Two PH startups join Google accelerator program in US, get P2.5M each

By Melvin G. Calimag

Two digital startups from the Philippines recently took part in Google’s Launchpad Accelerator in California, joining other startups from all over the world that were picked by the tech giant to undergo mentorship and receive $50,000 (about P2.5 million) in funding to speed up their product development.

The Filipino startups which carried the country’s flag are Honesty Apps, a do-it-yourself mobile app platform for Android and iOS, and Bloom Solutions, a fin-tech firm that aims to transform the remittance business with blockchain technology.

Honesty Apps and Bloom Solutions are the only second and third startups from the Philippines to be included in the startup program. Real estate startup ZipMatch was the first local startup to enter the program when it was included in the third batch selected by Google last year.

As part of Class 4 of Launchpad Accelerator, Honesty Apps and Bloom Solutions, along with 13 other startups from the Asia Pacific region, went through a bootcamp at the Google office in downtown San Francisco from July 17 to 28.

The inclusion of the two local startups comes at an opportune time as the Philippines needs to prop up its startup ecosystem after the country’s top cities were downgraded by London-based consulting firm Tholons in its list of top outsourcing destinations due to lack of a vibrant startup sector.

In a press briefing, Launchpad Accelerator program manager Roy Glasberg said the company’s Launchpad initiative began in Israel – dubbed the world’s “startup capital” – in 2012 and now covers 17 countries.

The “Accelerator” program, an offshoot of the original Launchpad initiative, was created by Google two years later to focus solely on startups from developing countries. It was piloted in India, Indonesia, and Brazil.

Since then, Launchpad Accelerator has accommodated batches of startups every six months. Google has provided a total of $280 million in funding for these startups, according to Glasberg.

Aside from the $50,000 funding given to each startup, Glasberg said it’s the customized mentorship from experts from all over the globe that is valued more by the participants.

“The mentors provide guidance as each one has a tailored journey. So far, we’re amazed at the quality of startups from Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippines,” Glasberg said, noting that the Philippine startup scene – while not exactly robust – is closely knit and has a strong sense of community.

Although Google is pouring a significant amount of resources for the Launchpad Accelerator – 40 Google teams are, in fact, involved in the project – the tech titan said it is not getting anything from the startups.

“Our objective is not to invest or acquire but to help these startups get off the ground,” said Glasberg.

Josh Yellin, lead program manager for Launchpad Accelerator, said the program aims to help startups grow and scale up so they can eventually “pay it forward” and propagate the use of technology among the public.

Yellin said one of the reasons why Google brings startups for a bootcamp in the US is for them to learn from successful tech firms in Silicon Valley while avoiding rookie mistakes.

At the bootcamp, startups are also trained to handle and resolve “co-founder conflict” – a problem that arises when founders assume that everyone has the same amount of commitment, according to Martin Gonzalez, people development lead for tech for Asia Pacific.

To get into LaunchPad Accelerator, a startup must first have a “product fit” that addresses a specific market need. But it is also important for startups to have the right mindset, executives said.

“Of course, there should be first a product fit. But it’s also equally crucial for them to execute properly. Are they willing to listen? If so, we can help them,” said Ran Nachmany, developer relations program manager at Google.

Nachmany said the typical growth path of a startup is composed of five stages of development: technology, product, market, scale, and profit.

“It’s on the second stage – product development – where most startups die. Therefore, it is extremely necessary for them to get all the available assistance they can get,” he said.

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