On October 2, Facebook launched its first-ever global innovation center — and chose the city of Sao Paulo, Brazil as its home.
Estação Hack (Hack station), officially opened this week with the aim to foster Brazil’s local economic ecosystem by providing free professional training to entrepreneurs and small to medium sized businesses.
The initiative is part of an unprecedented program developed by Facebook and Artemisia which hopes to potentiate innovative businesses with technological solutions that use data to generate positive changes in society. The center has set a target of supporting over 7,000 people each year who are leading social impact projects.
Diego Dzodan, Vice President of Facebook and Instagram for Latin America, said, “We want to reinforce our commitment to Brazil and, therefore, we will make an unprecedented investment here […] We will help train young Brazilians for some of the professions of the future, within an environment that stimulates innovation.”
The idea of the hack station is to offer programming and entrepreneurship related courses as well as career planning workshops to students. Its first six-month residence program for selected startups will commence in January next year.
Startups in areas ranging from education and employment to data security and financial services who are interested in taking part can submit proposals to Facebook here up until October 29. Successful nominees will have the chance to access Facebook’s infrastructure tools, mentoring and business advice at the new center.
Partnering with Facebook on the project is Artemisia, a platform developed to inspire talent, educate leaders and entrepreneurs, engage corporations and accelerate startups. Through these actions it strives to mobilize people and organisations for the creation of impact businesses.
While the program shows promise in generating more innovation in the region, it also raises certain questions given Facebook’s recent drama. In the past two years Facebook has been hit by more blunders and controversies somewhat going against its updated mission statement to “bring the world more closer together”. From being accused of imperialism in India, live-streaming human right violation footage and misreporting advertising metrics, the company does not appear to be the greatest role model.
Entrepreneurs might be or maybe should be wary about Facebook’s own track record as a global company. One theme that the startup course at Estação Hack will cover is data security. This seems slightly ironic as recently Facebook has come under increasing scrutiny for its own handling of data privacy and security.
Although a huge name in the entrepreneurial development scene, it is difficult to see how Facebook and its first innovation center will provide the best platform for startups to collaborate and work together to make a social impact when its own decision making can be so divisive.
This month also sees another major company, Google, targeting the Brazilian entrepreneurial scene, launching its first Latin American startup innovation campus in Sao Paulo. It will be interesting to see which project gains the most respect from the eager entrepreneurial generation in the region.