The world isn’t designed with everyone in mind, and AccessNow founder Maayan Ziv is all too familiar with the challenges of navigating an inaccessible world. Ziv has muscular dystrophy and has used a wheelchair her entire life. As a professional photographer, she often travelled for work, and was frustrated by the lack of accessibility she encountered around the world.
“I would arrive at hotels after having done all my research and when I showed up, there would be five steps up to the entrance.” Ziv said. “Pretty much every time I leave my house I experience some type of barrier or question mark.”
That’s why in 2016 Ziv created and launched AccessNow, a mobile and web-based app that allows users to search, rate, and discover accessible locations based on a variety of criteria including wheelchair accessibility, the availability of ramps and elevators, accessibility for guide dog users, scent-free, gender neutral washrooms, lighting, sound levels and more.
Over the years, Ziv and her team at AccessNow participated in a number of startup accelerators to help scale and grow their platform. In 2021, after learning about the Google for Startups Accelerator, Ziv knew this was a program she wanted to participate in.
Google for Startups Accelerator Canada is an equity-free, 10-week accelerator designed to bring the best of Google's programs, products, people and technology to Canadian startups that leverage machine learning and AI in their company today or plan to in the future.
“Joining this accelerator was an exciting opportunity for us,” Ziv said. “AccessNow is built on the Google Maps Platform so we were thrilled to not only engage with folks who work at Google, but to also learn more about AI and ML. At the time, we were just beginning to explore how machine learning could help us advance our techniques so the accelerator came at a perfect time for us.”
Focused on the end user, AccessNow works closely with mentors on the Google Maps team to leverage Google data to scale the AccessNow platform. We sat down with Ziv to learn more about her experience as part of the Google for Startups Accelerator Canada.
Since participating in the accelerator, Ziv says the startup was able to drill down on its objectives, adding focus and discipline to achieve measurable results. Ziv says the connections she built within Google, and with other startup founders in the program has been invaluable. As part of the Google for Startups alumni community, AccessNow continues to work closely with Google’s accelerator team to participate in quarterly events, share updates in monthly newsletters, and benefit from networking opportunities and mentorship including the Google Maps team.
Applications for the 2023 Google for Startups Accelerator Canada are now open until February 1, and the accelerator begins in March 2023. If you’re a startup using AI and ML to innovate and grow, or plan to in the future, learn more and apply.