January 20th, 2020
MolenGeek started in 2015 in Molenbeek, Belgium, as a coding school for anyone to learn digital skills. But unlike many other schools, MolenGeek is driven by a social mission of fostering inclusion, integration and community development in this culturally diverse suburb of Brussels.
In five years, it’s become a co-working space for young people from all backgrounds, enabling them to network and share their experiences. Out of Molengeek’s community of 800 active members, 195 people from predominantly underprivileged backgrounds have gone through entrepreneurship skills training, and 35 new startups have been built and grown out of their incubator program. We’ve been proud to help support their mission since 2015.
Today, Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet, visited MolenGeek to announce an additional Google.org grant of $250,000—over EUR 200,000—to expand its coding school and increase the community’s access to new kinds of digital skills training. MolenGeek will use the funds to develop a new six-month content module focused on artificial intelligence and data analytics. This is part of MolenGeek’s longer-term plan to open a second hub in Brussels later this year, which will include an incubator dedicated to the needs of AI-focused startups, as well as a six-month AI training program. In addition to funding, Google AI experts will also provide MolenGeek with ongoing mentorship and opportunities for Googlers to volunteer.
“MolenGeek’s mission to make sure technology, entrepreneurship, and innovation is accessible to everyone is personal to me, and to the work, we do at Google,” said Sundar. “Increasingly that means helping people get the skills they need to succeed in a digital world. We’re proud to support MolenGeek as it expands its digital training, including a new module focused on artificial intelligence, to give more people the tools for success.”
“It’s important that we offer the younger generations a way to invest in themselves,” says Ibrahim Ouassari, co-founder of MolenGeek. “As the momentum is picking up, we are grateful that we can once again count on Google to lend their support and knowledge to the many potential entrepreneurs who look to MolenGeek as a gateway to the tech sector and a springboard for their future careers.”
And this grant support is especially important when it comes to AI, one of the most exciting technologies humanity is working on today. We’re already seeing its potential to change lives, from helping doctors better detect breast cancer, forecast floods in India, to supporting nonprofits applying AI tools to address issues like illegal logging and plastic waste reduction. To help more Belgian businesses make the most of this technology, we’ll be expanding our Machine Learning Checkup tool to small and medium businesses here in Belgium, as well as 10 other markets in Europe.
With such a huge scope for positive change, countries must invest now in reskilling and education. It all starts in communities like Molenbeek, in organizations like this one, who believe not just in technology, but in the people creating it.