The Google Atlanta midtown office was bustling during the first two days of October. Everywhere you looked you saw two people huddled together — a Google mentor and a startup founder — discussing specific pain points and using the mentor’s expertise to solve them. About 40 minutes after, the founders take a quick break before their next session.
The walls are covered with sign up sheets for these sessions.
During the first week of October, Google for Startups brought together 15 Googlers and 40 local startup founders and entrepreneurs under one roof for its inaugural Google for Startups Atlanta pop-up out of their Midtown office. The pop-up differs from other programs, like the Black Founders Exchange in Durham, as it is a one-day bootcamp.
It’s the first Google for Startups pop-up in the U.S., outside of the formal campuses around the world, according to the team.
Head of Startup Connections at Google for Startups Amrit Dhir spent the last six months in Atlanta gathering the most promising founders.
He went off recommendations from ecosystem leaders and partners like the black founders-focused Collab Capital, and pre-accelerator It Takes a Village.
The group is composed of underrepresented founders as well as founders with social impact startups. The 40 chosen ones were split over two days.
“We selected Atlanta because we’ve been impressed by the strength of the local ecosystem,” Dhir tells Hypepotamus.
“The mission of Google for Startups, and for this pop-up, is to help startups in a non-transactional way in their own terms,” says Dhir. “We want to help level the playing field for entrepreneurs.”
The 15 Google mentors were all hand-selected, based on the startups’ needs and their expertise. One of them was Barry Givens, partner at Collab Capital and new director of Techstars Social Impact.
Givens was able to provide Barbara Jones, CEO of B2B fraud middleware Freeing Returns, with insights about her upcoming pivot. “He came up with a whole different idea than what I was thinking that solves two of our issues — beta issues with interested enterprises and how to scale as a self-funded startup,” says Jones.
“We realized through our conversation that we can take our platform to those retailers already interested, get people using the product, get the data, and go from there,” she says.
The outside perspective, as founders are often heads down in business strategy, comes in handy. Especially with a one-day commitment versus a longer program, says Dhir.
“Having that outside lens view is one of the most valuable things that we hear repeatedly. You get the expertise from Google on a variety of business challenges and then the outside lens, rounds it out for you.”
“At each of the mentor sessions, the founder’s in the driver’s seat — we want them to be upfront, understand the person they’re talking to and their expertise, and what they can get out of that,” says Dhir.
Eddie Liu, CEO of depression-focused app UpLift, launched the product to the public in 2018. This past summer, UpLift saw 20,000 downloads. During one of his mentoring sessions with Google Digital Coach Justin Dawkins, Liu learned how to easily tweak their app store optimization and Google Ads.
“We hadn’t ever considered using geography as part of our Google Ad campaign settings,” says Liu. “He brought a lot up about geography and how that could be brought in and what he does in his workflow. The meetings gave me both the bigger picture, but also very specific consults on specific issues.”
On the last day, two workshops were led at Russell Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (RCIE) on brand storytelling and formalizing your hiring process. The Castleberry Hill-based 50,000-square-foot campus was the ideal location for the founders to gather as the Center is focused on creating economic mobility and opportunities for minority founders.
Spirit CEO Connor Ford was one of the founders that attended both the pop-up and the workshop and as his educational startup continues to scale, he needed feedback on the hiring process.
“We knew we needed to have more of a formal process in hiring, but didn’t know where to start. This was a fantastic help,” says Ford.
He also found the wellness-focused mentoring session especially useful as a young founder. “I learned a lot about how to stay afloat as a founder, because it’s really easy to burn out. I even received feedback on the future of the company,” says Ford.
“But mentors also challenged me to think about is this the right industry you’re in?, Do you think this is the right pricing model?, and What do you think you could change? They’ve just been really helpful on just every aspect of the business.”
Dhir says that they hope to make this pop-up a regular occurrence in Atlanta to continue empowering and celebrating the growth in the tech ecosystem.