The Knight News Challenge



The Knight News Challenge slogan: "You invent it. We fund it". ©

I've applied for a grant with the Knight Foundation. The Knight News Challenge is a contest that awards up to $5 million each year for innovate digital projects that have a geographical or local element. The business idea that I am pursuing fits the bill and, I've estimated, needs less than $200k to get going.

Although the application is very simple - less than 800 words in total - I've spent an inordinate amount of time on it over the last two months. Writing and redrafting, the process was similar to applying to business school. I believe tens of thousands of applications are made each year, from which a dozen to two dozen projects are eventually funded. The odds are not good, but I figure that it's worth a punt.

I debated whether to make my application under the "open" category, so people could view it and make comments on the Knight News Challenge website; ultimately I opted to apply under the "closed" category. Although seeding copy-cat competition is an issue, the main reason I've applied under the closed category is so I can manage my time. If I applied under the "open" category, I would need to undertake a large marketing effort to get it viewed by lots of people, rated highly and get good comments on it. I'm sure the Foundation will disagree, but social proof (or the lack of) is hard to not pay attention to. I feel my time is better invested actually looking for funding - this is after all why I am applying.

If I am successful in winning the funding that I am seeking, my project will be able to follow a utilitarian path - I will be able to concentrate on producing the best product possible, and it might just help improve the distribution of news in local areas. If I am unsuccessful, I will be relying on purely commercial funding and the focus of the product will likely have to focus on the distribution of news and marketing relating to commercial products.

Although it is a very small step, and potentially will not yield anything, I feel like I've taken my first step to starting a business out of business school. I can now concentrate on the next step.