When you think of the word "entrepreneur" any number of people might come to mind, whether it is someone you know personally or a famous success stories like Richard Branson and Henry Ford. Myself, I always picture Homer's half-brother Herb Powell from "The Simpsons," an inventor who stated "all a man really needs is an idea." I think I speak on the side of history when I say a man - or woman - with an idea can be one of the most powerful forces in this world.
A new arrival
On September 24th of this year (its 14th birthday), Google debuted a new site for people with ideas, called "Google for Entrepreneurs." In a nutshell, "Google for Entrepreneurs is our umbrella effort of all of Google's programs and partnerships to support startups and entrepreneurs around the world," according to Mary Grove, head of Google's global entrepreneurship outreach.
The site launched during an initiative ambitiously titled "The First Annual Google for Entrepreneurs Week." That week involved Google events hosted throughout thirteen countries around the world, including Europe, Asia and the United States. These events focused on a broad diversity of technological topics such as the use of Google's AdWords and Analytics, as well as many strategic and informative endeavors. For instance, some sessions centered on legislative details regarding entrepreneurship, strategies for online marketing, methods for engaging with fellow entrepreneurs, and plans for building effective teams.
What's the plan?
The Google for Entrepreneurs site features a strong focus on helping businesses get off the ground in parts of the world which are still developing or are women/minority led. For instance, Women 2.0 focuses on female entrepreneurs, Eleven is oriented for Eastern Europe and the Arab Developer Network Initiative is geared towards Palestinians. However, there is plenty of material and events available for U.S. businesses of all categories and backgrounds, such as in Minneapolis, Nashville, and New York.
Google isn't trying to create new products here but rather to advance their existing lineup on behalf of small businesses by finding ways to tie the products to the strategies needed. For instance, they offer Google Product Bootcamps and the opportunity to use Google+ hangouts to help further collaboration and mentoring.
It could be argued this is just a marketing ploy on the part of Google (though, to be fair, doesn't any endeavor in which a company engages fit that category?) or, as Emil Protalinski speculated in an article on TheNextWeb.com, part of a possible plan by Google to see which startups they might like to purchase (some might say "absorb").
Having been a startup company themselves I think Google has a keen focus on the small business and what it takes to turn an idea into reality, not to mention finding a niche which can be mutually beneficial. It's worth noting that Mary Grove stated this project could "drive growth and more usage of the Web. More startups are good for the economy, but also Google and our business."
The endeavor itself is a perfect example of the kind of smart innovation in which startups - such as Google once was - can engage to help provide solutions. Ultimately what they're offering is the chance to reach like-minded people and build opportunities, not merely signing agreements and writing checks. At this point concrete strategies still seem to be evolving so I think it's a space well worth watching.
Where can I find out more?
The main Google for Entrepreneurs site is well laid out and contains many links to pages outlining their perspectives and plans.
The resources page provides a handy dive-in to exactly what Google can provide you; it includes links for Google Apps, developer resources, and options for setting up a website/web hosting.
The site also has a schedule of upcoming events. While there are no further events scheduled after November 13th there will be more forthcoming; Google has stated they will have Women 2.0 "Founder Fridays" in Detroit, New Orleans, Sao Paulo, and Moscow in 2013.
Of course there is also a Google+ presence for Google for Entrepreneurs which contains many useful up-to-the-minute updates, notably some videos being released this week to outline how to grow businesses with Google applications.
This site is still in the infancy stage, but I think it has the potential to turn into something huge for you, should you find an area in which to share and participate. I don't think this new offering has to be limited to small companies only; I think any organization can profit from the exchange of ideas and the development of new strategies which can impact global businesses. As someone fascinated with the blend of business and technology, who moonlights as a consultant/freelancer, I'm very interested in seeing what Google - and those who participate in this project, since it's collaborative - will come up with to deliver on this opportunity.
Scott Matteson is a senior systems administrator and freelance technical writer who also performs consulting work for small organizations. He resides in the Greater Boston area with his wife and three children.