Startups Lab in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA)

The International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) is partnering with Google News Initiative (GNI) to implement a Startups Lab to strengthen a culture of independent news media in the Middle East and North Africa. 

Over six months, sixteen news outlets will tackle specific business problems with support from GNI, ICFJ and leading industry experts. In addition to customized coaching, they will have the opportunity to receive a grant to advance key business goals.

The Startups Lab is open to early-stage digital news outlets who focus on public interest journalism, fill an information gap, reach underserved communities, serve a single subject community or are exploring new ways to deliver or monetize information. News organizations based in the following countries are eligible to apply: Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen. Expatriate Syrian organizations will also be considered.

Participants in the Lab will: 

  • Receive customized coaching related to their business goals
  • Implement specific steps to advance their goals
  • Learn from peers who face similar business problems

Applications for this program are open until January 12, 2023. 

You are welcome to apply if you:

Geographic Eligibility

  • Are serving audiences in the MENA region
  • Are based in or serving one of the following countries:
    • Algeria
    • Bahrain
    • Egypt
    • Iraq
    • Jordan
    • Kuwait
    • Lebanon
    • Libya
    • Morocco
    • Mauritania
    • Oman
    • Palestine, State of
    • Qatar
    • Saudi Arabia
    • Sudan
    • Tunisia
    • United Arab Emirates
    • Yemen

Newsroom Eligibility

  • Minimum of two full-time employee (FTE) journalists, up to a maximum of 20 FTE journalists.
  • Newsrooms focused on one or more of the following:
    • Public interest journalism
    • Filling an information gap
    • Serving a geographic-bound or single subject community
    • Serving an underserved community
    • Exploring new ways to deliver and/or monetize information
  • Have been producing original content for at least six months, but for no more than four years
  • Have a news product (website, newsletter, etc), with demonstrated traction via site visits, sign-ups, and/or earned revenue
  • You must be independently owned and operated (e.g. no government ownership in your organization)
  • You must not employ government officials or individuals that are also employed by government entities
  • Preferred: Entrepreneurs serving communities that don’t often see themselves or their stories reflected in their local news

Program Eligibility

  • Can read and write fluently in Arabic
  • Can assign a dedicated project manager responsible for ensuring your team attends all program and coaching sessions, and completes all assignments.
  • Can assign 2-5 team members to be involved at different points of the Lab
  • Commitment of 5-10 hours per team per week
  • Willingness to share business insights and collaborate with fellow news entrepreneurs
  • Not a Google employee or contractor
  • Who should apply?
    • Applicants that
      • Meet all eligibility criteria and are fluent in Arabic
      • Are for-profit or non-profit digital news organizations
      • Are registered or incorporated in one of the eligible geographies
      • Are seeking to develop the knowledge and skills necessary to operate and grow a digital news business
      • Are exploring a major strategic opportunity that can help them become more sustainable (journalistic impact, operational resilience and financial health)
      • Are not government-owned entities
    • The GNI Startups Lab MENA is run in partnership with the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ)."
  • How does the selection process work? 
    • Participants will be selected by Google staff in partnership with ICFJ.
    • We will review all applications and determine a cohort that can collaboratively work together and learn from each other to reach the Lab’s goals.
    • Google and/or ICFJ may request additional information via email regarding your application.
    • Lab finalists will be invited to a 20-minute interview to share more about their news organization. Interview attendees should include anyone who would participate in the Lab, and an executive sponsor to confirm your organization’s interest and commitment.
    • All applicants will be notified of selection decisions via email. Selected publishers will need to sign a participation agreement with Google.
  • How can I apply?
    • Application deadlines and links to apply are listed. You will be asked to provide relevant information about your organization and will need to accept Google's privacy policy.
    • We strongly recommend that you apply as soon as possible.
  • What information is required for my application?
    • The online application form contains information required to process your application. Please allow 20-30 minutes to complete the application.
  • Will every application be reviewed?
    • Yes, we will review all eligible applications received.
  • Who can I contact if I have questions?
    • Please email us at with any questions or for additional guidance on whether this program would be a good fit for your news organization.
  • What will you do with the information I submit?
    • Google will process any personal data you provide in connection with this application in accordance with our privacy policy.
    • Applicants may request to update, delete, or receive a copy of their responses by contacting
  • When will I hear back about my application?
    • You will receive an email from us within six weeks of the application deadline.
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