Google opens applications for first cohort of Launchpad Africa accelerator

Google today launched applications for its Launchpad Africa accelerator to early-stage startup from across a number of countries across the continent.

The tech giant will take on 10 startups in the programme’s first cohort, set to start early next year in Lagos, Nigeria — from Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda.

The three-month accelerator programme is aimed at early-stage tech startups in Africa that target the African market and have already raised seed funding. Those startups chosen can get equity-free support and the programme will conclude with a demo day to provide exposure for the startups.

Launchpad Africa is aimed at early-stage tech startups in Africa that target the African market and have already raised seed funding

The launch of the application process follows an announcement in July by Google CEO Sundar Pichai that the tech company would launch its first accelerator outside of the US in Lagos.

Read more: Google Launchpad to provide over $3m to more than 60 African startups – CEO

Google plans to run two cohorts a year for three years before it assesses the programme. The tech giant has budgeted $3-million for the programme over the first three years.

‘Launchpad to develop ecosystem’

Talking on the sidelines of the Africacom conference which ends in Cape Town today, Google’s head of Sub-Saharan Africa ecosystem Andy Volk told Ventureburn that the aim of the accelerator is to develop the ecosystem of software suppliers and developers on the continent.

This would ultimately benefit Google in that more software developers and startups would adopt Google products.

“Because if you have a thriving ecosystem of developers and startups and another group of Google makes the best platforms possible, they are naturally going to use it (Google products). I mean Android is already relevant in Africa,” said Volk, who conceived the idea for the Africa accelerator.

‘Pan-African collaboration’

However, what Volk is really keen on is the way the programme can get startups and developers to collaborate better with one another.

“What I’m very interested in is pan-African collaboration,” he said, adding that the hope is to draw entrepreneurs from across the continent and get these to work together.

Google aims to select mentors for the accelerator from across Africa that can offer their time voluntarily. Some of the mentors will be drawn from those that participated in Google’s weeklong bootcamps – Launchpad Start – run in Nairobi and Johannesburg, as well as in Lagos this week.

‘Something is happening in Nigeria’

Volk said the idea for basing the African accelerator in Nigeria came after he began noticing how Y-Combinator and 500 Startups have shifted heavily to investing in the West African country.

“There’s something happening there. We’ve seen a shift in the data. We’re seeing a huge shift in especially this investment,” he pointed out.

He said there are over 120 Google Developer groups active across Sub-Saharan Africa that Google would lean on to ensure that applicants are drawn from a wide number of countries on the continent.

At present Google is looking to hire two new staff for the Launchpad Africa — an operations manager and startup success manager. Volk said there had been “a wonderful round of interest” to the two jobs ads, which have since been taken down from Google’s job listings, while the company sorts through potential candidates.

The first application period closes on December 11, 9am Pacific Standard Time. Startups can apply here for Launchpad Africa.

Featured image: Robert Scoble via flickr (CC BY 2.0)



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