Andre Barrence – director Google Brazil

Google’s masterplan to foster LatAm tech startups in 2018

Internet giant plans on accelerating its plans around tech startup development in the region within the coming months.

Google will invest in the development of its Sao Paulo-based startup fostering center to widen its footprint in founder communities in Latin America in 2018.

The company already has about a billion users across its product portfolio and believes the next billion will come from emerging countries rather than developed economies.

This, according to Campus Sao Paulo director Andre Barrence, was core to picking Brazil for Google’s first tech startup hub in the Americas.

“Brazil was chosen because of its adoption of Google products and also due to its strategic importance to the company – we have identified great potential here in terms of the local startup ecosystem,” Barrence said.

“We have over 98,000 members at present. By comparison, Campus London has about 89,000 members but it has been around for five years – which is interesting, given that London has a much larger addressable audience than us,” he added.

“It is undeniable that there is a huge unmet demand for support from Brazilian and Latin entrepreneurs – we are here to help address that and create a bigger and healthier startup ecosystem.”

Campus Sao Paulo was first announced in 2014, when Brazil was celebrating a booming economy while the rest of the world was dealing with a slowdown. Things changed considerably for Brazil since then, but according to Barrence, Google’s strategy for the local startup community in the country hasn’t.

“Campuses are long-term investments in the ecosystems where Google is based. So there will be better moments and others not so good, when the business context is more challenging,” Barrence said.

“Despite the difficulties Brazil has been facing from an economic and political standpoint, the national startup ecosystem has never been stronger. It is a rebellion of sorts, founders are showing that it is still possible to thrive,” he added.

Before the launch of Campus Sao Paulo 16 months ago, more than 20,000 people were already signed up as members, according to the Google executive. Initially, the venue was predominantly sought by early-stage ventures needing business advice rather than developing their technology offerings.

Sao Paulo, Google Campus

With 200 open work spaces, the building currently has an average daily flow of 600 users. Barrence describes it as a “rather lively” Campus, but things have become less hectic, mainly due to a strategy shift. Today, early-stage ventures are catered for with a series monthly events and workshops while the acceleration program has changed its approach.

The first edition of the local acceleration initiative had 900 entries, says Barrence, and the caliber of the ventures that applied demonstrated that there was an opportunity to support later stage businesses. The company also decided that for the second edition of the program it would focus on later stage ventures and on technologies rather than specific sectors.

“We want to take startups to their next stage of development in terms of their product robustness and technology, as well as their business strategy,” the executive said.

According to Barrence, Google is “patient for results and impatient for progress”. This is closely related to the Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) methodology adopted in the residency program. “We want to create a sense of urgency for these startups and also help them innovate to reach goals that are not easy to accomplish.”

“When focusing more on technology application in certain sectors rather than the other way round, we leapfrogged considerably as we managed to identify leading-edge technology development in Brazil,” Barrence said.

“But more than accelerating 15 or so resident startups, our greatest achievement is to accelerate the Brazilian ecosystem as a whole. This is quite noticeable when we look at the amount of local initiatives coming up in the last 15 months,” he added.

“Does that mean there is a correlation between cause and effect? No, but there is a strong correlation between creating an impact in the community and getting other initiatives to cater for needs that the Campus alone won’t manage to meet.”

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