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Rise of the Rest Homecoming: Interview with Genna Mckeel of Google for Startups

Photo by Mark Szelistowski

Genna McKeel, a Tampa Bay native, is Head of Global Partnerships for Google for Startups. Before joining the Google for Startups team, she was on Google’s central policy team where she led the team’s economic impact strategy and efforts to tackle forced data localization globally. Before Google, Genna received her MBA from London Business School where she focused on entrepreneurship. While in London, Genna was on the board of the Impact Consulting Club supporting entrepreneurs in emerging markets, the project manager for the "Silicon Valley comes to the UK Hackathon", and worked with Atomico on policy recommendations to support the entrepreneurial ecosystem in London. Prior to business school, she spent five years in various positions at the U.S. Department of State, including an advisor on Darfur policy and a member of Secretary Rice’s advance team.

In this exclusive interview, Genna highlights the importance of organizations like Rise of the Rest and the upcoming tour taking place in Florida and Puerto Rico. She explains why Google for Startups and Rise of the Rest are partners, what she’s looking forward to at the Tampa Bay tour stop, and more on how Google for Startups supports global startup communities.


Why does Google choose to partner with the Rise of the Rest team?

Google’s startup roots remain at the core of the company.  We passionately believe startups are shaping the future, and that Google has the resources and connections to help them grow. That’s why Google for Startups’ mission is to level the playing field for startup founders and communities to succeed, connecting them with the best of Google.

We do this by partnering with best in class organizations, groups like accelerators or coworking spaces, which are kickstarting ecosystems and supporting diverse founders.  Revolution’s Rise of the Rest tour is an obvious fit with our values of kickstarting emerging ecosystems like Tampa Bay or Memphis or Louisville that are outside of Silicon Valley and NYC where most of the capital and resources are readily available for founders. Revolution’s commitment to and investment in tech entrepreneurs in emerging, or "rising" ecosystems around the U.S. has long inspired us. Through our partnership with Rise of the Rest, we can bring the best of Google to support founders outside of Silicon Valley.


Why are you excited about ROTR taking place in FL and PR?

Working with partners across the US from American Underground in Durham, NC to Galvanize in Denver, CO, I see amazing startup founders like Helen Adeosun -- founder of Care Academy (also a Rise of the Rest Seed Fund portfolio company), which provides online training for senior care professionals and family caregivers --who bring their passion, creativity and hustle to work every day.  All of these founders that come from diverse backgrounds are extremely resourceful, creating new technologies or bringing innovation to traditional industries across the country.  We know that tech startups are big drivers of strong local economies, and we're excited about the momentum of startup ecosystems in places like Tampa Bay and Orlando to create great jobs and new opportunities in these cities.


What are you looking forward to seeing in the Tampa Bay market?

It has been inspiring to see the Tampa Bay startup ecosystem grow.  Last year I was a mentor at an awesome Techstars Startup Weekend event organized by Allison Barkley, their chapter director in Tampa Bay, and her fantastic team. It was amazing to see the passion that all the participants brought that weekend to building a company from scratch, especially given that they were all strangers to one another on Day 1..  And seeing the community come together to support these entrepreneurs, like Bisk offering mentors and space for the event, is what creates a thriving ecosystem. Giving back is a key principle to growing a thriving startup ecosystem and Tampa Bay absolutely shines in this regard,

I am excited to come back again to learn more about the community and hear from startups like Presence that is helping universities improve graduation rates, student success, and workforce readiness.


What advice would you share with founders in this region?

I am not a founder so asking a startup CEO would probably more useful! But from talking to many founders from our network, a piece of advice for any founder is make sure to take the time to hire the right people.


Can you talk about some of the success that Google has had in supporting startups?

Google for Startups partners closely with leading startup organizations across the United States. We track metrics and stories of our partners’ economic impact and in 2018, founders in the Google for Startups network in the US raised over $630M and created more than 6,300 jobs.

Startups that have participated in our network include Civic Eagle founded in Minneapolis by Damola Ogundipe and Yemi Adewunmi, which helps government and policy organizations learn, engage, and activate the people they serve through a suite of inexpensive software tools. In January, they were featured in Forbes as one of 22 innovative tech startups to watch at CES, where they pitched as part of Richard Branson’s Extreme Tech Challenge. Another startup that won our annual demo day last year is Shearshare, the first B2B mobile platform that lets stylists rent workspace by the day in cities all over the world founded by Tye and Courtney Caldwell. Tye and Courtney pitched at our 2018 Google Demo Day and won the Judge’s Favorite award, along with a $250K investment from Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund (Managing Partner, JD Vance, was a judge). They’re now operating in 500+ cities worldwide.

These are just a few examples of the startups we are able to help grow their business with the best of Google by partnering with leading organizations in communities not only around the US but also the world.

Embarc Collective
Embarc Collective helps Tampa Bay’s startup talent build bold, scalable, thriving companies. Our staff of executive advisors and function-specific experts deliver individualized support to startups inside of Embarc Collective’s state-of-the-art 32,000 square foot hub.