (France) combines satellite imagery and ground sensing to monitor air quality and carbon emissions in cities.  

Flare (Kenya) offers software infrastructure and operational support for medical emergency response services in Sub-Saharan Africa.

mDoc (Nigeria) uses a digital platform and in-person hubs to support people living with chronic diseases. 

OKO (Israel) is crop insurance designed for emerging markets, using new technologies in satellite imagery and weather forecasting to simplify and automate claim management. 

Ororatech (Germany) is the first commercial supplier of infrared satellite data for early detection and real-time monitoring of wildfires across the globe. 

Skilllab (Netherlands) uses AI to empower job seekers, such as refugees, to integrate their skill sets into local labor markets.

Solar Freeze (Kenya) is pioneering mobile cold storage units powered by renewable energy for smallholder farmers, to help them reduce post-harvest loss in the developing world.

Wondertree (Pakistan) accelerates cognitive and motor development in children with special needs through movement-based therapeutic and educational AR games. 

Each startup founder will work closely with engineers from over 20 Google teams and other subject matter experts to address product, engineering, business development, and funding challenges. Since this accelerator is focused on sustainability, founders will learn these skills through the lens of the Sustainable Development Goals and relevant partners.

In order to keep the program safe and accessible in light of COVID-19, the first two on-site events will now be digital. Virtual training will cover topics such as creating Objectives and Key Results (OKRs), UX Research & Behavioral Economics, ML Data Pipelines and Data Visualization, SDG innovation for sustainable impact, and Strategies for Social Impact Fundraising. The five-month program kicks off on April 21st, and a second cohort will be selected later in the year.

Google for Startups was created to support those who want to build something better—and that’s exactly what we’ll continue to do, whether online or IRL. These are just a few of the many startups working locally on global solutions, and we’ll continue to bring Google’s resources to this entrepreneurial community.

Sandeep Ahuja is comfortable confronting convention

In 2018, women received only 2.2 percent of all venture capital funding. Women Techmakers, Google’s program to build visibility, community and resources for women in technology, is committed to changing this narrative. Founded is a new web series that shares the stories of women founders using tech to solve some of the world’s challenges. For our first season, we’re taking our viewers to Atlanta, home of one of the largest technology hubs in the U.S., to highlight the stories of four women of color entrepreneurs.

Today, we’re releasing our second episode, an interview with Sandeep Ahuja. Sandeep is the co-founder of cove.tool, a software platform that helps architects and engineers model energy efficient buildings. We had the chance to talk to the Atlanta-based entrepreneur about her international upbringing, how she creates community for women in tech and how it felt to make Forbes “30 Under 30” list. 

Can you explain what cove.tool is to someone who’s not in tech?

Buildings contribute to 40 percent of total carbon emissions, and while developers and owners don’t mind doing the “right thing” for the planet, no one has unlimited budgets to spend on green building design. We still have to make things affordable and that’s exactly what cove.tool’s smart optimization does. We want to make it easier to build sustainable and green energy efficient buildings.

What originally inspired your interest in fighting climate change?

As a daughter of a diplomat, I traveled the world seeing the remarkable homogeneity of buildings in climates as diverse as Riyadh and Moscow. Given the outsized contribution buildings make to climate change, I was deeply troubled by the lack of architectural response. I wanted to disrupt this idea, and for me, given that I moved to a different country every four years, I’ve always felt comfortable with change and with confronting entrenched beliefs.  For me, there was no such thing as conforming to conventions. 

What was it like to be named to the Forbes “30 under 30” list? 

It’s both exciting and humbling; so many people reached out to express support and congratulations. It was exciting to see so many  strong women on the list, as well as so many immigrants, including myself! 

Cove.tool is meant to help architecture and engineering professionals fight climate change, but how can everyone else help? 

Getting politically active and pushing business and political leaders to take action is the key. Multinational corporations, investment firms and government regulations account for the vast majority of emissions. A good place to start in America is to join grassroots efforts like Citizens Climate Lobby, a bi-partisan organization tackling climate change. Collaborating with them is a great way to organize, volunteer and raise awareness. Writing letters to your local representative, congressperson and voting for fighting climate change candidates also makes a big difference. 

Why do you think it’s important for women in the entrepreneur and tech worlds to create community? 

Being a data driven person, the data clearly answers the "why.” Women only receive 2 percent of VC funding and make up only 11 percent of leadership in tech; this is creating a world of systematic bias. This needs to change and the change can start with me, you and everyone else. I drive change by making sure that cove.tool maintains a strong gender and diversity ratio and that we put  women in leadership roles. Our first non-founder team member was a woman, and the second was a woman, too, and they weren’t hired for any other reason aside from the fact that they deserved those roles and had the best skillsets. I also volunteer, coach and hopefully inspire other women founders and architects.

Highlights from the first year of .dev

A year ago, our Google Registry team launched .dev—a top-level domain (TLD) for developers, designers, technical writers, and technology enthusiasts. This new TLD gave people the chance to register memorable domain names that can be hard to find on older domains, with a descriptive ending that’s especially relevant to them.

The .dev TLD is on the HSTS preload list, which means it’s secure for both website owners and their visitors. Placement on the HSTS preload list ensures HTTPS encryption for your entire website, which helps protect visitors against ad malware, tracking injection from ISPs, and potential spying when using open Wi-Fi networks. With so much built-in security, .dev has become the natural place for technology makers to share resources, showcase great work, and foster community.

In the last year, over 150,000 .dev domains have been registered, and we’ve seen many creative uses of the TLD. Here are just a few of the exciting examples we’ve seen.

.dev 1 year anniversary

A video with three .dev tips

Atlassian

Atlassian launched both software.dev and cicd.dev to share insights into today’s software development landscape and how software and IT professionals use CI/CD tools. Using .dev domains helped them market both sites, which have sparked conversations on social media among the developer community.

Cloudflare

Cloudflare launched workers.dev to help developers build serverless websites and applications that deploy directly onto subdomains of workers.dev. The TLD made it possible for Cloudflare to use a domain name that’s both descriptive and easy to remember. And over the last year, they’ve seen developers create handy apps like this “lazy invoice” tool.

Salesforce

Salesforce used lwc.dev to launch a site dedicated to Lightning Web Components (their open source project) where professional developers can find online documentation, copy source code for various recipes, and engage with the Lightning Web Components community.

Google Developer Relations

The Google Developer Relations team launched google.dev for developers to explore and learn about all the technologies Google has to offer. You can sign up for the waitlist for the beta version of google.dev, which lets developers create profiles and earn badges by passing technical challenges. The team sends out new invites regularly, so be sure to sign up.

Go Programming Language

Our Go Language team launched go.dev on the 10th anniversary of the open source programming language to provide Go developers a hub where they can find learning resources, including featured use cases and customer stories of other companies using Go.

Build your own .dev experience

From the start, we envisioned .dev as a home for developers and technology makers, and it’s been wonderful to see all the amazing work showcased in this domain. To celebrate .dev’s first birthday, we created a short video of some of our favorite .dev users sharing their tips for building great websites. We hope you’ll find it useful as you begin your next project, and we hope it inspires you to create your own .dev experience. Visit get.dev to learn more and get started.

Upholding the legacy of Black entrepreneurship in Atlanta

February is Black History Month across the U.S., but here in Atlanta, Black history is everywhere, year-round. Atlanta is the number one city for Black prosperity, and the country’s fourth-largest tech hub. As more than a quarter of Atlanta's tech workers are Black, it’s clear that our city’s startup scene is just the latest iteration of a long legacy of Black entrepreneurship. There's a spirit in the city that inspired the entrepreneurs of the past, and continues to attract tech talent today.

I was one of those entrepreneurs. When I founded my own startup, Partpic, I decided to do it not in Silicon Valley, where I had started my career, but in Atlanta. Partpic was acquired in 2016, but I opted to stay in Atlanta and continue to grow my roots in the tech and business community. It’s home now. In my new role as U.S. Head of Google for Startups, I’ll lead our continued support of Atlanta’s Black founders, beginning with a few exciting efforts:

Russell Center for Innovation

Along with our friends at Grow with Google, we’re partnering with the Russell Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (RCIE), an organization that helps black entrepreneurs and local business owners build, grow and create jobs. Our support will include mentorship, scholarships and funding three RCIE fellowships designed to help students learn and practice business firsthand. 

Collab Studio

Collab Studio—a resource center providing Black founders a safe space to learn and forge community in Atlanta—has joined the Google for Startups partner network. Our funding will help Collab Studio facilitate connections and technical resources so that 20 Black founders can prepare their businesses for the next stage of growth.

Atlanta Founders Academy

The Atlanta Founders Academy, modeled off last year's pop-up at our Atlanta offices, is coming this spring. Throughout the year, we’ll host a series of hands-on programs from Googlers, experts, and investors to support underrepresented Atlanta startup founders on topics such as sales, strategy, hiring and fundraising. Spearheading these efforts will be Googler and newly-minted Atlanta Advisor-in-Residence, Michelle Green, who has been helping Fortune 500 companies grow their business for more than a decade. Learn more about how to get involved in the Atlanta Founders Academy in this form.

As a Black woman, entrepreneur and Googler, I'm proud to be a part of the living, breathing history of Atlanta. Google’s focus on providing equitable access to information, networks, and capital for underrepresented startups speaks to a larger theme in tech and innovation today: Great ideas and startups can come from anywhere and anyone, and you don’t have to be based in Silicon Valley to be successful. We have an opportunity to highlight the work of startups here in Atlanta and in other regions that have been under-resourced for too long—and the great privilege of supporting Black founders and future history-makers.

Reality TV star Tanya Sam on life as an entrepreneur

In 2018, women received only 2.2 percent of all venture capital funding. Women Techmakers, Google’s program to build visibility, community and resources for women in technology, is committed to changing this narrative. That’s why we’re launching Founded, a new web series that shares the stories of women founders who are using tech to solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges. To highlight the stories of four women of color tech entrepreneurs, for our first season we’re taking our viewers to Atlanta, home of one of the largest technology hubs in the U.S

In our first episode, we meet Tanya Sam, a reality TV star and tech startup investor. Through her work with Tech-Square Labs and the Ambition Fund, Tanya is strengthening the power of historically under-served entrepreneurs. 

We sat down with her to dig deeper into her vision for the tech industry. Here’s what she had to say about her past life working in healthcare, how she’s helping bring minority voices to the table and how she balances her career with filming a television show.

Today, you’re a tech entrepreneur, investor and reality TV show star—but you were a nurse for the bulk of your career. Tell me about your career transition to becoming a tech founder. 

When I first moved to Atlanta, I was still working full-time as a registered nurse, and my then-boyfriend/now fiancé Paul was launching a cybersecurity company. On our second date, he actually had to take a coffee meeting with his co-founder, and I sat in on the whole conversation. I was so impressed! I wanted to learn more about the entrepreneur world.   

My career in healthcare is actually what inspired Limitless Smart Shot: As a nurse, I worked busy 12-hour days, and we relied on coffee constantly. So I wanted to create a dietary supplement that would be healthier and could increase focus, attention, memory and support healthy brain function.  

You’re the co-founder of  Tech Square Labs, Atlanta’s lead seed stage venture fund. What was your vision for Tech Square Labs? What problems are you hoping to solve?

The vision of TechSquare Labs was to create opportunities to help tech entrepreneurs make something from nothing. Oftentimes, early entrepreneurs have an idea that they believe can become a large-scale, technology-based company, but they don’t have the resources to drive that idea. TechSquare Labs helps with everything from providing coworking space to helping teams with patent research and networking opportunities.

You also founded the Ambition Fund to invest in women and underrepresented entrepreneurs. Where do you see The Ambition Fund scaling with the next five years?

In the next five years, I plan to take the Ambition Fund Business Battles to over 50 cities across the globe, help fund over 500 companies and by that point to have also helped 1,000 women and minorities become angel investors. I want to help change the face of entrepreneurship by making it more female, more black and more diverse.

Just being on set with you for the shoot, I noticed that you have a great sense of humor. What really cracks you up?

I am truly a corny and goofy nerd at heart! I like dry, witty humor and laugh at my own dumb jokes. I try to live life to the fullest by working hard and enjoying what I do! I think that comes from my stint as an oncology nurse; it really teaches you an appreciation for life and health. 

What’s it like filming The Real Housewives of Atlanta? I’ve read you turned down the opportunity to film full-time—why?

When I was offered the chance to work on The Real Housewives of Atlanta, I thought it was a great chance to show the life of a black woman working in tech on mainstream television; representation matters! But filming takes a ton of time, and it wouldn’t be possible for me to work on the Ambition Fund and TechSquare Labs, and all my other projects, if I were on the show full-time!

You do a lot of these kinds of interviews; is there anything you’d like to share that you don’t usually get asked about?

I love to talk about my passion for a nonprofit organization that I am very involved in. Kate’s Club is an Atlanta nonprofit helping young people who are facing life after the death of a parent or sibling. Kate’s Club connects kids and young adults so they can share their experiences, and helps them process their grief in a comfortable, safe, uplifting setting. I’ve been a volunteer and working with children at Kate’s Club since 2016, and I’m currently on the Board of Directors and serving as the Gala Chair for our annual Mourning Glory Gala May 16, 2020.

There’s a personal reason why Kate’s Club holds such a special place in my heart. I also experienced loss at an early age; I lost my mother at the age of 12. When I was going through that, let me tell you, there was nothing like this around for my younger sister and I. No clubhouse, no programs, no summer camps or even exposure to other kids that had experienced loss.    

Are there any stories you’d like to share about using your influencer status in a positive way?

So recently, I actually helped bring someone onto the Kate’s Club board after meeting online. I use my Instagram Stories to talk about my work at Kate’s Club, and I had a woman reach out to me to share her grief story, and she ended up making a donation right there over Instagram. And now, just this week, she ended up joining the board! 

Small ventures, big impact: celebrating inspiring entrepreneurs

One of the ways Google supports and partners with entrepreneurs is by convening Google Business Groups. These are communities of business owners and professionals—including Google experts—that share knowledge, host workshops, run meet-ups and provide mentors to help businesses use Google technologies.  

We love bringing these groups together to help entrepreneurs grow—and we love celebrating their success, too.  

Each year, through the Google Business Groups “Stories Search,” we put a call out for inspiring examples of business owners using the internet not just to build businesses, but to make a difference in their communities. 

We saw 152 great submissions come in during our most recent search. And while it’s always hard to pick winners from such a high-quality field, three ventures really stood out this time round.  We’re proud to share their stories with you here. 

  • AlterYouth, from Bangladesh, is a digital scholarship platform for financially struggling students in government primary schools.

AlterYouth

  • Kok Bisa, from Indonesia, is a media startup that creates educational videos designed to make learning fun and engaging by answering questions that students submit.

Kok Bisa

  • Kul Techno Lab, from Nepal, provides free e-learning services for students in grades 6 to 12, giving them all the material they need to learn the national curriculum.

Kul Techno Lab

It was our pleasure to host these three businesses at our headquarters in Mountain View, where they spent time with their Google mentors and attended I/O, and we're looking forward to seeing them continue to grow, succeed and help others along the way.

How ClassPass uses Google to support partner studios

Editor's note: Today's guest post comes from Amanda Raines, Head of B2B Marketing at ClassPass.

As any small business owner in the fitness industry would tell you, there’s nothing like the energy of a room full of people clipping into their spin bikes, a packed class of yogis ready to flow, or the collective peace of a group meditation session. But with so many gyms and fitness studios out there, one of the biggest challenges these entrepreneurs face is just getting people through the door. Small business owners can get so caught up trying to build their business that they miss out on doing what they love—empowering and inspiring their customers to live their healthiest lives. 

90 percent of the fitness industry is comprised of small businesses that offer classes to keep people healthy and foster strong communities. Many of them don’t have a big marketing budget, so they struggle to promote their classes to the right people. Plus, they lose money if they don’t fill all the spots available in their classes. That’s where ClassPass comes in. People use our app to find open spots at fitness studios, which brings those businesses additional revenue and visibility in their communities. 

Classpass interface

ClassPass creates branded mico-sites for each partner studio that make it easy for fitness enthusiasts to find the nearest classes via Google Maps and search results. 

We create mini websites for each partner studio within the ClassPass platform to give customers key information and help studios show up in Google search results. The app is connected to Google Maps so that people see nearby studios and class times based on their preference. By surfacing these businesses on Google with rave reviews, precise location, and up-to-date schedules, ClassPass helps all fitness enthusiasts to discover our partners, regardless of whether they use ClassPass to book. 

Supporting these entrepreneurs isn’t just the right thing to do; it makes good business sense, too. To expand ClassPass to new regions, we need to continue to increase the number of people using the app to sign up for classes. On the flip side, we need to build a list of studios in a city to entice new customers to try the app in the first place. So we use Google Ads to reach potential leads on both sides of the marketplace, often resulting in people testing out group fitness for the first time. In order to make the most of our marketing budget—and to be most helpful to the small business owners in our network—we use Google Analytics 360 to make smart decisions about the regions where our studios are located, and how we should spend time and energy attracting new customers.

I’m proud to level the playing field for small businesses by partnering with over 30,000 studios across nearly 30 countries. It’s inspiring to go to work every day knowing that my efforts will help a small business to succeed, especially since entrepreneurship is a big part of the ClassPass company DNA. As ClassPass continues to grow across the globe and across verticals like corporate wellness, we are committed to growing small businesses and local economies along with it. That way, small business owners in the fitness and wellness industry can spend less time behind a computer—and more time focused on what they do (and love) best. 💪

Campus London calling: apply for Women Founders residency

Only nine percent of C-level positions—and six percent of CEOs—at European startups are women. Of all the funds raised by European venture capital-backed companies in 2018, a staggering 93 percent went to all-male founding teams. In order to combat this, last year Google for Startups introduced the first Women Founders Residency at our Campus in London—one of seven Campuses around the world—to back women-led startups using technology to tackle key social issues. Founders receive access to Google products, resources, and mentoring to level the playing field for startup success. The program proved so successful that we are now currently accepting applications for the second Women Founders cohort

To learn more about the Google for Startups Residency, we chatted with Elina Naydenova: biomedical engineer, data scientist and founder ofFeebris, a healthcare startup that graduated from Campus Residency in 2019. Not based in the UK? Explore other Google for Startups places and programs for founders of all backgrounds at startup.google.com. 

What inspired you to start found Feebris? What problem are you trying to solve? 

Healthcare should be a human right; yet, millions of people can’t get the care they need, when they need it. It’s unacceptable that in 2019, we can do our communications, our banking, our navigation, our shopping at a touch of a button, but still nearly one million children die of pneumonia because it gets diagnosed too late. 

When I realized these deaths can be avoided through early diagnosis, I became obsessed with solving the problem. We set up Feebris so that the most vulnerable patients—children and the elderly—can diagnose pneumonia early. The Feebris AI platform lets anyone capture and interpret important health information in order to identify disease early and monitor conditions in the community. Feebris algorithms paired with sensors, such as digital stethoscopes, can be used by anyone, such as a teacher or a parent, in any remote area to detect issues early, avoid complications and prevent hospitalization. 

How did Google for Startups Residency help you achieve your goals? 

The most valuable training we received from Residency was how to implement an Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) framework for our startup. When we started Residency, we were going through due diligence with investors, so we worked with a senior Googler to set clear goals. This gave our investors confidence in our ability to map out our journey and identify appropriate milestones, and we went on to close our seed round of £1.1 million. Striking a balance between structure and agility is tremendously important in tech, and even more so for a startup. Residency gave us the right tools to forge a framework that we continue to follow and adapt as we evolve.  

Second, the pool of expertise and deep knowledge that Google offers to the Residency startups is second to none. We’ve been connected with the leading experts in technology, like TensorFlowor ChromeOS, to help us develop core product functionality and our technical infrastructure.

Third, as a health technology startup, credibility is hugely important as we grow our footprint with healthcare providers. Residency provided us with a public platform to share our story and build awareness for the work we are doing, from public speaking opportunities to media articles. 

What does Residency offer that is different than a traditional accelerator or other program you've attended? 

Support at Campus is personalized to your needs and led by people who have successfully launched and scaled startups. Unlike the one-size-fits-all classroom programs, Residency is focused on unlocking opportunities and removing barriers for each business individually. 

Over time, build relationships with people you like and admire because they might become your future dream team.

What does Google 1:1 mentorship offer you specifically? What were the most helpful takeaways?

Our Google mentor, Vitor Rodriguez, was generous with his time and advice. He has  built a career at Google and also worked in a startup, so he understood the challenges we faced. Vitor spent hours with us, thinking through software architecture options and nurturing our ability to make scalable decisions. Vitor was our conduit into the immense pool of Google knowledge. He helped us analyze the problems that we faced and connected us with domain experts who hold essential insights to reach a solution. Vitor also taught us how to conduct highly technical interviews and cut through the wall of jargon that candidates build to reach a true evaluation of their abilities. 

Mentorship also helped us recruit some of our key hires. We went in as a team of two, and by the end had grown to six. The Googlers we worked with during Residency helped us structure evaluation criteria and even conducted technical interviews with us, proving fundamental to the recruitment process.

What advice would you want to share with other founders?

Prioritize hiring, even when you are not hiring. As a founder, finding the right people is one of the most important jobs you have. But it can take a long time and you don’t want to feel rushed and get it wrong. Over time, build relationships with people you like and admire because they might become your future dream team.

mPaani raises Series A from connections made at Google’s accelerator

Jen Harvey, Head of Marketing, Google Developers Launchpad

Google Developers Launchpad is an accelerator program that excels in helping startups solve the world’s biggest problems through the best of Google, with a focus on advanced technology. However our impact doesn’t stop there. A distinguishing aspect of our program is the network that we build with, and for, our founders. Over the past five years, Launchpad has created a global community of founders based on deep, genuine connections that we foster during the program, and that community supports one another in remarkable ways.

When Akanksha Hazari Ericson, Launchpad alumna and founder of m.Paani, took the stage at Google Developers Launchpad Future of Finance Summit in March, she didn’t know what would come of it. Fast forward, she just announced a Series A financing round, led by an institutional venture investor who was in the audience and two of her fellow founders in the Launchpad Accelerator program.

“We weren't even raising at the time,” said Akanksha. “They saw our Future of Finance presentation and engaged with me right after my talk. Soon after, they were on a flight to Mumbai to meet our team and customers. Their investment initiated this round.”

The peer investment came from Launchpad alumni, and angel investors, Kevin Aluwi, CEO and Co-Founder, and Ryu Suliawan, Head of Merchants at GO-JEK, a Southeast Asian on-demand, multi-service platform and digital payment technology group. Both Kevin and Ryu saw direct value in what m.Paani and have stated their excitement to be part of m.Paani’s journey. They also saw huge strategic potential for the company to empower local retailers beyond India.

“It is because of the strong community of founders that Launchpad creates that I was able to make these amazing friends and mentors. Those connections led to this investment,” Akanksha said. “These investors have strategic relevance and add immense value to our business.”

m.Paani’s product uses machine learning technology, powered by Google Cloud, to empower more than 60 million family-owned local businesses in India by providing them with an online store front. The vast majority of local retailers are not digitized in any way; m.Paani’s solution allows them to compete with an app & web store, ability to accept digital payments, create loyalty programs, and much more.

m.Paani, who attended the Launchpad Accelerator in 2019, is now part of a wider community of Launchpad founders and companies that spans almost 400 startups across the world.

mPaani group image

"It's exciting to watch startups grow, but it's even more exciting when investment comes through the resources and connections we helped foster as part of the program,” said David McLaughlin, Director of Google Developers Ecosystem team. “We put on strong focus on founder-to-founder interaction in our curriculum, mostly via our Leaders Lab and Growth Lab. We really want to create a wider community of founders who are willing to support each other. To see m.Paani take the next step on the funding ladder through that community showcases one of the many benefits for founders who join us for this accelerator".

Akanksha, and her team, are excited about how the funds will help scale the offering for local retailers. “The funding will allow us to grow quickly, invest in product and technology, and better serve our retailers. Our retail partners are the backbone of our local economy and culture, and deserve the ability to compete in the digital age. This, more than anything else, is what gets me and our whole team up and excited every morning.”

Want to learn more about Akanksha’s founder journey with m.Paani? Check out her story here.

Meet Kwara, a startup in the new Africa Immersion program

At Google for Startups, we look for ways to support promising new companies around the world. But those companies usually stay put in their home regions, which can be limiting—it means a smaller network of expertise to draw on, and a restricted pool of venture capital investors. We wanted to see what might happen if we expanded the geographical horizon, and connected up-and-coming businesses in one region with well-honed resources from a different region.


So in September, Google for Startups UK launched our first-ever Africa Immersion cohort, a 12-week program to bring expertise from Google and London startups to tech startups from Africa. We chose ten startups from our Launchpad Africa program, a network of tech startups around the world, who can share learnings, support and do business with each other. We wrapped up last week in Lagos, where we brought key investors from the UK to meet with the founders. 


To get a behind-the-scenes view of the Africa Immersion cohort, we chatted with Cynthia Wandia, co-founder and CEO of Kwara, an online and mobile banking platform for financial cooperatives (also known as credit unions and community banks).

First, what does Kwara do?


We provide secure, simple and affordable online and mobile banking for cooperative financial institutions and their members, who are often excluded by traditional banks. Starting in Kenya, our mission is to make sure that these institutions can meet their members’ financial needs instantly, helping them avoid expensive predatory alternatives.

Two Kwara team members smiling

Team Kwara: Austin Kabiru, Software Engineer, and Cynthia Wandia, Cofounder & CEO

How did you get started—where did the idea come from?

The idea started from the view that small-scale cash crop farmers should be able to command more value for their produce. As most farmers rely on the cooperative for their primary financial needs, we decided to strengthen the cooperatives by making them more secure, transparent and investible.

Who are your customers? What does your company do for them?

Our first sector is financial cooperatives, also known as credit unions and community banks. Our technology helps them acquire and retain more members, secure their members’ funds, and increase their own revenues. Members in turn benefit from increased convenience, transparency, peace of mind and more complete credit profiles. And since we link our banking platform to the formal financial sector, the members can also access shared channels such as ATM networks and widespread agent infrastructure.

Why did you decide to participate in the Africa Immersion program?

We were first connected to Google through Launchpad, a three-month accelerator program that provides early-stage startups with access to Google technology, mentorship and workshops on growing their businesses. Before Launchpad, we had acquired some customers who were willing to try out our product while it was still in an early testing stage, and we were making sure that we really could solve all the problems we wanted to address. Launchpad helped us focus on a single product and user, and define our tech team responsibilities. And the Google brand gave us added credibility with potential customers. We also benefited immensely from the lessons and experiences that other startups shared with us. So we were keen to participate in another Google program, specifically one that sought to open up new investor networks to us, as well as continue to introduce us to a peer group of admirable startups from all over the continent. 

Is there a moment or event from the program that particularly stands out to you?

Access to the Google for Startups UK team who have an extensive network and are very open to share has been the highlight. We have been linked with experts in product, fundraising and marketing, both from within Google and from leading startups in the UK.

What do you hope will come out of the program?

We hope to align with a few like-minded investors to start conversations about our next funding round. We also hope to continue our mentorship with the Google for Startups team, and hopefully speed up our marketing efforts.