Earlier this week, Facebook announced the launch of two new accelerator programs in emerging regions.
The first program, dubbed Connectivity, will focus on the Americas region and feature thirty startups that make internet access more affordable and accessible. Connectivity comes when the LATAM region, in particular, has seen explosive growth both in entrepreneurship and the middle class. These trends make the program a welcome addition to the local startup ecosystems. The second program, the Commerce Accelerator, will be focused on Europe, Africa, and the Middle East and will feature sixty startups creating new solutions around e-commerce.
Facebook is already known for investing in emerging markets, mainly around solutions to internet accessibility. They are one of several partners in a project to build undersea cables in Africa, ultimately generating broader and improved internet access for the continent. They also released Discover and a suite of other applications to provide text versions of webpages to individuals without internet access.
The accelerators are not necessarily a new move for the social media giant but are expanding programs they’ve hosted in almost a dozen countries. They will provide training, mentorship, networking, and free access to Facebook tools. Although Facebook won’t be making direct investments into the ventures for an equity stake, the startups will still fit into its strategic visions. The company launched Facebook Shops earlier this year, and startups selected into the Commerce Accelerator will be providing new tools to drive traffic into this new initiative. Their continued focus on the Connectivity program will allow more users globally to access the Facebook platform.
The news comes as Facebook receives scrutiny for anti-competitive practices against startups, like their acquisition of Instagram and copying new technologies. The hammer is yet to fall for these actions, and there are plenty of opinions about the company (in all honesty, mine are pretty negative). Simultaneously, it generally takes a company at the scale of Facebook to build the infrastructure to support upcoming economies and entrepreneurs. Regardless of these issues, the initiatives to support the startup ecosystems within these emerging communities are ultimately positive ts successful startups can help provide future development to their respective ecosystems.