A pioneering initiative will identify and invest $1.5 million in promising news media startups in Latin America and accelerate their efforts to grow into thriving businesses.
Called Velocidad (“Velocity” in English), the accelerator program will provide both funding and expert consulting for news startups operating in Latin America. Velocidad is funded by Luminate and run by the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) and SembraMedia.
“For news organizations across Latin America to continue providing quality journalism and critical checks and balances on power, they need support to accelerate the revenue growth that will sustain them,” said Felipe Estefan, Director, Investments and Latin America lead at Luminate, a part of the Omidyar Group. “Our ambition is that Velocidad will find and fund new digital news organizations across the region and surface successful models for others to emulate.”
Velocidad will provide news startups with more than 1,600 hours of consulting services. Experts will work closely with the final grantees to help ensure seed funding is invested in diversifying revenues, building more engaged audiences and, ultimately, developing more sustainable media businesses.
“Throughout Latin America, journalist-led news organizations routinely put readers, and even personal safety, ahead of profitability,” said Janine Warner, an ICFJ Knight Fellow and co-founder of SembraMedia. “We studied many other media accelerators before creating Velocidad, and there is nothing else in the region that provides such a broad range of direct investment, consulting support, training and knowledge-sharing for independent media in Latin America.”
The accelerator program comes at a time of explosive growth for digital news startups in the region: SembraMedia has identified more than 800 digital media outlets producing original content in Spanish. Journalists running independent startups often work in countries with economic and civic unrest, cope with collapsing business models, and fight relentless censorship and attacks.
“A variety of forces are undermining the ability of independent journalists to do their jobs,” said Joyce Barnathan, president of ICFJ. “The accelerator program aims to empower journalists with the know-how to run vibrant businesses that can finance top-notch news coverage in the public interest.”
Grantees will be chosen through a rigorous selection process. A total of 75 digital news outlets will move forward in the first round, 25 semifinalists will continue to the second, and eight to 10 will be chosen to receive investments. All semifinalists will receive a report with recommendations and a scholarship for full access to SembraMedia’s online school. Finalists will have ongoing access to in-depth audience metrics thanks to a partnership with Chartbeat.
While some digital media organizations in Latin America are building sustainable – and even profitable – businesses, the vast majority face financial challenges, research has shown.
SembraMedia’s Inflection Point report, published in English, Spanish and Portuguese, surveyed 100 digital news startups in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Mexico. It found that most lacked the resources to invest in business development, sales and marketing, even when they were attracting high enough traffic to drive significant ad revenue.
One of the goals of Velocidad is to help journalism entrepreneurs build stronger and more diverse teams. It also aims to provide the investment and consulting support these journalism entrepreneurs need to publish news with greater independence and impact for years to come.
Applications for the first round are now open and will be accepted until July 1. For more information, visit https://velocidad.fund.