Online news startup dilemma: we have an industry fighting entrepreneurship

I covered the Demo Day from DreamIt Ventures, a University City tech incubator, for Technically Philly last month.

Bright and passionate 20-somethings pleaded the case for their products, eager for funding to follow the $25,000 and three months of mentoring they received at DreamIt.  It was an exacting event.

It was also interesting to think of Technically Philly, a news site I helped co-found that is very much a startup. The conversations I had with some of the young entrepreneurs after the event were startling in similarity to the struggles I’ve had with TPhilly.

Of course, it doesn’t seem appropriate for an ethical news organization, particularly one that covers investment, to seek out funding. So, we continue our part-time boostrapping to bring in some funding to then move onto other areas of expansion. We’ve looked into grants, which sure seem more appropriate.

Of course, our pitch of creating a profitable news organization for the future sure doesn’t fit into the nonprofit-only selection rules of many big givers, notably the Knight Foundation, perhaps the most generous to the future of journalism. We fit the qualifiers of a related Knight-Batten grant, but, inexplicably, that went to the New York Times. The Washington Post was also in the running. I can’t imagine, even with their relative struggles, that the $10,000 prize would affect as many people with either of those large news entities as it would for a genuine news startup.

Tech Crunch wrote about a California incubator seeking to fund the future of news. Out of our coverage area, it seemed perfect, except they required their candidates to join them in the Bay Area, which still doesn’t make all that much sense to me, considering most news organizations of the future, if not now, are geographically-tied.

So it certainly seems that the industry is built for nonprofit news outlets only, a future I don’t believe is sustainable. We need entrepreneurship in journalism and plenty of support for it.

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