Interview: Googler Elijah Kitaka Talks About Startup Launch

Elijah Kitaka, Program Manager Google

Google recently launched an initiative called Startup Launch which is aimed at helping startups succeed globally. I talked to Elijah Kitaka the Program Manager who runs entrepreneurship in Sub Saharan Africa at Google. Elijah talked to me about Startup Launch, his work at Google and his favorite book among other things. Enjoy

Let’s start off with something out of the box, what is the best book you have read and why?

I’ll go with Case in Point by Marc P. Consentino. I call it my brain gym; It’s my go to book every time I feel like my brain is not on top of its game. It has lots of great exercises that quickly re-sharpen my brain and get it ready for “battle”. It also helped me a lot when I was interviewing at Google so I’ve had it as a long time companion. It’s one of the top 10 books I recommend.

Tell me about yourself and your current work at Google.

I’m in my 5th year at Google currently working as an Program Manager on the Developer Relations team. I run entrepreneurship support in Sub Saharan Africa, through our Startup Launch program, and our Google for Entrepreneurs tech hub partner program.

Outside of Google, I’m the creator and 11-year presenter of Jazz Evenings, a weekly show on Radio One FM 90. I’m a co-founder of The Annual Jazz & Soul Safari, a premium sold-out calendar concert now in its 8th year. I spent ~3 years in technology roles in banking at Barclays Bank and Global Trust Bank. I started my career as a Lead Software Developer at True African, now a 14 year old value added services and software development company that I founded in my 1st undergraduate year at university. I hold a Bsc. Computer Science, after dropping out of Bsc. Civil Engineering in my 3rd year. I’m passionate about technology startups / entrepreneurship, creative arts – especially live music.

Elaborately Explain the Startup Launch program to our readers.

Startup Launch provides startups in all stages with the platform, resources, online content, mentorship and training they need to succeed. From first idea to successful implementation and growth, our mission is to help startups worldwide become successful on the Google Developers platform and open-source technologies.

You have worked with startups in Sub Saharan Africa. Why do you think Startup Launch is going to thrive in the region.

From a Google-interaction point of view, it’s been difficult for startups to know what support Google can provide them, and how to get this support. Startup Launch aggregates everything we have for startups, and presents it in one place;

Why is Google concerned about Startups anyway!

Google began as a startup in a garage and we remain a startup at heart. We are strongly committed to supporting entrepreneurship all over the world, and we believe that, with the right support, small ideas can grow into world-changing businesses and organizations.

What are some of the Challenges and Lessons you have learnt about startups in Sub Saharan Africa.

While tech startups may appear similar on the surface, each startup has a lot of uniqueness. That makes a one-size-fits-all startup program the wrong thing to do. Startups have got different strengths, they are working in different markets or segments, they have different skill and experience levels, varying runway, and so on. We’ve built Startup Launch with this in mind, and have made Startup Launch a hybrid of low touch and high 1-on-1 touch engagement to cater for such nuances.




Nicholas Kamanzi

Computer Engineer and Tech Reviewer.
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