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An Accelerator Looks To Fund Media That Matters And Makes Money

To change the media landscape, a new fund called Matter is giving money to media companies that can pair a sustainable business model with a mission of educating and informing.

Is your media startup the next Google, BuzzFeed, or Quora? If so, an accelerator program called Matter, with a broad definition of "media company," wants to give you $50,000—plus office space, community, mentorship and training—at a four-month program in San Francisco next spring. And while the entrepreneurial methods may be typical of Silicon Valley, the money bags are not: Rather than tech titans, it’s public media company KQED and journalism nonprofit the Knight Foundation who are turning over $2.5 million in venture capital, with the Public Radio Exchange (PRX), an online marketplace for public radio programming, providing additional support.

Fittingly, the goals of the project read like a commercial break on NPR. Accepted projects are intended to "change media for good" by combining financial sustainability with a goal of "building a more informed, connected, and empowered society." Matter will take a stake in the company, with the size depending on the company’s size and level of progress.

The project’s founders are a trio rooted in media (both new and old) and entrepreneurship: Corey Ford produced documentaries for PBS’s Frontline and ran the accelerator Runway, Jake Shapiro is the founding CEO of PRX, and Jigar Mehta is a Knight fellow who used to do video journalism at The New York Times.

The alliance of public media, new media, and startup entrepreneurship in itself feels innovative and intriguing: A public media company that owns a stake in a (potentially successful) startup is now your dad’s NPR. And while Matter is tied to nonprofit media, only for-profit ventures can participate in the Accelerator. "The innovation most needed in media is business model innovation and the best way to drive that innovation is by forcing ourselves and our companies to work within the constraints of for-profit entrepreneurship," they write on their website.

Teams of two to four people are encouraged to apply. The application is due on January 6, and the accepted teams will being the 4-month program in San Francisco on February 25.