Google for Entrepreneurs and Blackbox Celebrate 10th Batch of Global Startups Selected for Silicon Valley Program

16 rising founders from 14 countries will come together under one roof for Blackbox Connect, a twist on the traditional startup accelerator

Six years ago, Fadi Bishara, a Syrian-American immigrant who settled down in the Bay Area in the early 90s to launch a career in tech recruiting, had the idea to bring startup founders from outside the United States to connect with the innovation mecca of the world — Silicon Valley. Driven by strong belief in the importance of the human element in building great companies, and in the existence of talented founders working to solve real problems in every corner of the globe, Bishara set out to create something that would fill a gap in the rapidly-growing startup accelerator space — a focus on founders, and a model that valued potential over proximity.

Blackbox Connect, an intensive, residential program for international founders looking to hone their craft of entrepreneurship, was born. It wasn’t long before some of the Valley’s biggest players began to take notice. In 2013, Google for Entrepreneurs, which provides financial support and the best of Google’s resources to dozens of startup communities across 140 countries, formed a partnership with Blackbox Connect to offer the program to founders across their partner network.

Blackbox Connect 5, the first cycle powered by Google for Entrepreneurs, at the old Blackbox Mansion in Atherton, CA (the program is now based in San Francisco)

This November, almost five years later, Blackbox will celebrate its 20th Blackbox Connect cohort, the 10th cycle powered by Google for Entrepreneurs. Of the 400 entrepreneurs who have come through the program since its inception, more than 180 have been selected from Google for Entrepreneurs partner communities across 35 countries. Among that group, 52% are women, many of whom have come through Blackbox Connect: Female Founders Edition, which takes place each May.

Blackbox Connect 20’s hand-picked cohort hails from Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Kenya, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Mongolia, South Africa, Spain, the United Kingdom, Uganda, and the United States; and represents a wide variety of sectors, from fintech, to enterprise software, consumer packaged goods, online marketplaces, and more.

After undergoing an extremely competitive selection process — about 8% of nominated startups are ultimately accepted into the program — these 16 high-potential founder/CEOs will travel to Silicon Valley from across the globe to take part in the two-week program this November 27–December 8 at Fact0ry in San Francisco. The experience offers the opportunity for these entrepreneurs to live and learn together while connecting with top Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, investors, thought leaders, and executives in an intimate, open, and off-the-record environment.

Founder-to-founder learning is an essential component of the Blackbox Connect experience

After two jam-packed weeks of speaker sessions, interactive workshops, pitch coaching, 1:1 mentoring, and peer feedback, plus a visit to Google’s Mountain View headquarters to meet with experts and thought leaders, the program will conclude with the Blackbox Connect Startup Showcase on Thursday, December 7, an opportunity for each founder to pitch their company and share their story with an audience of Silicon Valley investors, potential corporate partners, and tech leaders.

Fadi Bishara speaks to a cohort of founders during a session focused on hiring and building strong teams

“The entrepreneurial journey can be extremely challenging and frustrating, and getting it right almost always requires lots of trial and error before all the pieces align,” says Bishara. “To feed courage and nurture persistence, entrepreneurs need more than patient capital — they need allies. They need tribes of people who believe in them. I’m proud that we’ve been able to play a role in providing that support for so many founders over the past six years, and we’re incredibly grateful to have Google for Entrepreneurs as our partner in that effort.”

Mary Grove, Director of Google for Entrepreneurs, at Blackbox Connect

“We’re incredibly proud to have partnered with Blackbox Connect over the past 10 cycles”, says Mary Grove, Director of Google for Entrepreneurs. “The program has provided an invaluable opportunity for startups across our partner network to experience the best Silicon Valley has to offer, and to build global companies from day one. This cohort of founders represents the top talent from all corners of the world, and we are thrilled to welcome them to the Bay Area and mark the 20th cycle of Blackbox Connect.”


We’re thrilled to announce the Blackbox Connect 20 cohort — take a look at their profiles below to learn more, and don’t miss the chance to meet the founders and hear their pitches at the Blackbox Startup Showcase on Thursday, December 7 in San Francisco. RSVP here to attend.

Bayarsaikhan Volodya | AND Global | Mongolia (nominated by Techstars)

AND Global leverages technological innovation and responsible banking to offer accessible finance to millions of underbanked people throughout the world. Their signature product, LendMN, is a mobile app-based financial service that uses AI-powered technology to calculate personalized credit scores for customers with limited borrowing histories. Customers can secure personal loans from their smartphones without paperwork or collateral, and fees are lower than traditional banks.

Cedrick Karibwende | FitFeet | Uganda (nominated by Outbox Hub)

FitFeet is a footwear manufacturing social enterprise that turns unemployed women and youth from Uganda’s slums into successful business owners. Their programs skill and equip women and youth to start a FitFeet micro-franchise of their own. Cedrick and his team are committed to transforming vulnerable communities into thriving hubs of commerce and innovation.

Iseult Ward | FoodCloud | Ireland (nominated by Dogpatch Labs)

FoodCloud is a social enterprise that connects businesses with excess food to charities that need food through a software platform. We work with over 2,500 supermarkets across the United Kingdom and Ireland, connecting them directly to a network of almost 7,000 charities and enabling over 1 million meals equivalent per month to be rescued.

Sebastian Cadenas | Increase | Argentina (nominated by AreaTres)

Increase simplifies and modernizes how merchants access and control their incomes. In Latin America, credit and debit cards have hidden fees, tax retentions, bank promotions, and they could have installments. Payment schedules vary from 2 to 31 days depending on the issuer’s preferences, and merchants have no visibility or control. Increase enables users to gather and organize all their income and payment information in a simple and secure calendar. Businesses can easily check when and how much they will get paid in real time.

Caroline Strzalka | It’sByU | United States (nominated by Astia)

It’sByU is the do-it-yourself (DIY) flower kit company founded by Christine Strzalka, an award-winning floral designer and her sister Caroline, a media executive. Customers are shipped a kit with farm-fresh flowers, professional tools, unique containers, and a streaming video lesson so they can become their own florist, no experience necessary. Follow-on seasonally-curated flowers are then sent to the customer so they always have fresh, beautiful flowers on their table.

Arjun Khoosal | Kandua | South Africa (nominated by JoziHub)

Kandua eliminates all types of risk associated with hiring small, independent contractors to do home renovations, maintenance, and repairs in South Africa. All communication, invoicing, and payments happen through the platform.

Tommaso Migliore | MDOTM | Italy (nominated by Talent Garden)

MDOTM is a quantitative investment research company with a B2B model — its clients are exclusively institutional investors. Their technology applies advanced statistical analysis techniques, machine learning, and artificial intelligence to large-scale financial data to develop successful computer-based automated investment strategies and trading algorithms for global financial markets.

Eloi Gómez Cal | Mr Jeff | Spain (nominated by Campus Madrid)

Mr Jeff wants to revolutionize home services, starting with laundry. Every month, Spaniards spend an average of 40 hours doing their laundry and dry cleaning instead of enjoying their free time. Mr Jeff allows users to order a Jeff from their smartphone, computer, or tablet. Your Jeff picks up your laundry from your home or office and delivers it back in less than 24 hours for a competitive price and with no extra logistics costs.

Thiago Pinto | New Hope Ecotech | Brazil (nominated by Campus Sao Paolo)

New Hope Ecotech enables consumer goods brands to pay for the recycling of the packaging they put in the market. Recyclers use a digital platform to prove that recycling targets were met. This information is traded as “Recycling Certificates” — similar to carbon credits, but to compensate for solid waste put into the environment.

Hilda Morara | Pezesha | Kenya (nominated by iHub)

Pezesha is a micro-lending marketplace for Africa. Their peer-to-peer platform uses credit and data analytics to connect lenders with high-quality, underserved, low-income borrowers. Pezesha aims to give choice, inclusion and affordable digital financial services to low-income borrowers in Africa to bring freedom, equality and hope to them and their communities to be part of the formal financial system. Before becoming Founder and CEO at Pezesha, Hilda founded Weza Tele, East Africa’s first tech exit.

Odunayo Eweniyi | Piggybank | Nigeria (nominated by ccHub)

Piggybank is an online automated savings platform that allows Africans save up for big financial responsibilities (rent, school, etc) by helping them put aside small amounts of money periodically, until they reach a set target. Unlike existing financial institutions, Piggybank offers transparency, no charges, and caters to the younger population while providing a high barrier to withdrawal of funds.

Stefan Fountain | pr.co | Netherlands (nominated by TQ)

Pr.co is a collaborative SaaS solution that helps organizations tell their stories by providing newsrooms, distribution, and workflow tools for PR and marketing professionals. Machine learning and natural language processing are leveraged to intelligently match client needs with relevant journalists, media, and influencers.

Bella Ellaheh Hughes | Shaka Tea | United States (nominated by Startup Grind)

Māmaki is found only one place in the world: the Hawaiian archipelago. It has been revered in the native Hawaiian community for centuries for its health benefits. Shaka Tea offers the first line of ready-to-drink iced teas on the market brewed from Hawai’i-grown māmaki, with no added sugar in three tropical flavors inspired by the islands. Moving towards vertical integration, Shaka Tea is a champion of regenerative agriculture and agroforestry farming to source its endemic māmaki.

Alejandro Artacho | Spotahome | Spain (nominated by Campus Madrid)

Spotahome is an online booking platform for mid- to long-term rentals. Professional home checkers visit every single property listed (now 40,000+ in 8 EU countries and the UAE) to capture photos, branded videos, 360 tours, and floor plans. Through virtual viewings, users get a truthful, realistic depiction of properties and can see all sides of their future home.

Ewelina Robaczek | Vouchery.io | Germany (nominated by Factory Berlin)

Vouchery.io is a predictive promotion management platform that creates smarter and more efficient discount, referral, and coupon programs. When overwhelmed with promo deals, customers lose a sense of urgency, disengage, and often devalue brands. Vouchery prevents this by orchestrating and micro-segmenting discounts based on customers’ lifetime value, their level of engagement, and their unique preferences. Using this data, Vouchery creates deals that truly influence buying behavior.

Cormac ONeill | Webio | Ireland (nominated by Dogpatch Labs)

Webio, The Conversational Middleware Company™, brings artificial intelligence-driven conversations to the enterprise. A conversational interface uses AI to streamline inbound and outbound customer communications across new and existing channels. Webio is introducing chatbots, machine learning, and conversational commerce for the customer contact center.


About Blackbox:
Blackbox is a Silicon Valley-based nonprofit working to elevate entrepreneurs across the globe. Our entrepreneur-first approach is grounded in two fundamental beliefs: that entrepreneurs are the core engine for global economic growth, and that they need someone in their corner.

Since 2011, Blackbox has helped elevate more than 400 founders from 60+ countries to reach their full potential. Over 60% of startups have gone on to raise funding within 3–9 months of participating in Blackbox Connect, and more than 90% continue to grow their businesses. Browse the list of Blackbox alumni here.

In addition to our flagship Silicon Valley program, Blackbox offers 3-day in-country community events (called Blackbox Ignite) for partners around the world.

To learn more, visit http://blackbox.vc or follow us on Twitter (blackbox.vc) and Facebook (fb.com/blackbox.vc).

About Google for Entrepreneurs:
Google for Entrepreneurs provides financial support and the best of Google’s resources to dozens of co-working spaces and community programs across 140 countries. We also create Campuses: physical hubs where entrepreneurs can learn, connect, and build companies that will change the world.

To learn more about Google for Entrepreneurs, visit google.com/entrepreneurs or follow us on G+ (+GoogleForEntrepreneurs), Twitter (@GoogleForEntrep) and Facebook (fb.com/GoogleForEntrepreneurs).

For more information and all press inquiries, contact Marie Paoli (marie@blackbox.vc).