Google News Initiative
Pre-launch Startups Lab
The Google News Initiative Pre-launch Lab is a program supporting early stage entrepreneurs in journalism. The eight-week, fully-remote program helps entrepreneurs launch successful, trusted digital news organizations. We accept solo founders or teams of aspiring entrepreneurs who have identified a community’s need for better news and want guidance and coaching on how to launch, or continue to develop, a news offering that delivers a solution rooted in journalism.
No fees, no tuition, no income sharing. No financial barriers to your success. Just the hands-on support you need to become independent, and stay independent.
Made for journalism: A laser-focused and immensely practical curriculum that is grounded in hands-on learning and getting things done.
Live seminars: Weekly live video seminars with a small cohort of like-minded journalism entrepreneurs.
Personalized coaching: Weekly one-on-one coaching to help you move your idea forward toward launch, or growth, during the Pre-launch Lab, as well as quarterly coaching for a year after the Pre-launch Lab.
We are not currently accepting applications. Please sign up for our newsletter to get notified about future versions of this lab and other programs from the Google News Initiative.
Week 1: Setting clear goals for your success
Week 2: Talking to customers
Week 3: Revenue, Pricing & Market Research
Week 4: Business & Nonprofit 101
Week 5: Experiment your way to success
Week 6: Sales & Marketing 101
Week 7: Growth 101
Week 8: Launch your news effort
Example timeline (from a recent lab)
September 22, 2023: Application deadline
September 28 - October 3, 2023: Application review period and interviews with shortlisted applicants
October 9, 2023: All applicants notified of application status
October 23, 2023: Pre-launch Lab begins
November 6, 2023: Break week
December 15, 2023: Pre-launch lab finishes
More than 100 newsroom founders across a dozen countries have participated in the Pre-launch Lab (formerly known as GNI Startups Boot Camp).
- “The most enriching journalism training program I've participated in. The leaders are talented and innovative, and were so invested in all of our 24 projects and generous with their guidance. The course structure was meticulously constructed. The cohort was inspiring and motivating. I came into this program drowning in entrepreneurial self doubt. 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 even take and when to take them, as I work to get my local news startup off the ground. Is it going to be easy from here out? No way. But the path ahead is a lot clearer. And I now have this whole community of local news entrepreneurs to turn to when I'm at a crossroads.” -
- Stacy Feldman, Boulder Reporting Lab
- “The instruction is enlightening; the coaching is propelling; the access to resources, generous; and the community is both inspiring and supportive. My company is better because of this boot camp—and so am I.”
— Travers Johnson, Queerency
- “Every week we were presented with practical steps, guides, and examples of how we could get our company running. Eight weeks later, I feel so much more confident in my abilities. Truly priceless.”
— Camille Padilla Dalmau, 9 Millones
- “The Boot Camp made me think about my newsletter in new ways. It made me test my assumptions by trying things out and measuring what happened. It coached me on how to get valuable feedback from my readers. It gave me one-on-one tailored troubleshooting advice. And at the end, I was surrounded by other people who'd worked through their projects alongside me — and we continue to support each other with ideas, tips and inspiration.”
— Alison Motluk, HeyReprotech
You should consider this Pre-launch Lab if:
✓ You’ve been thinking long and hard about launching your own digital news effort
✓ Or you’re less than a year into running your news business and want to re-evaluate some of your core hypotheses and make adjustments to improve your financial sustainability
✓ You have identified a community’s need for better news, information and/or engagement and think you can deliver a solution
✓ You're committed to public-service reporting working with and alongside the communities you serve
✓ You’re committed to making your business idea financially sustainable as quickly as possible
✓ Can commit at least eight hours a week for eight weeks to turn your business idea into reality (ideally, you can commit more time)
✓ Are willing to make time to share insights with other participants
✓ You must plan to be independently owned and operated
✓ You must not plan to be employed by a government entity
✓ You must not be a Google employee or contractor
Like the previous programs, if your application is accepted it will cost you nothing but your time.
That’s right: all of the Pre-launch Lab costs are covered. This includes the weekly seminars and one-on-one coaching, several tools to help you refine and test your idea, access to our community of practice.
No fees, no tuition, no income sharing arrangement. No financial barriers to your success. Just the support you need to become independent, and stay independent.
- You should be comfortable with written and spoken English, as all sessions and assignments will be in English only for this session (We hope we can deliver the Pre-launch Lab in other languages in the near future.)
- You can join as an individual or as a team. If you already have a team, up to two of you can participate in the Pre-launch Lab sessions and coaching. (Sidenote: If you do have a team, a good goal is to have one person for each of these core expertise areas: editorial, business and/or marketing, product and/or technology.)
- You have some journalism experience or a business background and passion for the community you want to serve
The Pre-launch Lab is entirely online. It’s intentionally designed to be an online experience because we want you to stay in your community and to do the work in that context.
There will be a 90-minute live webinar each week. At the end of the webinar, we’ll have a conversation as a group about the tasks you’ll undertake that week. Once participants are selected, we can choose the day/time that works best for everyone. The sessions will also be recorded for later viewing. At least once a week, teams will have a one-on-one coaching session with one of the Pre-launch Lab coaches. Teams can select this time each week based on their schedules.
Some weeks there will be extra “peer review” sessions, where teams present on their progress and we unpack the learnings. Some weeks there will be "live case studies" with upstart publishers that are a few years along in their journey.
In between our live video sessions, we’ll communicate using a chat platform that’s comfortable for everyone.
We like to answer that by saying “at least part-time hours; ideally a full-time commitment.” We expect participants to plan for at least eight hours a week, preferably a lot more:
- 90 minutes of virtual seminars per week
- 30 minutes of one-on-one coaching per week
- 2 hours or more of assignments per week
- 2 hours of more of readings per week
If you’ve already launched a project that’s less than 12 months in and aren’t sure what to do next, the Pre-launch Lab should complement what you’re already doing.
If you’re in an existing full-time position and thinking about the Pre-launch Lab to grow your side hustle into your main hustle, that’s great! You’ll want to think about how to fit the minimum number of hours into your schedule. (And, if the weekly webinar happens during your paying job working hours, you’ll need to make time to watch the recorded version.)
Ideally, you and your partner will be on the calls together. At least one of you is responsible for attending, or watching the re-cap. You can also switch off weeks if that’s easier.
We're excited for you to apply at any stage where you believe the Pre-launch Lab would help you achieve your objectives. That said, we describe the Pre-launch Lab as a pre-accelerator program. Practically, that means this is for very early-stage entrepreneurs (or those with entrepreneurial aspirations) and early stage ideas.
You could simply have a strong sense of a problem you’d like to solve in your community, or you could have already taken steps to realize that idea. Both are a great fit.
If you simply have passion for starting your own journalism or information business and are still searching for the right idea, that’s also a great fit. You’ll want to take advantage of the pre-reading and exercises to help you define an idea to bring into the rest of the Pre-launch Lab.
We will discuss the options in the context of a decision that you’ll eventually need to make. And I’ll point you toward ample resources for when the time comes to make that decision.
However, in the earliest stages of a new venture, your focus should be on building relationships with your community -- readers, listeners, watchers, advertisers, sponsors, etc. -- and moving those relationships toward something that supports you financially.
The question of business structure can easily become a rabbit hole that can consume a lot of mental energy and limit your options far too early in the development of your project or business. If you’ve already made the decision, great! If not, that’s obviously fine too.
- The ability to describe your business idea concisely and compellingly
- A realistic revenue forecast for the next six, 12, 24, and 36 months
- A set of three-month objectives and a plan for how to achieve them
- A deeper understanding of your community’s needs, and how your project will meet those needs
- Confidence from having run small experiments to prove your idea and that have provided you with valuable, objective data on your business's viability
- Knowledge of which technology and tools are the best fit for your undertaking
- A “continuous innovation” mindset that will help to keep your project relevant for years to come
- And, most optimistically, some customers!
- Attend or watch the weekly lesson each week (if you have a team member, you may switch off and all sessions are recorded)
- Complete at least four out of eight one-on-one coaching sessions
- Submit a weekly status updates and short survey
- Demonstrate effort at completing the weekly assignments
- Submit a final video pitch for your project