NYU Partners With StartEd to Accelerate Next Generation of Media Companies


March 10, 2021


Business, Education


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(NEW YORK) — New York University’s American Journalism Online Master’s program and public-benefit company StartEd have joined forces to create an accelerator for modern media startups. The accelerator has accepted ten companies led by an international group of founders–60% of whom are people of color.

NYU and StartEd forged the partnership to address the steep learning curve startup founders face as they break into the media industry.

Even in the best of times, most startups fail—but a savvy founder can improve their odds by learning from successful entrepreneurs. Founders in the new accelerator will offer presentations of their companies, talk about product-market fit, share their marketing plans, and learn from others who have overcome the obstacles that virtually every media and tech startup confront. They will meet industry experts from companies such as Mic, Oculus Rift, Verizon 5G Labs, and Vox Media.

”Being a part of this program really allows us the ability to talk to people who have built amazing products–and I can learn from their mistakes,” says DeShuna Spencer, founder of the Black stories-focused streaming service KweliTV and a participant in the spring cohort.

In a traditional accelerator, investors typically ask for an equity stake in a participating company in exchange for access to resources or funding. But the New Media Hyper Accelerator doesn’t require founders to forgo equity, nor does it require a fee. The entire cost has been subsidized, underwritten by StartEd and NYU’s American Journalism Online Master’s Program, along with a contribution from the Knight Foundation.

You can’t beat free, and participating entrepreneurs agree. The accelerator’s unique level of support has great appeal.

“What’s important to me is controlling ownership of the company without having an accelerator or an entity force us to sell or force us to be acquired,” KweliTV’s Spencer says. “That leaves pressure off of us to not worry about what’s going to be someone’s exit versus build an amazing product.”

StartEd, a for-profit focused on social change, was founded in 2015 by serial entrepreneurs Jonathan Harber and Ash Kaluarachchi, and has orchestrated hundreds of accelerators across the country. The organization has helped fund and mentor thousands of companies focused on building technology to solve education problems. The American Journalism Online Master’s program, led by veteran tech journalist and author Adam Penenberg, was launched in 2019 and currently enrolls 74 students.

At first blush, it might seem that an accelerator and an online master’s in journalism program would make for strange bedfellows. But to Kaluarachchi it makes perfect sense.

“There’s a lot of focus on storytelling and the craft of extracting the information and formulating it in a way that is compelling,” Kaluarachchi says.

Students in the online M.A. program’s Media Startups & Innovation course also reap the benefits of the accelerator. They have the opportunity to write articles and case studies on the participating companies, gaining a bird’s-eye view of an up-and-coming startup’s inner workings.

The New Media Hyper Accelerator at NYU is scheduled to run twice a year, but Kaluarachchi hopes it will grow so that accelerator alumni will have access to a support group that extends far beyond the five-day program.

“[StartEd’s] focus over the last decade has been to bring people, organizations, and funders together to improve the opportunities and outcomes in the global education and workforce community,” says Kaluarachchi. “As the world now learns about itself by interacting with the media, it’s the right time to ensure that the next generation of media innovators move us forward with our collective good in mind.”

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