Ashley Francisco on Google for Startups Accelerator: Cloud Program

Ashley Francisco on Google for Startups Accelerator: Cloud Program

In our recent interview with Ashley Francisco, Head of Startup Ecosystem, North America, at Google, we delved into Google for Startups Accelerator: Cloud program, its origins, and how it aligns with Google’s mission to support startups and entrepreneurs. Ashley shared insights from the pilot program in Canada, highlighting key learnings that have been integrated into the North American initiative. We discussed the differences between the pilot and current program, as well as the eligibility criteria and support offered to selected startups. Ashley also touched on how the program empowers startups to leverage cloud technology and scale their businesses, providing resources and training to help them overcome challenges and seize opportunities. Lastly, we explored Google’s future plans to further support startups and entrepreneurs, and how interested parties can get involved.

Ashley Francisco, Head of Startup Developer Ecosystems, Google Canada, is based in Kitchener-Waterloo. She manages all Canadian and the North American Women Founders accelerators, scaled startup ecosystem events, and Canadian partner engagement at Google. Her goal is to help bring the best of Google’s people, programs, products and technology to startup teams across the country. Francisco is a professional marketer by trade with a diverse background in local and global brand building for companies including Google, Visa, Mondelez and Kraft Foods.

Can you tell us more about the Google for Startups Accelerator: Cloud program and its objectives?

Yes! I’m so excited to share news about our inaugural North American Google for Startups Accelerator: Cloud program. Participating startups will work with the best of Google’s programs, products, people and technology to prepare for the next phase of their growth journey. The accelerator is equity free, and designed for cloud-native startups leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). 

In 2021 and 2022, we offered the Google Cloud Accelerator Canada, as a pilot program supporting Canadian startups in this space. This year, we’re thrilled to launch the inaugural North American Google for Startups Accelerator: Cloud program, which incorporates key learnings from the pilot cohort, while expanding the program to include startups in both the U.S. and Canada.

What inspired Google to create this program, and how does it fit into the broader mission of supporting startups and entrepreneurs?

Cloud technology is at the forefront of digital transformation. During the pandemic, we saw just how useful this technology can be in almost every sector. From healthcare to education, retail to manufacturing, cloud technology helped keep connected through challenging times, and maintain continuity in our schools, workplaces and businesses, and the need for cloud-based and AI-focused solutions isn’t slowing down.

That’s why we first launched the Google Cloud Accelerator Canada in 2021, and why we are evolving and expanding  that program by launching the North American Google for Startups Accelerator: Cloud today. The program, along with our other accelerators fit into Google’s broader mission of supporting founders and entrepreneurs by providing them with access to digital resources, tools, and mentorship to help them grow their businesses and scale their impact.

Ashley Francisco on Google for Startups Accelerator: Cloud Program

What are some of the key learnings that were taken from the pilot Cloud accelerator program in Canada, and how have they been incorporated into the North American program?

Based on the strong demand we saw from cloud-native technology companies across Canada, there is clearly a need and desire from them to receive mentorship and support on technical projects, to help them grow and scale. We’ve received incredible feedback from alumni founders on how their businesses have benefited from participating in our program. Founders like Vivene Salmon – Co-Founder, F8th Inc. and Francois Gand, Founder and CEO of NURO have been able to reach new levels of specialized knowledge in their respective fields, and used the support we offer to unlock new business opportunities.

How does the North American program differ from the pilot program in Canada, and what changes were made based on feedback from participants or other stakeholders?

The Canadian startup community is truly one that I am proud to be a part of. What we’re doing is really building on the success of the pilot program in Canada and using what we learned to inform our approach for the inaugural North American accelerator program. In addition to having access to the best of Google talent and resources for AI mentorship, participating startups who are eligible will also receive access to Google Cloud credits and will participate in a Demo Day at the close of the program.

For Canadian startups, we also offer the Google for Startups Accelerator: Canada, a cohort exclusively designed to support Canadian founders in their startup journey. You can learn more about the 2023 Canada cohort here and register for the upcoming Demo Day on May 2, here.  

What are the eligibility criteria for startups to apply to the program, and what kind of support can they expect to receive if they are accepted?

The program is open to revenue generating cloud-native startups based in North America, with a minimum of 5+ employees. To make the best use of the opportunities and support made available through the program, startups should aim to use technologies, like artificial intelligence, machine learning in their product, service, or operations or have an interest in doing so in the future. 

How will the program help startups leverage cloud technology, and what kind of resources and training will be provided to participants?

As part of the program, selected founders are paired with relevant experts from Google for an intensive 10-week accelerator program, designed to help address the top challenges facing their startups. From there, the fun starts! Founders will receive deep mentorship on technical challenges and machine learning, as well as establish connections with relevant teams from across Google. The accelerator also includes deep dives and workshops focused on product design, customer acquisition, and leadership development for founders. The accelerator is equity free, and our goal is to empower startups to scale their businesses and reach their full potential. 

How will the program help startups scale their businesses and reach new customers, and what kind of support will be available to help them navigate challenges and opportunities?

What we offer is our cloud expertise. We connect startups with Google mentors, and using our tools and resources we’re able to help them tackle business challenges like reaching new customers. At the end of each cohort, we also host a Demo Day, designed to recognize the accomplishments of the selected startups. Startups present on their business model, uses of technology, and progress to date. It’s  a great opportunity for them to connect with potential investors and industry partners.

Looking ahead, what other initiatives or programs is Google planning to launch to support startups and entrepreneurs, and how can interested parties get involved?

We offer a range of accelerator programs in North America, including the Climate Change accelerator and the Canada specific accelerator program. I am especially passionate about our programs that focus on underserved communities in tech, like our Women and Black Founder programs. For founders who may be interested in participating in future accelerator cohorts, the best way to stay up to date on the opening of applications is by following our website and social media channels for the latest intel on our accelerator announcements.

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