6 breakthrough startups set to disrupt the news industry

In April this year, Memeburn picked ten innovative Knight News Challenge entries that had the potential to propel the news industry forward. The “Networks” leg of the competition required entrants to innovate on top of existing social media and other services to create new ways for informing and engaging communities.

The Knight Foundation recently announced the winners of the first round at the MIT-Knight Civic Media Conference. The winning ventures will receive US$1.37-million in funding as well as support from the Knight Foundation’s network of peers and advisers.

The second round of the competition aims to spur innovation in its “Data” category. Startups are required to propose ideas for making sense — collecting, understanding, visualizing — of large amounts of data. Entries are currently open and winners will be announced in late September.

The Knight Foundation takes media innovation pretty seriously and has reviewed more than 13 000 applications and funded 80 projects for US$27-million over the competition’s six years. As the leading funder of journalism in the US, the foundation’s opinion is a pretty big deal, and so, without further ado, here are the six winning startups — of over a 1000 entries — that could dramatically enhance the quality and reliability of information shared within communities.


The Signalnoi.se dashboard tracks stories through social networks — how they emerge and spread — to figure out which stories resonate with readers. The project will help newsrooms make smarter editorial decisions about which stories get covered and promoted.

The startup will be receiving funding through the Knight Enterprise Fund, an early-stage venture fund that invests in for-profit ventures.


Watchup is an iPad app that helps users find, collect and interact with video news content. It speeds up the search for relevant content by offering a curated playlist that aggregates news reports into a simple interface.

Watchup will also be receiving funding through the Knight Enterprise Fund.


Recovers.org won a US$340 000 grant to help further the organisation’s service, which helps disaster stricken communities launch fully functional websites, turning the initial wave of international interest into money, volunteers and donation items for the affected area. When a town is ready, it takes over administration, and 100% of all resources collected go to the community.

Memeburn mentioned Recovers.org in its intial writeup.


Behavio received a US$355 000 grant to accelerate the development of its open source platform that turns phones into “smart sensors” of people’s real world behavior. From how people use their phones to how they communicate, Behavio can track and anonymously share things like video, movement, location and available light data. Users can then analyze, visualize and draw insights from that data.

Funding will be used to create tools for journalists that uncover trends in community data and to launch a mobile application that allows individuals to explore data about their lives.

Tor Project

Tor has been around for 10 years, helping users battle network surveillance that threatens personal freedom and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships.

With a US$320 000 grant, Tor will extend its service to tailor for journalists — often threatened by governments and criminal organizations. Tor will help journalists communicate more safely with sources through a secure Web browser, an anonymous upload utility and more.


Peepol.TV aims to connect people to breaking news events by aggregating live mobile video streams of networks such as Ustream into a searchable world map. The project will be useful for tracking a protest in an area, for example. The project received a US$360,000 grant.



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