It’s been long overdue for me to share our Google launchpad experience and maybe inspire a few of you to take a shot at it next time when the application opens. The first time we applied for Google LaunchPad accelerator was 2016. We went through a long-winded, grilling application and didn’t make it the first time.
After a year or so, I saw a post on Facebook regarding Google LaunchPad accelerator applications. I convinced myself that we need to focus on customers and market and wasn’t going to apply to another acceleration program. I carried that thought with me all day long and just 1 hour before the application deadline, something flipped in my head and I quickly filled the application with mixed feelings. A few weeks later, we got invited to a Google Hangout for an interview.
The interview was very detailed and grilling. We got questions asked from unit economics to product roadmap to market intricacies. We hung up and I called my co-founders to let them know that we might not make it to the LPA this year again.
As it was supposed to happen, we moved on with our lives, towards the same old grind. Entrepreneurs are usually hooked to their mail notifications and I am no different. One fine evening, while I was dismissing all my notifications, there was one notification that got me frozen on my seat. The notification was about our acceptance in Google Launchpad Accelerator.
I messaged my cofounder Khalid and John, asked them to pack their bags for a 2 weeks immersive program in San Francisco. We wanted to be fully prepared before we go there. We found some companies and started finding them on LinkedIn to have a pretext established for our near term visit in San Francisco. In the hindsight, it was a great idea to start establishing relationships nice and early.
We also started talking to our POC in Google to find out who will be the mentors and experts coming to the event. We started researching them to ascertain the best fit for our startup.
The day eventually came and we landed in San Francisco to attend the LaunchPad accelerator. We were warmly welcomed at the Spear Street office with some goodies (Chromebook, hoodies and a couple of books). Google is extremely good at spoiling you with gifts, great lunches and luxury dinners.
We were assigned anchor mentor (internal from Google) and external mentors (from industry). The purpose of the anchor mentor was not only to be a startup-specific coordinator but also to enable the startup’s reach within Google ranks and help them find appropriate connections within Google. Our anchor mentor, Parshanti, was great at removing all our barriers and enabling us a great deal. We had the luxury of having 3 external mentors while each of them had a stellar background and Yoda-like wisdom.
Khai Habbot was one of our external mentors and he asked us some of the hardest questions, the questions that made us doubt ourselves and reconsider our entire vision. We were grilled back and forth on our business model, product, challenges, our positioning, our eventual customers and our go-to market strategy. Our biggest aha moment came from these grilling sessions, which, mind you wasn’t easy to come by. This moment only emerged after all three of us (co-founders) were exhausted questioning all our assumptions, a lot of heartaches and deep diving the data at hand. We redefined our product, understood who we are selling to, narrowed down our target market and figured out our messaging. We already had a taste of what it meant to be in a premium acceleration program.
Moving further with the program, we had another realization that Google is extremely good at getting brilliant people in the same room. We had the honor of being in the companionship of the great internet giants. We were visited by Vint Cerf (he looks like Sigmund Freud by demeanor) who reminded us on how they started off with the internet and TCP/IP stack, Dan Ariely (author of Predictably Irrational) explained how all startups are taking a stab at changing consumer behavior one way or the other and what should they be mindful of while building their products.
We met with Eric Schmidt who talked about the Google challenges during his tenure and we had the honor of asking him point blank questions on Google+ failure and what he might have done differently in the hindsight. We met with the founders of APIGEE who got recently acquired by Google and we were surprised by how innovative they were with their sales cycle and how efficient they made it. We certainly resonated a lot with APIGEE because of being in a similar vertical and almost facing the same kind of challenges.
Jake Knapp walked us through his early failures with Encarta, ideology around Sprint (he is also the author of the book with the same title) and how they improved their own development sprints and team productivity.
During our stay at Spear Street, what we realized was that Google is a massive playground for nerds. Google opened that playground for us and not only gave us access to all the expensive toys (machine learning programs in beta and cloud platform) but also connected us with their product managers and experts to ask all kind of questions.
Google visit is never complete without the Mountain House campus visit, the buffet lunches, slides in their offices, nap pods, free laundry, free vending machines and opportunity to exhibit your product. Surprisingly enough, we met quite a lot of Pakistani engineers in Google who were delighted to meet us and see a success story from Pakistan.
We went back home with a lot to think and ponder upon. I sat down with our co-founders and decided on our OKRs and roadmap for the next six months. We had regular calls with our anchor mentor and external mentors to review the progress. Our external mentor Adam Burke put in a lot of effort. Adam built a Trello board and spreadsheets to collaborate with us and track our OKRs.
We went back to our graduation event and demonstrated our progress since we joined the program. We met everyone again at graduation and came back home with a strong sense of community.
Google Launchpad Accelerator is a fairly advanced startup program and Google genuinely wants to help your business but you have to be on a specific stage to leverage this program fully.
Don’t apply if you are just starting out. Apply if you are ready for growth, you have ambitions of growing internationally, you have a product/funnel that you know how to grow and looking for expansion.
I am specifically grateful to Sami Kizilbash, Raza Mateen, Faizan Siddiqui, Paul Kewene-Hite and Prashanti Pathipati who not only championed us but also mentored us relentlessly. I am particularly indebted to Sami for his trust and faith in us, followed by my cofounders Khalid Aziz and John Ward (who was addicted to black beans and La Croix sparkling water by the end of the programme).
In the spirit of giving back to the community, please feel free to engage with me on twitter (@_tinwoodman) or Facebook.
About the Author
Omer Khan, is a Silicon Valley-based CEO/ Co Founder VividTech, Inc. has over 15 years of experience in contact center engineering and AI, also a former Director of Engineering for a Washington DC-based $2 Billion AI Unicorn. He has also consulted for fortune 100 companies including Apple, Barclays and AT&T and 2 very successful Blockchain companies. Omer Khan has also been through Google and Microsoft’s acceleration in London and San Francisco. He is frequently quoted in Forbes, Entrepreneur, Inc and Thrive Global and also a contributor in Bigdata-madesimple.com and AIBusiness.com as well.