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Startups share results from Canada’s first “Digital News Innovation Challenge”

TORONTO, October 4, 2018 – The Facebook Journalism Project, in partnership with the DMZ and the Ryerson School of Journalism at FCAD (Faculty of Communication and Design) have announced the results of the “Digital News Innovation Challenge”. The program supported leading digital news ideas and early-stage tech companies from across the country to drive innovation in the digital news sectors

Launched in November 2017, five startups were selected for the five-month accelerator program at DMZ Sandbox, a talent and early-stage startup incubation space. Finalists gained access to senior growth mentors; exclusive workshops designed by leading experts in digital news; a free dedicated workspace in the heart of downtown Toronto; and the chance to work with influential investors, journalists, experts and researchers.

“By working with the Facebook Journalism Project and the Ryerson School of Journalism, we’ve been able to support high-potential, high-impact entrepreneurs develop solutions that are having a positive social or economic impact in the digital news space,” Abdullah Snobar, executive director, DMZ. “The program has helped eliminate barriers in order to drive innovation in Canadian journalism and support startups that are solving some of the toughest issues in the media industry.”

“Today’s pitches were exciting, urgent and incredibly innovative. It was amazing to hear the DNIC teams tell their stories in their own voices and share their tremendous success over the last five months,” said Asmaa Malik, assistant professor in the School of Journalism.”These startups are the future of news and it has been an honour to work with such passionate and forward-thinking teams.”

During the program, the Digital News Innovation Challenge finalists, who were eligible to receive up to $100,000 in seed capital and $50,000 in Facebook marketing budget, have:

  • Found product-market fit, launched their service and multiplied subscribers (The GIST increased readers by 560 per cent and Ground reached an audience of 15 million worldwide)
  • Increased the number of content creators for their platform (Trebble grew its content team from two to 50 people)
  • Exceeded their hiring goals (aside from hitting 100M page views a month, Readefined hired four new staff members)
  • Gained international recognition (The Sprawl’s new approach to journalism was featured in The Guardian in the U.K.)

“Supporting ideas that drive innovation for journalism is critical to building a sustainable news ecosystem and a more informed community. This is why we partnered with the DMZ and Ryerson School of Journalism to create the Digital News Innovation Challenge and invest in promising Canadian news startups. Whether they developed new business models to reach readers or built tools to improve news organizations’ abilities to deliver news to the right audience, the five startups in the program have all brought forth new ideas to help shape the digital media sector in Canada,” said Kevin Chan, head of public policy, Facebook Canada. “We thank all the founders for their passion and hard work and wish them all the best as they continue to build their startups.”


About the Facebook Journalism Project:

The Facebook Journalism Project was created in January 2017 to establish stronger ties between Facebook and the news industry. FJP is dedicated to ensuring high quality journalism thrives by delivering value through new products, partnerships with the news industry and programs. FJP works in three ways: collaborative development of new products; providing tools and trainings for journalists; and providing tools and trainings for people.

About the DMZ:

The DMZ is a leading tech accelerator headquartered in Toronto, Ontario that helps high-potential startups grow and scale to world-class businesses. Also supporting ideation and validation stage startups, the DMZ’s incubator program has been ranked number one in the world by UBI Global. Since 2010, the DMZ has helped 357 startups raise over $517 million and foster more than 3,431 jobs. For more information about the DMZ, visit

About the Ryerson School of Journalism at FCAD:

One of the top-ranked journalism schools in Canada, the Ryerson School of Journalism at FCAD has been educating journalists and pushing the boundaries of journalism for nearly seven decades. With highly experienced and award-winning faculty, state-of-the-art facilities, and close connections to industry, the RSJ is at the forefront of knowledge creation, practical change and hands-on learning for the future of journalism in Canada.
FCAD, the Faculty of Communication and Design, is Toronto Metropolitan University’s creative innovation hub. Home to nine of Canada’s premiere schools in media, communication and design, FCAD provides unique experiential programs in undergraduate and graduate study and is home to three entrepreneurial zones.

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