An accelerator that strengthens businesses
By Sharmila Ganapathy-Wallace November 30, 2017
- Actual focus is on trying to implement new technology Google has built for startups
- Provides opportunity to learn from other emerging market startups
AS TECHNOLOGY startups from Southeast Asia become more prevalent, so have funding options and accelerator programmes to support the startup ecosystem in this region.
With so many accelerator programmes out there, it is not much of a surprise that Google has an accelerator programme of its own called Launchpad Accelerator.
It is a six-month acceleration programme that matches top growth-stage startups from emerging ecosystems with Google people, technology and resources to help these companies scale.
According to the Launchpad Accelerator website, as part of the accelerator, startups receive:
- Equity-free support
- Two weeks of all-expenses-paid training at Google HQ in Silicon Valley
- Personalised mentorship from Google and Silicon Valley experts
- Credits for Google products
- Global media and marketing spotlight opportunities
- Ongoing support for six months after programme completion
- Access to a global community of growth-stage founders and mentors
Digital News Asia spoke to the first Malaysian startup accepted into the Launchpad Accelerator, namely HealthMetrics, as well as two Indonesian startups---Sirclo and Snapcart---on how being in the accelerator has impacted them.
Founded in 2016, HealthMetrics helps companies manage their outpatient healthcare benefits better and more cost effectively. According to managing director Alvin Yuan (pic above, centre), the Launchpad Accelerator programme resonated with him because the actual focus is not on business or technology, but trying to implement new technology they have built for startups.
“One of the things they were pushing really hard was machine learning and artificial intelligence. It actually resonated with me really well because my chief technical officer Advent and I had been speaking about it for a long while. And we figured that we could really build something using machine learning to enhance our offering.
“They interviewed us and we explained how it can help and we had a second interview and were fortunate enough to be the first Malaysian company selected,” he recalls.
What were the highlights of being in the programme? Yuan says it provided “an awesome experience” for him and his team, highlighting also that the mentoring sessions were really helpful.
“The mentoring sessions were really flexible. First, we explained the nature of our business and then told them the issues we were facing at the time, relative to their domain. So, there were mentors from legal, finance, business, tech and others.
“They were specific to the issue we were facing and could provide suggestions and look at the problem from a different perspective. Officially they don’t provide you with solutions, or tell you what to do, but give guidance and advice,” he explains.
On how Google continued to engage with them after the two weeks at Google headquarters were over, Yuan pointed out that they have a success manager based in Singapore who checks in with them every month on how they’re doing.
“Before we left San Francisco, we were asked to come up with Objective Key Results. So, we were required to define the OKRs and the objective is to fulfil them within six months. There is a slack channel for this. We have mentors in and have Skype sessions with them. Our success manager as well helped connect us to experts. If we have a problem, we can ask them for help,” he says.
Yuan adds that being at the Google HQ “opened our eyes”. “Things are really transparent and everyone respects what each other is doing. At the same time, they respect the company enough not to share things outside of Google. We adopted that as well in our team and it is actually working pretty well.”
Commenting on what else they learned from the programme, Yuan says that on the tech side, they’re now deploying machine learning.
“On the business side, we have spoken to so many mentors and seen many different perspectives from people of different countries. Learning from Google being so huge yet functioning like a startup, it has also helped us learn how to stay nimble.”
Sirclo is an e-commerce software-as-a-service company that helps businesses sell online.
Sirclo founder and chief executive officer Brian Marshal (pic, above) shares that he first heard about the Google programme from their venture capitalist, East Ventures.
“It turned out that the programme fit with the stage of our company which was not entirely a new startup, embodied with local wisdom and could bring us to the next level. We also fancied the opportunity to learn from other countries with emerging markets, a chance which was not offered by any other incubation programme,” he tells Digital News Asia via e-mail.
When asked about their experiences in the programme, Marshal notes that they “were seriously busy bustling in between schedules in the two-week programme and there were so many things to absorb”.
Nevertheless, they received content from the programme that helped them streamline the working processes surrounding their product, as well as people development.
“Both topics had not been elaborated on extensively in Indonesia and we firmly believe that our country needs more experts to cover those topics,” he emphasises.
On how the programme helped him run Sirclo better, he says that it helped him and his team to further sharpen their focus.
“The outcome being, as a company, we improved on prioritising, job delegations and placement of people. Our focus in the OKR were achieved.”
His advice to other startups who want to qualify for the programme?
“Present your company as is and acknowledge the areas to be improved as a startup. It is always good to represent your company and your business situation truthfully since in the end, the programme did not admit the ‘cool ones’ but those who were in the right stage.”
Snapcart runs a platform that connects brands with shoppers through real-time off-line purchase data.
Snapcart founder and CEO Reynazran Royono (pic, right) says they wanted to be part of Google’s Launchpad Accelerator because of their focus on artificial intelligence and machine learning.
“Google’s AI and machine learning capabilities are very advanced, especially on the latest development of their Google Brain division, hence we were excited to participate in the programme,” he adds.
They had initially thought that the programme was early stage startups and later learned it was intended for growth-stage startups looking to scale. “Getting the US$50,000 funds from Google was a plus, what is more important is the network of experts that you are able to gain access to,” he says.
According to Reynazran, although their focus was initially on AI and machine learning, once in the programme, they discovered other topics that they hadn’t thought about.
“An example of this is when we were ‘audited’ on our app’s UI/UX, where we identified things to improve to ensure higher user retention for our app. We were also scheduled to meet non-Google experts who participated in the programme; in our case a senior data scientist from Palantir came to talk to us to give his thoughts on our AI/Machine Learning capability.”
Another example, he says, was interacting with the business development director from Splunk (one of the most successful B2B companies from the US that scaled globally very quickly), who discussed sales processes and shared his experience in scaling up in different countries. “These were very valuable discussions,” he adds.
His advice to other startups eyeing the programme? Reynazran advises them to be mindful on whether they are truly at the right stage of the programme.
“Two weeks need to be committed for the programme, and you need to allocate your time fully.
“Make sure that you conquer and divide with your co-founders where you need to have both business and technical experts join the programme. Make sure that you utilise not only the allocated two weeks in San Francisco, but the six months access to experts to ensure you get the full benefits,” he concludes.