créditos: Mariana Smania

How New Ventures Lab shaped the future of women in media

Diana Assennato
Chicas Poderosas
7 min readSep 30, 2019

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The end of an acceleration process is never at the end of the program. It takes time to let everything settle in and make sense. A couple of months away from the New Ventures Lab #2, we are ready to share some insights, results and inspiration.

I was invited to participate as a project manager for the second half of an acceleration program called New Ventures Lab. The focus of the program is to boost independent women-led media projects from Latin America through training and mentoring, with a global network of professional experts in their fields.

The program is offered by a global organization called Chicas Poderosas, which promotes gender equality in the media industry by tackling two main aspects of the problem:

  1. underrepresentation of women in media (as leaders and entrepreneurs)
  2. misinformation created from biased perspectives (more voices need to be heard)

Luckily, I was accelerated by this same program in its first edition, and I can say it changed my business and my vision of myself as an entrepreneur and a journalist. I wish all women could experience this type of knowledge transfer and collaboration. Because of the impact the program had in my life, I am now one of the Brazilian Ambassadors of Chicas Poderosas.

One thing we have learned from these two editions, is that when small teams of journalists want to innovate and play as independent media organizations, the challenges can be pretty big. Sometimes we see these women leaders struggling to continue to focus their attention and energy into their reporting and investigative work, because they need to be focused on running a company, complying with taxes, managing and paying teams, creating strategies and building a pipeline of projects. On top of that, we saw many cases of burnouts compromising their mental health, their physical health and their business’s.

New Ventures Lab

3 DESIGN SPRINTS in 3 cities

30 Women leaders and 1 man from 3 countries: Brazil, Mexico and Argentina

8 Projects / 8 dedicated mentors

20 weeks of training over 176 hours of training offered by 81 dedicated mentors specialists from the media and innovation industry

73 mentors/sessions

4 collaborative projects were already born between teams

This year, eight innovative projects focused on gender, media literacy, sexuality and fact-checking were selected to receive mentorship and training over 20 weeks. Throughout the program, the women media leaders from Mexico, Argentina and Brazil were provided with training and hands-on experience developing business models, project management and innovation. Our mentors included a wide range of experts in media and business for social impact from around the world. Check them out.

To attract these talented mentees, Chicas Poderosas repeated the design sprints that were already extremely successful in 2018.

Human Centered Design

Prior to the start of the New Ventures Lab, Chicas Poderosas held one-day design sprints in three locations in Brazil. The purpose was to introduce how human-centered design can be applied to journalism and media, as a tool for addressing new business design and development, especially when evaluating new products or services against audience engagement, distribution and revenue. Human-centered design (HCD) is at the core of the process used throughout the accelerator with the New Ventures Lab teams.

In each of these sprints, participants were provided with an introduction to the accelerator and the application process. Two of the teams selected to join the program were cultivated via the design sprints. Check here for the blog post Chicas published about the Design Sprints, or check our video.

The Cohort

In this blogpost you check each project more deeply, but for now let's hear from them:

The first and most important step was to understand where we wanted to go. The biggest challenge then was to realize we were a start-up., created by passionate journalists, not business people. We are dedicated and inspired writers, researchers, and we’re inherently stories-oriented, but we need to discover our value and how to structure the team. We had to reboot our brains and start thinking as business owners. NVL brought a new mindset and perspective to me as a leader and to my organization as a whole. Before that I was either paralyzed or starting a million tasks at the same time. I didn’t know what were the real priorities for my business, without a clear vision.

Maria Vitória Ramos, Fiquem Sabendo

For us, NVL was important to get us out of isolation mode. With an overloaded staff, we were too focused on delivering our daily work, without relating to other women and organizations who were developing similar projects to ours. Being in contact with other leaders in the area of media and business was very important for us to position ourselves, to better understand what we were doing and to gain more confidence in the business.

Carolina Oms, AzMina

NVL also provided us with the tools and mentors to elaborate our business model, to get to know the market and to develop sustainable models. In addition, it was fundamental in bringing us closer to other independent media makers, which not only refreshed our ideas but also inspired us and allowed us to develop joint actions. It is also important to highlight the role of mentoring: the guidance of Dani Arrais, our mentor, brought new air, spirit and inspiration to our work.

Leila Salim — Eté Checagem

(…) after five years as a Chica Poderosa, I see myself as a change agent and I am ready for the challenge. Prior to joining Chicas, I was an out-of-work magazine art director trying to figure out what I was doing. In the NVL, I learned about media innovation, design sprints, agile development, user research, product strategy, storytelling, pitching, project management and so much more.

Mariana Ochs, MediaMakers

The program

Improving from 2018, this year’s program ran for 20 weeks with three scheduled in-person sessions in São Paulo, Brazil, and a virtual schedule of sessions over the remaining weeks. The in-person sessions developed the cohort as a cohesive working group and provided programming and skill-building in different areas.

First week (14 to 18 of January)

This week was designed to offer a foundation for the teams to start thinking about:

  1. Their business models
  2. First challenges as a startup
  3. Creativity and leadership

Check out our video:

Our team of mentors provoked the teams to take a step back and zoom out to understand the context of the media industry and its future. They shared a clear vision with the mentees about how their work is impacting the world, but with a realistic perception on how to survive the first years and develop sustainably.

Mentors included talents from all around the journalism/media world including lawyers, publicists, designers, publishers, community builders, influencers, growth hackers and project managers with large personal networks and strong presence across social media channels.

Second week (25 to 29 of March)

This week focused on hot to build pitches and understand the community. The team was pushed to ask better questions, doubt and challenge previous models and imagine different scenarios and featured more intense training in:

  1. Community and engagement
  2. Pitching
  3. Team-building and leadership

Mentors included journalists, entrepreneurs, consultants, startup CEOs and actors from Brazil, Argentina, France and Portugal .Check out the video:

Third week (3 to 7 of July)

This week was showtime, a stage to present all projects to investors. During the last week, the teams had the opportunity to refine their pitches through further mentoring on presentation, body language and “money talk.” They had to calculate how much funding they required in their pitch based on the project’s impact. This experience allowed participants to dive deeper into the numbers and improve their familiarity and confidence with financial management. The main goal for the week was:

  1. A solid business model
  2. A killer pitch

Check the wrap up video about the experience of the women led teams:

For the pitch day, each group had three minutes to detail the problem they were addressing, how many people it affected, their target audience, the solution they were trying to develop and the impact they projected:

Takeways

The New Ventures Lab experience was incredibly emotional, rewarding and most of all, impactful. This cohort delivered on all of the mentors’ high expectations and resulted in the establishment of eight women-led independent media/news organizations. While already respected journalists and media makers in their own right, the NVL provided the teams with the extra “push” — training, skills, collaborators, knowledge, confidence, sisterhood, etc. — to move them forward in their careers, but to also inspire them to keep creating and producing.

We are proud that this second iteration of the NVL resulted in putting front and center unaddressed or misrepresented issues in their regions of the world with high-quality and original journalism.

With all the lessons learned during these 2 years, we understood that community comes first. Always. We want to be more and more relevant to women in media, and to address with them a set of needs we have identified in journalism and the media landscape.

Buckle up, we will be back with news pretty soon. Meanwhile, vida longa ao jornalismo.

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Diana Assennato
Chicas Poderosas

Curious/critic on tech, new mediums and digital humanities.