Entrepreneurs, Google News Lab, and the Great Reimagining of News

Credit: Hacks/Hackers

Hacks/Hackers, a group of entrepreneurs, journalists, designers, and developers around the world, is partnering with Google News Lab to host Hacks/Hackers Connect events in a half dozen cities in the U.S. and abroad.

The first Connect in North America was held at Runway Incubator in San Francisco this past weekend. Connect comes to New York and London next month.

For the second year in a row, Google is a more trusted source for news than the news organizations it aggregates, so maybe it’s fitting that journalists work more closely with Google.

Media entrepreneurs are underserved today, said Ryan Bruno, head of emerging partnerships at Google News Lab. That needs to change, he said. “The next app to get me my groceries seems to be thriving but what about the ecosystem for media entrepreneurship?”

There were product demonstrations and lightning round networking but the majority of time was spent running ideas through the lean canvas creation process to critique, challenge, and strengthen startups. Companies put through the exercise ranged from an OKCupid for politics to a Rap Genius for quality news.

Several of the mentors there to help media entrepreneurs have built innovative and successful media brands in the last decade, including representatives from Vox Media, Medium, the Center for Investigative Reporting, and NewCo.

Investors were also on hand to listen to ideas and field questions.

Charles Hudson, a partner at SoftTech VC, created the pre-seed investment firm Precursor Ventures last October. He said, “Tech media is a pretty narrow vertical but I think you can apply that model to areas much more broadly, whether it’s celebrity, sports, entertainment.”

Corey Ford is Managing Partner at Matter. Ford’s firm has helped launch dozens of media businesses within the last few years. The company also hosts intrapreneurs from AP, Tribune Publishing, and other established media.

Demo Day for Matter’s fifth class of startups was last month. It included virtual reality storytelling platform Metta VR (which went through half a dozen pivots and iterations at Matter) and Motherly, an app that offers community and personalized news and advice to Millennial moms.

“Now is the time for lots and lots of experiments so we built Matter to be a place for those experiments to happen,” he told a crowd of more than 100 at Demo Day, where he pointed to Marc Andreessen’s prediction that media industry will grow 10x to 100x in the coming years.

Citing ad blockers, the newspaper nose dive, and print dollars turning into digital dimes, you can argue that the future of the business of news is not bright, but this is the most exciting and terrifying time in the history of journalism. There’s so much to fix and build and so many ways to reimagine how we get and produce the news.

That’s probably why there was much more optimism in the room this weekend than pessimism.

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Photo Credit: Hacks/Hackers