Google Ground is an education and community centre for small and medium sized enterprises, start-ups as well as students. It is located in a cultural and entertaining complex called “GRUND” which is situated in the urban renewal area of Corvin Quarter in Józsefváros (the 8th district of Budapest). The initiative was launched by Google Inc. and the site was opened at the end of 2013.
The general aim of the centre is to support start-ups and provide common site for creative workers, online marketing agencies, SMEs and students. The rationale behind this aim is to improve the competitiveness of business actors and as a consequence Google Ground can contribute to the economic performance of the district and the city. It has also a potential in fostering social cohesion since it brings together individuals and groups with different social backgrounds.
Several activities take place in Google Ground concentrating on three key topics such as trainings and internships, start-up programmes and studios. Academies operated by Google at the GRUND have a very important role in this respect since these institutions provide specific, high-quality trainings for the partners and agencies involved. First of all, the Sales Academy presents the ultimate sales practices in online business. The AdWords Academy’s aim is to train AdWords certified professionals and to provide attendees online marketing skills. The Analytics Academy focuses on online business which has a faster pace than traditional commerce (Google Ground, n.d.).
The initiative focuses on providing theoretical and practical training for recent graduates, university and college students every six months including internships. The studios can be used by partners in order to learn the skills of producing high-quality video content and to have a chance to put that knowledge into practice – easily, quickly, professionally in situ. The Ground has community spaces which are appropriate for different social events: a large courtyard, a library and conference rooms.
Regarding its organisational structure and resources, it must be taken into consideration that Google Ground is an initiative launched by Google Inc. Therefore, the site itself as well as all the operations taking place there belong to the company. As a consequence, the management of the Ground is a task performed by the staff of Google Hungary, including about twelve employees. A wide range of partners and external experts is involved in the different activities. The site is run by Google Inc. and as a consequence the initiative is financed by the company.
Perception and use of the concept of diversity
Taking into consideration the goals and activities of Google Ground it can be concluded that the concept behind the initiative fits well to the diversity of the district and can function as a space for work, education and community events as well. Diversity is considered by both the leaders of Google Ground and the management of the GRUND as an important resource. According to our interviewee (founder of Grund Ltd.) for example, the traditionally diverse and dynamic character of Józsefváros was a key motive for Google to choose the GRUND as a site. The primary target group of the initiative includes innovative and creative actors in the business sphere like start-ups, online marketing agencies and SMEs as well as students who are interested in the topic. In addition, Google plans to make the trainings available for as many creative actors as possible (Magyarósi, 2014).
Main factors influencing success or failure
Considering the external success factors of the initiative, maybe the most important one is the Google brand itself. The company is one of the most famous enterprises of the world and its products are very popular in Hungary. The market-leader status can result in several additional benefits, like high PR value, remarkable opportunities for cooperation or good starting position at negotiations. In addition, Hungary has a significant tradition of IT innovations (e.g. Word, Excel, Leonar3do) and the recent success of Hungarian start-ups (e.g. Prezi, Ustream, LogMeIn) can be a good reference for companies like Google (Csikós, 2014; Pintér, 2014). It is also important that the Ground is independent from governmental actors and resources. Among internal success factors Google Inc. again plays an important role: its human capital, institutional and financial background can guarantee the adequate resources for the Ground. In addition, Google Ground operates in comprehensive synergy with the GRUND complex: both establishments are located at the same plot, consequently they can share resources (e.g. maintenance, visitors, marketing). Moreover, they provide a healthy mix of services as a result of their different profiles (Google Ground – education, trainings; GRUND – bar, entertainment rooms, hostel). The creative milieu and large-scale diversity of the neighbourhood is another internal success factor that made GRUND an attractive location for Google.
‘Because it’s an exciting, fast developing quarter [Józsefváros and Corvin Quarter]. Because it’s buzzing and the people are interesting. Because it serves cold beers and we like the large garden. Because it’s diverse, unique and vibrant. Because we feel good here (Google Ground, n.d.).’
Among the external challenges our interviewee mentioned the speed of global economic processes. The life cycle of companies is decreasing and this global phenomenon means a significant factor of uncertainty considering the future of the initiative and Google itself. He also pointed out the weak relationship with municipal actors and thought that governmental interest and support for enterprises is still inadequate. Finally, the unilateral dependency from Google Inc. can be a critical internal challenge.
Google Ground can be considered as an innovative and successful governance arrangement. This derives from the Ground’s comprehensive and inclusive character: it is a start-up centre as well as an open community space. As a consequence, it targets individuals and groups with very different lifestyles and provides framework for a wide range of activities (e.g. business, education, community programmes), contributing to hyper-diversity. Nevertheless, sustainability and flexibility are crucial because of today’s rapid economic changes: the Ground should be able to renew itself and respond to different challenges. The neighbourhood (or the whole district) can help in this process with its diversity and dynamism which factors attracted Google at the beginning. In addition, Google is one of the most innovative organisations globally and can foster economic performance and social cohesion in a given urban area but in the case of Budapest it would also be important that governmental actors of different levels (district, municipality, national) facilitate closer cooperation with initiatives like the Ground.