Google to launch Canada, US accelerator focused on women founders

Google campus

Google is set to launch a new accelerator program focused on women founders in Canada and the United States.

The program, called The Google for Startups Accelerator: Women Founders, is set to launch over the next few months and is open to women-led technology startups. Applications for the program open on June 22.

“We are really excited about this opportunity to really support this demographic of founders in particular.”

The accelerator is the first Google for Startups has launched that is available to both Canada and the United States. Google for Startups is the global tech giant’s initiative to help early-stage businesses through a range of programs including mentorship, training, and residency, and features a number of international accelerators.

While Google has run women-focused accelerator programs in other countries, including the United Kingdom, this marks the first such accelerator open to Canadian and American startups. The founders who join the new accelerator will also automatically become part of the Google for Startups Women Global Community, an online group of more than 400 women from around the world that offers access to experts, insights, and a support network, to help scale companies.

The new North American accelerator is being led by Ashley Francisco, Google’s head of startup developer ecosystem in Canada, and her counterpart in the United States, Jason Scott. BetaKit spoke with both program leads about Google’s plans for the accelerator and what it means for the company’s commitments in Canada.

RELATED: The51, Atlantic Women’s Venture Fund partner on women-focused venture initiative

Scott told BetaKit that Google for Startups had planned the accelerator for some time, prior to the onset of COVID-19 and the growing focus on diversity amid the global protests against racial injustice.

“We are really excited about this opportunity to really support this demographic of founders in particular, just given the need of the community at this time,” Scott said, adding that the accelerator is one of the first in a series of programs that Google plans to launch focused on underrepresented founders.

The announcement of the women-focused accelerator follows shortly after the launch of Google for Startups Accelerator: Black Founders, which is currently only open to startups based in the United States.

Francisco, who is based in Kitchener-Waterloo, added that the women-focused accelerator builds off of not only the work Google has done with other women-focused startup programs, but on local Canadian programs such as Communitech’s Fierce Founders.

She also noted that while the Women Founders accelerator is the first such program to be available in both Canada and the United States, Google for Startups may also look to offer more accelerators via what she called a “cross-region collaboration” model.

The Women Founders accelerator is open to tech startups in the seed to Series A stages that have headquarters in Canada and the United States. While the program is designed for companies with women founders (or members of the core founding team), a Google spokesperson told BetaKit startups with women in a “key technical or strategic” decision making position are also encouraged to apply.

RELATED: Toronto ShopHERE initiative goes national with $1 million investment from Google Canada

Google plans to accept between 10 to 12 startups for the accelerator. The tech company noted that participating startups can expect “detailed technical training and high-level strategic development opportunities with Google’s machine learning, people, product and growth labs.”

Like many other accelerators, Google has moved its programs to a virtual medium amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Women Founders accelerator’s first cohort will also be run virtually from September 28 through December 4. Prior to the pandemic, Google had planned to physically operate the Women’s Accelerator in its Canadian and United States offices on a weekly rotating basis. The Google spokesperson told BetaKit, “given the shift to work-from-home in March, the finalization of which Google office to rotate through was not finalized.”

Francisco told BetaKit that running the program virtually creates opportunities for startups that previously may not have been able to participate in person.

“We’re starting to see a lot of traction in terms of Google really doubling down our efforts [in Canada].”

Like many other tech companies, Google has recently adopted more flexible remote work options for its employees. In a May blog post, Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai said that as of July 6, Google will slowly begin to open its offices for a limited number of employees, emphasizing “there are a limited number of Googlers whose roles are needed back in office this calendar year.”
 

Scott told BetaKit that Google may also look to pursue in-person versions of its accelerators again in the future, dependent on the feedback on how current virtual programs run.

The new accelerator is the second to launch in Canada, following the announcement of the Google Accelerator in Canada in February. At the time, Google also announced plans to expand and open three new offices across Canada – in Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo, and Montreal – with a commitment to hiring around 3,500 new employees.

These announcements along with the new cross border accelerator emphasize a growing commitment from Google to deepen investment within Canada. Speaking with BetaKit earlier this year, Francisco called the moves “a new evolution” for Google and its presence in Canada.

RELATED: Bonjour Startup Montréal, Desjardins, Google launch Québec-focused Post-COVID competition

“I think we’re starting to see a lot of traction in terms of Google really doubling down our efforts [in Canada],” Francisco told BetaKit recently. “Not to, you know, forget the legacy of our programs we started by working with other ecosystem builders across the country, that is still of critical importance to our plans, but we’re very excited to also be able to offer incremental and additive programs through these accelerators.”

A Google spokesperson also noted that despite COVID-19 Google is still committed to expanding its physical presence in Canada. Adding that while the timeline may shift, Google is still moving forward with its expansion plans.

Applications for the Google for Startups Accelerator: Women Founders open on Monday and will remain open until July 22.

Meagan Simpson

Meagan Simpson

Meagan is the Associate Editor for BetaKit. A tech writer that is super proud to showcase the Canadian tech scene. Background in almost every type of journalism from sports to politics. Podcast and Harry Potter nerd, photographer and crazy cat lady.