How do you woo a Google executive?
Put her in an ELF and bike her around downtown Raleigh.
Google for Entrepreneurs’ top exec Mary Grove got that experience during a stop in the Triangle to visit American Underground and its many partners last week. She called Durham-based Organic Transit’s solar and electric trike “edgy” and “a very practical solution”, symbolic of the type of startups she met in town. Local community leaders took her on a tour of co-working spaces, universities and startup offices, and she attended American Underground @Raleigh’s grand opening (where she’s pictured second to right above). Another big a-ha, she said, was the region’s “pay-it-foward,” mentality.
“There’s a strong sense of community,” she said. “And this idea of ‘I want to help the next person because I was helped along the way.'”
Grove’s colleague Bridgette Beam (left woman above) gave an insightful talk about Google Analytics, telling startups at American Underground how to use tools like Google Trends and Apps data visualization, AB Tests and design thinking helper DesignStaff.org, mobile trends researcher Our Mobile Planet and infographic creator Think Insights.
And to this reporter, Grove gave the first peek at what Google Hub status really means for the Triangle five months after American Underground was named one of seven hubs.
For at least one lucky Triangle-area company, hub status means pitching at Google headquarters April 2 in Silicon Valley in front of a Google Ventures principal, venture capitalist and former AOL CEO Steve Case and other high-profile VCs.
And for women starting or hoping to start companies in town, it means dedicated resources to training and supporting them.
More details of both initiatives will be announced formally in early March. But Grove told me that each came as a result of regular Google Hangouts with the leaders of the seven new hubs in Nashville, Chicago, Minneapolis, Denver, Detroit and Waterloo, Ontario.
Access to capital from outside their regions is a critical concern for the hubs. So Google decided to organize its first real Demo Day and an all-expenses-paid trip for 10 or so lucky companies. American Underground Chief Strategist Adam Klein says local companies in the process of raising funds (and directly affiliated with AU or partners like Groundwork Labs, NC IDEA, Duke University or the Startup Factory) were asked to submit an application to participate. A committee of local leaders reviewed the applications and chose two local winners. At least one of those will pitch at the Google event.
“We can’t emphasize enough how big of a deal this is for our teams,” Klein says. “We’re starting to build a pipeline and connection to the Valley and the venture capital networks there and that usually takes a long time to build.”
The women in tech campaign has a much broader scale, including up to 40 different projects in cities around the world where Google for Entrepreneurs has a presence. Each community pitched Google with a plan for how to use grant funds to make their communities more inclusive, Grove said.
Klein says the coming announcement will outline exactly how this region will “move the needle on the number and quality of female-led startups in the community and the access they have to capital networks.”
Still yet to be determined in the Google Hub partnership is the role that its Chrome development office in Chapel Hill will play.
Klein expects the workers there to soon offer developer trainings and mentorship, and potentially, partnerships with promising technology and gaming companies in town.
So even if they’re not pitching at Google HQ, startups here can still take advantage of its technical and global prowess.