By: Stephanie Porfiris, July 14 2020
Case Study: ShopHERE, Powered by Google
When COVID-19 upended the global economy in early 2020, small businesses everywhere felt the impact. Across Canada, entrepreneurs and artists struggled to stay afloat.
In May, the City of Toronto’s Digital Main Street program offered a life preserver – its ShopHERE initiative.
It would focus on building online storefronts for local independent businesses, successfully converting them to the e-commerce platform that, overnight, became imperative for survival.
With a $57.6M cash injection from the Federal and Provincial governments and $1M endorsement from Google Canada, this remarkable program will expand across the country in the coming weeks.
Before digging into the efficacy of bringing Government bodies and corporate partners together, let’s first establish why this initiative is worth studying.
Speed: ShopHERE was launched in only two weeks, and it was done at zero cost thanks to in-kind support and volunteer developers. Two weeks later, it had a $1M commitment from Google and, shortly after, a $56M investment from the Government of Canada.
Scale: The project, which began as a local-only initiative, will be rolled out across Canada in the coming weeks.
Impact: The organization is targeting the creation of 50,000 online storefronts in the coming weeks, making a tremendous impact to the Canadian business ecosystem.
Combining Government and Corporate Funding
The most urgent issues facing our world are remarkably complex, spanning industries, and eviscerating conventional partitions.
When problems transcend boundaries, so too must solutions.
Google’s contribution provided more than vital funding. It offered an endorsement that incentivized and amplified the financial participation of the Canadian Government.
Every Role Matters
Government of Canada
With a significant cash investment, the Government of Canada is providing the bulk of funding for the ShopHere initiative in the form of a collective $57 million endowment. This includes $50 million in federal funding through FedDev Ontario and $7.6 million from the province.
The majority of the investment will fund Digital Main Street’s $2,500 grant program, which helps small businesses purchase new technology; it will also cover the costs for additional students and staff to deliver Digital Main Street’s ShopHERE program.
At first blush, Google’s investment may seem comparatively modest next to the Government grant. But don’t be fooled — this investment will be solely responsible for the projected target of building 50,000 digital storefronts.
Additionally, Google Canada’s generous commitment offers far more than a dollar value. It lends (1) credibility, (1) momentum and (3) serves as a rallying cry that promises to mobilize the tech community.
When a leading tech company puts its name behind a cause, it sends a clear message that the initiative is valuable, disruptive, and important.
Moreover, a major corporate partner establishes the pace as swift and determined. When a company like Google spins the flywheel, it doesn’t tend to slow down.
“Government at the Federal and Provincial levels never moved faster,” says Chis Rickett, Director, COVID-19 Business Mitigation and Recovery at City of Toronto. “Our funding agreement was more than 50 Million, and it came together in two weeks.”
Big Tech inspires culture. By supporting a cause, a major corporate partner encourages all members of the tech community to rally behind justice, equity, and opportunity.
“Having Google at the table was a reflection of the community coming together to help out. These were all local decisions from people in Toronto who are key parts of Toronto’s tech ecosystem,” shares Chris. “Yes, they’re going to get some goodwill but they care about their community at the end of the day.”
ShopHERE/Digital Main Street
With these investments, the experts at ShopHERE and Digital Main Street have the resources they need to scale their municipal operation into a national one.
The team will continue to manage the development of online stores using volunteer developers and students, more than 700 of which have already volunteered. As it scales, the program plans to leverage proportionally more paid students into the initiative and will be releasing a new grant program.
With the support of government partners at both Federal and Provincial levels and a cash injection and endorsement from Google Canada, this remarkable program will expand across the country in the coming weeks.
With the combined efforts of ShopHERE, the Government of Canada and Google Canada, this trio of change-makers is looking to:
- Move 50,000 + small businesses online across Canada
- Increase the number of thriving entrepreneurs post-COVID
- Introduce a grant program that will give small businesses access to the tools they need to be competitive
- Give countless students valuable, paid experience
The combination of heavy Government investment and a generous financial commitment (and immeasurably valuable endorsement) from Google Canada means that the success of this initiative, like so many things, is will be more than the sum of its parts.