Want to launch a news startup? Apply for our second annual GNI Startups Boot Camp

Last year, we created the Google News Initiative Startups Boot Camp to support aspiring news entrepreneurs across North America.

June 21, 2021 by Lisa Heyamoto

Last year, we created the Google News Initiative Startups Boot Camp to support aspiring news entrepreneurs across North America. We were floored by the number of applicants, and by the success of the 24 news businesses that launched from the eight-week program. Now, we’re thrilled to announce that the 2021 Boot Camp is back and, like any great sequel, it’s better than ever.

We’ll be launching separate cohorts in both the U.S. and Canada to better meet the needs of entrepreneurs in each country. The U.S. Boot Camp starts Sept. 7, and applications open today. The Canada Boot Camp will begin at the end of the year, with applications opening in early fall.

Both Boot Camps offer proven and practical guidance for launching a digital news startup. They will be led by entrepreneurial expert Phillip Smith, who brings decades of experience training founders to create financially-sustainable news businesses.

“As the creator and director of the Boot Camp, I strive to ensure that the experience is customized to advance the objectives of each participant,” Smith wrote in this post. “I want everyone involved to get the tools and information they need to give their project the best shot at sustainability.”

The fully-remote program will include:

  • Live, online sessions to learn best practices for launching a news startup
  • One-on-one coaching with experienced specialists
  • Peer learning from a large, diverse cohort
  • Access to tools and technology to help you refine and test your idea

The Boot Camp covers everything you need to incubate and execute your idea, and because of our partnership with the Google News Initiative, we’re able to offer it to news entrepreneurs at no cost.

We’re expanding the program because we believe supporting independent news businesses is the best way to ensure that community information needs are met with depth, context and integrity. The past year clearly demonstrated the urgency of those needs, and we feel everyone benefits when more local news organizations rise to meet them.

Our research through Project Oasis has found that the independent media landscape is robust and growing.

Consider this:

  • There are at least 700 digital news startups across the U.S. and Canada
  • 266 of those launched in the past five years, with an average of 50 launching each year
  • One in seven operates in a news desert, which is an area where a newspaper has closed or that has been traditionally overlooked
  • Most are bootstrap operations working in a challenging, but improving, financial environment

A proven way to meet that challenge is to start with a clear-eyed view of what it takes to run a news business, as well as the training you’ll need to build a strong foundation beneath it. That’s where the Boot Camp comes in. We’ll provide the guidance and support that enables you to launch with confidence.

Interested yet? We hope so! We also understand that many people don’t necessarily see themselves as news entrepreneurs, or believe they aren’t qualified or ready for such an opportunity. That’s how former Boot Camp participant Stacy Feldman felt before she launched The Boulder Reporting Lab in Colorado.

“I came into this program drowning in entrepreneurial self-doubt,” she said when last year’s Boot Camp concluded. “I feel far more confident and courageous as I take my first big steps. Most importantly, I have tools, a roadmap and the kind of entrepreneurial thinking to know which steps to take and when to take them.”

Minda Honey, who founded TAUNT in Louisville, Kentucky, had a similar experience.

“This bootcamp, its community, resources and guidance has given me the validation and confidence that what I’m attempting to do is possible, it’s valuable and I’m absolutely the one to be doing it,” she said.

You should consider applying to the U.S. GNI Startups Boot Camp if:

  • You have identified a community need for better news and information
  • You’ve got an idea for a solution
  • You’re committed to public-service reporting with communities, not about communities
  • You want to make your business idea financially sustainable as quickly as possible
  • You’re able to dedicate at least eight hours a week for eight weeks to turn your business idea into reality

We are especially interested in entrepreneurs who want to serve communities that don’t often see themselves or their stories reflected in their local news.

Apply here!

We’re looking forward to reviewing your application!

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is eligible to apply to the U.S. Boot Camp?

You are eligible for the program if:

  • You are based in and plan to launch in the United States or a U.S. territory
  • You are comfortable with written and spoken English
  • You are an individual entrepreneur or part of a small team. Up to two people on your team can participate in the program.
  • You haven’t already launched your news business or, if you have, it is less than a year old
  • Your news business is or will be independently owned

What kinds of business ideas are eligible?

  • Efforts focused on delivering local news and information
  • Reporting-based businesses focused on encouraging civic engagement

We will give preference to ideas that serve a specific area or people in a specific area, based on what we learned from the previous program. However, if you’re focusing on a topic or subject, we’ll consider your application if you’ve already launched.

How many participants will be selected?

We will select up to 24 entrepreneurs or teams.

What are the dates again?

The U.S. Boot Camp will run from September 7 to November 5, 2021 (includes a one-week break).

What if I’m not ready to talk publicly about my idea because I don’t want my employer to know?

Apply anyway! We understand that some news businesses may need to operate in stealth mode for a while. We’ll give you the option to be included in any announcements so you can go public when you’re ready.

Is the program online?

Yes. We want you to be able to do this work from your community, so the program is completely remote.

How do I apply?

Fill out your application here. The deadline is Sunday, August 1 at 11 p.m. PT.

Where can I get more information?

If you still have questions, feel free to reach out to Lisa Heyamoto, LION’s Director of Teaching & Learning, at [email protected].

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