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Introducing the Pre-launch Lab 2023 Cohort

Launching a news, information, or content effort is challenging at the best of times. And growing these efforts in the earliest days – from an audience of zero to the first few hundred – requires long hours, immense dedication, and an unwavering belief in an important mission.

Even with those challenges, more than 170 people applied to the 2023 Pre-launch Lab – a clear signal that there are a growing number of people who believe in the importance of this work.

After careful review of the applications, Google invited 25 projects to join the 2023 cohort – a program that provides each participant with one-one-one coaching, a focused curriculum, and a group of peers to undertake the journey with. The goal for each of these efforts is to build a financially-viable, high-impact news or information business or non-profit that serves its community with fact-based information.

While some of the participants are still “in stealth” mode until their launch, we’re happy to introduce you to many of the 2023 Pre-launch Lab cohort today:


Founder: Enny Pichardo (He/him)

Untitled presentation (1)

Location: Mount Vernon, New York (NYC)

Description: #EnNYConMás was created in March 2020. It is produced daily for a YouTube channel and different social media platforms. It is recorded, edited and presented using accurate content, both originally and from reputable sources.

Bio: Pichardo is currently the producer, editor and host of #EnNYConMás, a self-produced YouTube show that provides news summaries on topics important to the Latino community. In his almost 17-year career, Pichardo has left his marks in the television industry: he worked for the local network NY1 Noticias, and the international networks NTN24, Univisión and Telemundo. He has covered important topics such as the devastating earthquake in Haiti, several terrorist attacks including the Boston Marathon; as well as several massacres such as that of Sandy Hook Elementary School--Connecticut; and he has conducted high-profile interviews with leading global figures including Presidents of several Latin American and European countries, and several celebrities.


Founder: Linda Lee Baird (She/her)

Untitled presentation (3)

Location: Columbus, Ohio

Bio: I am an award-winning writer, educator and editor who started my career working for education-focused nonprofit organizations in Boston and New York City. Since I began freelancing in 2018, my work has appeared in publications including U.S. News and World Report, Vital City, Columbus Monthly, Matter News, MUTHA, Edible Columbus, and (614) magazine. EdInk, a newsletter examining local education issues, will launch in 2024.

Labor Pains

Founder: Aria Velasquez (She/her)

Untitled presentation (5)

Location: Chicago, IL

Description: Labor Pains is a journalist-owned newsletter covering the state of unions, organized labor and what it means to work under late-stage capitalism.

Bio: Aria Velasquez is a mid-career journalist who has been playing the game of career hopscotch since 2016, Her career has gone from social media and audience engagement to newsletter writing and editing with a brief pit stop in the land known as grad school. Aria originally from the Atlanta suburbs and is currently based in Chicago. She has bachelor's degrees in Political Science and International Affairs from the University of Georgia. Aria has been a member of the Writers Guild of America East since 2017.

LF Voices Collective

Founder: Lauchlin Fields (She/her)

Untitled presentation (6)

Location: Vicksburg, MS

Description: LF Voices Collective is a digital media platform dedicated to amplifying diverse Southern narratives through innovative storytelling and community engagement.

Bio: I began my career as a community newspaper reporter in Mississippi, where my passion for elevating local voices took root. In my current role as Audience Development Director at Mississippi Today and Deep South Today, I've spearheaded initiatives that have significantly increased our readership and successfully bridged the gap between editorial content and marketing strategies. My professional path has included founding Front Porch Fodder and The 'Sip magazine, leading me to my current venture, LF Voices Collective. Here, I'm dedicated to giving a platform to diverse voices, utilizing my extensive experience in digital publishing to create impactful, inclusive narratives.

Silly Little Magazine

Founder: Casey Mendoza (She/her)

Untitled presentation (16)

Location: Chicago, IL

Description: What if the exhibit halls, panels and Artist Alleys of Comic-Con were condensed into a magazine? "Silly Little Magazine" is a monthly newsletter and quarterly print zine for pop culture content creators, fandom-centered small businesses, independent artists, cosplayers and anyone who considers themself to be hella nerdy and "chronically online.”

Bio: Casey Mendoza has over a decade of experience in the entertainment news world — as a reporter, on-air correspondent, producer, documentary filmmaker, and most importantly, a fan. For the national broadcast outlet Scripps News, she’s covered the rise and plateaus of the streaming industry, the impacts of the pandemic on pop culture, the democratized influence of online fandoms, and the nuanced discussions about equity and inclusion in Hollywood. She feels most at home at any comic-con around the country, or in her own living room, watching a romantic comedy with her husband and two cats — each named after Studio Ghibli characters.

The Des

Founder: LJ Dawson (She/her)

Untitled presentation (15)

Location: Washington, D.C.

Description: The Des is a criminal justice news outlet that reports on the frontlines of the DMV and federal justice system.

Bio: LJ is a nationally published journalist who focused on social inequity beginning early in her career. She saw a gap in journalism serving the most impacted communities and decided to found her own news outlet in 2020 that covers the justice system. She believes strongly in the power of stories to heal and build bridges within our communities. She is passionate about mentoring aspiring journalists, including over a dozen interns who have worked with The Des. She also is the editor in chief of the D.C. based cannabis outlet, The Outlaw Report.

The Jersey Vindicator

Founder: Krystal Knapp (She/her)

Untitled presentation (17)

Location: Trenton, New Jersey

Description: The Jersey Vindicator is a new statewide investigative, nonprofit and non-partisan news organization that seeks to advance accountability, spotlight truth, and empower citizens through original reporting that no one else is doing in the state.

Bio: I am a former prison chaplain from Detroit who became a reporter after witnessing the power of journalists to tell stories that raise awareness, right wrongs, and free the innocent from prison. I worked at the Trenton Times for a decade then as an editor in Beirut, Lebanon, and then as a freelance writer. I then launched a community hyperlocal news website a decade ago called Planet Princeton that has been a part-time project supported by the community and my work as a WordPress developer, but saw the need for a statewide news website that focuses on accountability reporting when I started covering the state again during the pandemic.

The Upgrade

Founder: Peter Bittner (He/him)

Untitled presentation (18)

Location: Cleveland, OH

Description: The Upgrade is your weekly guide to generative AI for storytelling, offering actionable insights, deep explorations, and real-world case studies for journalists, creators, and PR/communications pros to get ahead!

Bio: An award-winning multimedia journalist and media strategist, Peter's work has been featured in The New York Times, CNN, Bloomberg, and other major outlets. A Fulbright Scholar and UC Berkeley lecturer in new media, he's passionate about learning, utilizing, and teaching the latest tech tools for powerful storytelling. His latest obsession is helping fellow storytellers understand how (and how not) to use generative AI tools to enhance their narrative workflows and connect with their audiences.

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