Project Liberty, the incubator program at the Philly newspapers that once housed Philly companies like VUID, ROAR and SocialLadder, is back on the hunt for startups.
The joint venture between the Philadelphia Media Network (parent company to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Daily News and Philly.com) and Ben Franklin Technology Partners issued a call for Philly startups to join the six-month program. Apply by Feb. 10.
The incubator kicked off in 2011 with an initial $250,000 grant from the Knight Foundation. In 2013, the grant was renewed and upped to $345,000. However, this year, (and from here on out) Ben Franklin and PMN will be footing the bill, said Ben Franklin’s Jason Bannon.
Interestingly, though Greg Osberg, the Philadelphia Media Network ex-CEO who launched the program, has long since left the company, the incubator lives on. (Remember back when the incubator started and some employees were unhappy about the paper “giving free rent to startups who play ping pong on the 5th floor”?)
Although the incubator does not invest capital into the startup companies, they’re eligible to access capital, counsel and connections available through Ben Franklin. That indeed happens: companies like SnipSnap, Cloudmine and Milkcrate have gotten funding from the state-backed investment firm.
Per ImpactPHL’s Cory Donovan, the project’s manager, the incubator is seeking tech companies that can offer products to support PMN’s efficiency and help connect with communities and subscribers.
“The Philadelphia Media Network is pleased to welcome another group of start-ups to our home and to our mission,” said Terry Egger, PMN’s publisher and CEO, in a press release. “We are especially excited about young companies that address the opportunities to create, distribute, and monetize independent local journalism in the digital age. Both our business and our times demand it.”
In the press release, Josh David, CEO of mobile sales platform SETVI and 2014 incubator entrant, said the program was key to the company’s growth at that early stage.
“When we started at Project Liberty, we were a fledgling startup,” David said. “The program provided us with an opportunity to deploy an early version of our product into a real world environment and get feedback from a potential customer and users.”