In May, Google announced its fourth class of Launchpad Accelerator. This is the same program I mentioned in April in which Google acts as a non-financial incubator for selected start-up tech companies from emerging countries. Class four has landed this week in Silicon Valley for a two week “boot camp” at the Google Developers Launchpad Space in San Francisco.
The class consists of thirty-three companies from sixteen countries including Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Mexico. Two companies are representing the Philippines—BLOOM, a blockchain technology company focused on the dependably robust remittance market in the Philippines, and HonestyApps, a platform that is targeting the fast creation of mobile app.
BLOOM, aka BloomSolutions, Inc, is a Bitcoin-based software company focused on remittances. The company was founded by 36-year old University of the Philippines graduate Luis Buenaventura and University of Queensland graduate Israel Keys. CEO Keys also holds a Masters in Public Administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. Self-proclaimed cryptocurrency specialists, Bloom’s team is aiming to deliver on one of the great promises of technology--that it improves the lives of those on the other side of the digital divide. Remittances have historically been dominated by high-charging banks, Western Union, and distribution infrastructures like those owned by the Lhullier family. It is high time that a disruptive technology ease the process of money transfer as well as lower the cost of transactions. According to its website, Bloom can lower remittance costs by more than 50%. I am looking forward to hearing and writing more about this company.
HonestyApps is an app creation platform that has been used to create event apps and dating apps, among others. While their Facebook page confirms that the founders are now stateside, I can find very little on the management team. First order of business at Google, I hope, is that they guide the companies on filling out an About page and a Team page for their company websites.
Google has explicitly mentioned in their announcement that they are going to instruct the members of class 4 on the use of Artificial Intelligence and machine learning. While AI promises to be the latest status-quo disrupting technology in not-just-Silicon-Valley- anymoreland, there seems to be a platform war underway among the large tech giants. Thus, training companies in emerging countries to use the Google platform may be just as beneficial to Google as it is to the companies.
I enjoy the stream of startup companies unearthed by Google’s competition. I now use Zipmatch (from class 3) for my Philippine real estate searches. I also find it promising that there is a growing ecosystem of fintech players in Manila. The Philippines certainly stands to leverage technology into improved consumer credit and payments systems. This could be life-changing for the underprivileged who are still burdened with prepaid systems and cash-based transactions. Lightning fast payments may serve to blur the line between credit and prepaid.
The Google boot camp ends on July 26th with a private event for the participants. They will probably be sequestered inside hip brick buildings in San Francisco’s SOMA district for most of their two weeks here. So in case we do not see you, which is very likely, Bloom…Honesty, safe travels, live long, prosper, and break down that digital divide.