Grow your digital news startup with us!

Created in partnership between the Google News Initiative (GNI), global innovation lab Echos, and DIGIPUB News India Foundation – the GNI Startups Lab India program supports high-quality reporting for local communities, single-topic audiences and/or previously underserved communities across India. 

Are you an early stage online news organisation creating original digital content? 

GNI, Echos and DIGIPUB have built a 16-week program specifically tailored to the needs of content startups in India. You will benefit from Echos' experience in supporting media startups through design thinking and from DIGIPUB's extensive network and active community in India: there will be workshops, coaching and high-profile networking opportunities.

Applications for the 2021 GNI Startups Lab India are now open. If you are an existing news founder or part of an early-stage digital news organisation, then we want to hear from you!  


What is GNI Startups Lab?

The GNI Startups Lab India aims to help journalistic startups better understand their audiences, create higher quality content (text, audio and/or video) and navigate the pitfalls of monetisation. At the end of the program, you will have improved your capabilities to sustainably provide your audience with high quality journalism.

Journalism first: A program designed for those who bring great stories, breakthrough reporting and valuable services to their communities

In partnership with the  GNI, we make sure all participants have access to a budget to fund revenue-generating experiments

Great coaches help you get to where you should be - with advice tailored exactly to your needs

Available to early stage news organisations all across India

Huge international network of mentors, experts and talent

Who will love this program

If you want to hone the necessary skills to grow a digital news business, are committed to public-service-reporting and want to explore a major strategic opportunity in digital media, you and your team are just who we are looking for! We are especially interested in entrepreneurs who want to serve communities that don’t often see themselves or their stories reflected in their local news.

This program will bridge the gap between entrepreneurs and reporters, so that the former can appreciate the content while the latter can understand the importance of financial sustainability.

The program will consist of three phases:

The Product Development Phase starts in November 2021. You will learn how to develop your customer base further, how to refine your content strategy and how to utilise a variety of innovation methods.

The Growth & Marketing Phase in January 2022 will support you in matters such as visibility, business acumen and leadership.

The final Finance & Investment Phase in February 2022 will help you grow your startup to the next level by working with topics ranging from team building to sustainability and financial viability.

All phases will be fully remote and mostly held via live video calls with mentors and experts, giving you and your team the opportunity to boost your product and business through Design Thinking. The program will conclude with a celebratory Demo Day.

GNI Startups Lab INDIA timeline

Applications close on 18 October, 2021 - 11:59PM IST.

Application Window
Sep 8th - Oct 18th, 2021

The period when startups must send their application.

Participants Announcement
Week of November 8th, 2021

Disclosure of selected startups for the program.

Program Onboarding
November 22nd, 2021

Program launch for selected participants.

Program Conclusion
March 25th, 2022

Present your final results and receive actionable feedback from a panel of experts.

Please note: all dates are subject to change.

All applicants are required to fill out the application form below:

Q&A session recording

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does the program cost?

The Google News Initiative will cover all program costs, meaning the Lab is completely free of charge for all participants. We do not charge a fee or take any equity. All you need to contribute is your time and energy.

Who is the program for?

The programme is for founders and teams producing journalistic digital content who want to 

  • Develop the knowledge and skills necessary to operate and grow a digital news business
  • Explore a major strategic opportunity, which can help you become more sustainable. Sustainability in the context of this programme is defined as the union of journalistic impact, operational resilience and financial health
  • You’re committed to public-service reporting with communities, not on communities
  • You’re committed to making your business idea financially sustainable as quickly as possible
  • You or your team are able to commit approx. 8-16 hours per week for four months to meeting coaches and trainers, as well as completing remote coursework.

We are especially interested in entrepreneurs who want to serve communities that don’t often see themselves or their stories reflected in their local news.

Which startups are eligible?

Please consider applying if you:

  • Are based in India
  • Are independently owned and operated
  • Produce original content that is primarily available on a digital platform(s) 
  • Have an existing news product and website, which has demonstrated traction via site visits, signups and/ or earned revenue
  • Have been operating for at least six months but no longer than 5 years
  • Earn less than $350,000 (or 26M INR) per year in gross revenue
  • Can demonstrate some successes on the path to sustainability. Examples include increased site visits, a growing membership program or increased earned revenue.  
  • Focus on one or more of the following:
    • Public interest journalism
    • Closing an information gap
    • Serving a geographic-bound or single subject community
    • Serving an underserved community
    • Exploring new ways to deliver and/or monetise information
  • Are willing to share business insights and collaborate with fellow news entrepreneurs
How many participants will there be?

The program will give 10 news startup teams from across India the opportunity to participate.

Where will the program be held?

The entire program will be held remotely, using video conferencing tools like Google Meet, and collaboration tools such as Miro and Thinkific.

What is the format of the program?

The programme will consist of remote group events where key themes will be shared and discussed between experts and participants. In addition, each two weeks there will be 1:1 sessions with each startup, when your specific challenges and goals can be tackled with the help of mentors.

Which language will the program be held in?

All workshops and 1:1 coaching sessions will be held in English. That being said, we welcome applications from news startups publishing in all Indian languages.

How much time will I need to invest?

You or your team should be able to commit at least 8 to 16 hours per week for the duration of the 16-week programme to meet with coaches and trainers, complete remote-live and asynchronous coursework and drive your project. 

How do I apply?

All applicants are required to fill out our application form, answer all questions and upload a pitch deck in English, if they want. You can find the application form here. 10 applicants will be selected to be part of the program.

Does applying for the GNI Startups Lab preclude me from applying for other GNI-related programs?

No, it doesn’t. You should apply to whatever opportunities are best suited for you at this moment –– applying to multiple ones will not help or hurt your chances of being selected. We do, however, ask you to disclose existing sources of funding during the application process.

What if I’m not ready to apply for the program right now? Will there be future opportunities to work with GNI Startups Lab India?

We can’t guarantee that yet, since this is a pilot. Each of the partners organising GNI Startups Lab India are experienced players in the support of startups, and each is committed to offering more iterations of the GNI Startups Lab or similar programs, should the opportunity arise. 

If I already submitted my application, but then need to update my submission, how do I submit an updated application?

You will be able to edit your submission until the end of the application period.

I have more questions! Who can I talk to?

For all questions regarding the program or the application process, please contact Echos Program Manager Igor Casenote at Also, check this site and Echos' social media for time & date updates.

GNI Startups Lab is a collaboration

The Google News Initiative is Google’s effort to work with the news industry to help journalism thrive in the digital age. Our efforts focus on three pillars: working with the news industry to evolve their business models and drive sustainable growth, elevating quality journalism and empowering news organizations with new technology. 

Echos is a global innovation lab driven by design. Our mission is to elevate the potential of design: shaping the next generation of innovators; designing futures; transforming realities.

Since 2011 Echos has been developing learning experiences and consulting projects for people and organizations, accelerating the construction of what is technically challenging, financially scalable and, above all, desirable for people.

The DIGIPUB News India Foundation has been formed by digital media organisations with the intent to help ensure the creation of a healthy and robust news ecosystem for the digital age. The aim is to build a platform that represents digital news media organisations, with its membership open to digital-only ventures, as well as media commentators and independent journalists active in the digital news space. Learn more about becoming a member.

Don't miss the deadline: apply now!


GNI Startups Lab India 2021 Finalists

We are thrilled to announce the 10 news startups that will be joining the GNI Startups Lab India program.

Click on the button below to learn more about the finalists.