Travers Johnson of Queerency is Just one of many graduates of the program.

Google News Initiative Pre-launch Lab 2023: A free-of-cost program for aspiring journalist entrepreneurs in the U.S. and Canada

Channeling my inner Axios, a news startup known for its emphasis on delivering information in a concise and efficient manner, here’s the inside scoop on the next Google News Initiative (GNI) Pre-launch Lab (formerly the GNI Startups Boot Camp).

Phillip Smith
3 min readAug 30, 2023


What it is: An eight-week, fully-remote program for early-stage journalism entrepreneurs based in the U.S. or Canada. Launching October 2023, the Lab will support up to 24 participants in launching digital news efforts that are trustworthy, community-responsive, and financially sustainable.

Why it matters: The traditional news industry is facing a number of challenges, including declining revenues and shrinking readership. As a result, there is a unique opportunity for fresh, innovative, approaches to delivering reliable news and information. The GNI Pre-launch Lab provides a solid foundation for those who are passionate about serving their community with high-quality journalism.

Key features:

  • No financial barriers: No fees, no tuition, no income sharing. Just the hands-on support you need to become independent, and stay independent.
  • Platform neutral: We champion all mediums (and refuse to play favorites). From websites and newsletters to emerging formats like short-form videos, audio, and messaging.
  • Practical curriculum: The Lab is a hands-on learning experience tailored for journalism. Think of it as the antithesis of an 8-week MBA. Our streamlined approach ensures you get the most impact with the least fluff (no theoretical assignments, just real-world experience).
  • Personalized coaching: Weekly, one-on-one, coaching from professionally-trained coaches (who also happen to be industry experts), as well as quarterly coaching for a year after graduation.
  • Open to Canadians: We recognize Canada’s unique media landscape — from limited philanthropic opportunities, to the evolving tax-status landscape, and the unfolding impacts of bill C-18. Our curriculum is hand-crafted to honour these nuances for Canadian participants.
  • Track record: One of the few programs that has stood the test of time. Now entering our sixth cohort, the Pre-launch Lab has graduated more than 100 journalism entrepreneurs in a dozen countries around the globe.

Hear it from our graduates:

  • Stacy Feldman, Founder, Boulder Reporting Lab: “The most enriching journalism training program I’ve participated in. 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.”
  • Travers Johnson, Founder, Queerency: “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.”
  • Alison Motluk, HeyReprotech: “The program 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.”
  • Annelise Pierce, Founder, Shasta Scout: “Since graduating the program two years ago, and launching with just $3500 in the bank, we’ve grown to a budget of just under $200k. We’ve broken major stories and we’ve been nominated for several journalism awards.”

Bottom line: Aspiring journalism entrepreneur? This program is your next step. Apply by midnight, September 22. Questions? Join our live info sessions (August 31, September 12, September 21) or contact me directly. Know someone suitable? Please share. 🙏



Phillip Smith

👉 My passion is helping: 💰 Newsrooms make more money; 📈 News startups grow their audience; 🔥 Journalists succeed as entrepreneurs. Let’s talk 📩