Google Launchpad Start – Johannesburg – A summary

This past week I had the pleasure of being involved with the Google Launchpad Start located in Johannesburg, South Africa. The week was educational, inspirational and a lot of fun!

The Google Launchpad Start program is a 5-day in-person mentoring bootcamp designed to help early stage startups tackle critical growth challenges.

I was contacted to be a mentor for the week. This meant I got to interact with 20 different startups and provide them with advice relating to different challenges they were facing. Each day of the bootcamp focuses on a different skill from Product Strategy, UI/UX best practice, Marketing and Technical excellence.

Day 1 – Product Strategy

Day 1 kicked off with the 20 startups and all the mentors introducing themselves and their companies. The focus of the day was on Product Strategy. The startups had one-on-one sessions with a mentor where they could discuss their strategies and get advice on growing their business.

Day 2 – Design Sprint

Day 2’s focus was on Design Sprints. The startups were given different interactive tasks to complete throughout the day. Design sprints focus on answering critical business questions through design, prototyping, and testing ideas with users. Johann Du Toit was the “Design Sprint Master”. He stepped everyone through defining and solving a problem they are currently facing with their products.

Day 3 – UX

Day 3 started with a talk titled “What is UX?” by Chris Grant which touched on how a good product must be useful, usable and desirable for it to be successful. Silvia Calvet and Emily Underwood then went through setting up user tests and experiments. Everyone was tasked with setting up user tests and conducting user interviews on their newly designed prototypes. The startups were encouraged to change their prototypes on the go and keep testing until the feedback on the product was good.

Day 4 – Branding and Marketing Channels

Day 4 was based at the Google Johannesburg office which was of course a lot of fun ahem I mean, a lot of learning. The day’s focus was on marketing and different talks were presented throughout the day. The highlights were talks about social media by Mich Atagana and the P7S1 Accelerator program in Berlin by Dr. Jens Pippig. The day ended with a party on the rooftop of Google’s Office.

Day 5 – Technology

Day 5 was my day to help the startups – it was the technology focused day. We started off the day with my talk titled “Building a successful kids book app using Firebase”. I spoke about how I’ve used the different components of Firebase to create Book Dash – a 4.4 star rated app that is used by over 10,000 people across the world.

Dale Humby then gave a talk titled “Introduction to Google Cloud Platform“. He demonstrated a telegram image translation bot that he had made. The bot uses the Vision API to extract characters from an image. It then uses the Translate API to translate it into any language.

He also demonstrated the Cloud Video Intelligence API, showing us how it can process your videos and classify the content within the video. Mentorship sessions were up next and everyone had time to ask their in-depth questions about Google Technologies and get advice from the mentors.

The day ended with two talks, one from Aniedi Udo-Obong about OKRs and a talk about funding from Angus which was also very informative. John Kimani and Mercy Orangi wrapped up the week and introduced the Google Accelerator program to everyone, encouraging all the startups to apply.


The Google Launchpad Start program is a wonderful initiative that helps startups solve real world problems that they are experiencing. The 5-day program boasts a multitude of experts and mentors from across the world who come together to help the companies succeed. I had an enjoyable time this past week helping out and learnt a lot myself. I can’t wait to see these companies grow!

The list of companies that were involved in the program this week: