Meet our GNI Startups Lab coaches

LION Publishers is working with the Google News Initiative to launch the GNI Startups Lab in North America, a six-month

January 20, 2021 by Anika Anand

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LION Publishers is working with the Google News Initiative to launch the GNI Startups Lab in North America, a six-month program that will provide a small group of independent digital news startups with coaching and capital to help put them on the path to sustainability. Today we’re introducing our three GNI Startups Lab coaches who will work directly with the publishers in our cohort.

How to apply:

Visit this page for a detailed FAQ and criteria on who is eligible to apply for this program. Apply here by January 24 at 11:59 p.m. PT. 

Meet our coaches:

Lillian Ruiz is the founder of Ci-X Strategies, where she has worked with foundations and news outlets on operations, sustainability, and strategy, and brings start-up experience from her time as COO of Civil Foundation and Civil Media. She also sits on the board of the Tiny News Collective.

Why she joined the Startups Lab: I’m excited to work with LION and GNI to support publishers in reaching their goal to inform and support their communities. I’m eager to work with and learn from them, and to help them on the path to long-term success — even if it’s just a small part of their journey.



Lizzy Hazeltine helps teams solve real problems, grow revenue to sustain themselves, and deepen their service of their communities. In her consulting, she applies hard-won lessons from B2B software startups (Shoeboxed), digital local media (ExitEvent, Scalawag), early stage venture capital, and product management to build her clients’ capacity to create and market valuable products that earn them the long-term support of their customers. Hazeltine currently coordinates the NC Local News Lab Fund, coaches teams in the UNC-Knight Table Stakes program, and supports for and non profit organizations in her hometown of Durham, NC. Hazeltine is a proud alumna of UNC-Chapel Hill’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media.

Why she joined the Startups Lab: I don’t know what *doesn’t* excite me about working with these kind news organizations. Independent news businesses combine community demands with the urgency of startups and small businesses in ways that invite industry-blurring approaches. Working at that intersection requires curiosity, keen strategy, and elbow grease, since there’s no one right way to build these organizations. People who choose this path tend to toggle between so many roles and modes, and being around people who lean into that is energizing.


 Brian Boyer is an independent consultant who helps mission-driven organizations build great products and run happy teams. He was previously the VP of Product and People at Spirited Media, and the Visuals Editor at NPR. Prior to NPR, Brian founded the news applications team at Chicago Tribune and had a fun internship at ProPublica. He started his career in software development, and made the switch to journalism as one of the first two programmers to receive a Knight-funded scholarship to study at Medill.

Why he joined the Startups LabFour years ago, I quit my fancy national news job, and asked myself: “What’s the most impactful work I can do?” The answer was clear: Ensuring the future of local and independent news, by helping folks build great products and sustainable organizations



Learn more about the GNI Startups Lab from program manager Lisa Heyamoto, and email her at [email protected] with any questions you have.

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