Matter, A For-Profit Media Accelerator Backed By KQED, Knight And PRX, Debuts First Class

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Public broadcasters continue to face a lot of pressure as going concerns in the face of bigger overall pressure for the media industry, and like all media companies, they are looking towards a new generation of entrepreneurs for innovation. Those two trends are coming together in a new accelerator, San Francisco-based Matter, which debuts its first class of startups today.

Here’s the list:

ChannelMeter – A video analytics platform for publishers and brands “focused on maximizing and engaging their audiences in online video.”

InkFold – A startup with the aim to “develop opinions around the news in order to challenge them.”

OpenWatch – “Investigative network for creating a just society through radical transparency.”

SpokenLayer – “Bringing human voice to the best of the written web.”

Station Creator – Crowdsourced TV: “Democratizing television through a platform where anyone can distribute their own 24-hour broadcast station online.”

Zeega – Interactive storytelling “for a future beyond blogs.”

Matter was a long time in materializing. We first wrote about the project almost a year ago to the day, when it was called the Public Media Accelerator and had just appointed Corey Ford from Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors to run it, after receiving funding commitments from the Knight Foundation and PRX, the Public Radio Exchange. Ford and founding partner Jake Shapiro were just preparing to go to SXSW to check out startups for the program.

Fast forward a year, and the group has now rebranded as Matter, added another major backer in the form of San Francisco public broadcaster KQED, taken digs in SF (space pictured here) and switched over to a for-profit status to run things.

According Shapiro, the move to for-profit status from non-profit was to make sure that both those involved with Matter, including the startups themselves, knew that “everyone had skin in the game,” while still holding on to some of the ethos of public broadcasting and the wider remit of serving a public good.

“We wanted to see if we could construct and accelerator focused on the mission of public broadcasting, while still making sure that we could advocate success within the full model of entrepreneurship today,” he said in an interview earlier.

Indeed, Matter seems to be part of a bigger, if latent, trend in the world of startups that are focused on trying to bring more “do good” mentality closer to the center of tech innovation. Rally.org, the crowdfunding platform for causes, is another example. The BBC’s accelerator activities in the UK is another.

While Shapiro believes that bringing the public media ethos to startups could help shape the way they develop their business, this is also about bringing more exciting ideas to old media. “There is this huge engine in entrepreneurship and innovation that is happening, some of which has been out of reach for public media, given our funding structures and ecosystem,” said Shapiro, who himself comes from the Public Radio Exchange. “It’s more about tapping into innovation rather than changing corporate tax structure. There is an enormous amount to be learned.”

Turning away from non-profit should not be viewed as Matter outright rejecting the role that non-profits can play in innovation, either. “We’re huge admirers of what Mozilla and Wikpedia have done on the internet, and we know you can achieve huge scale,” Shapiro said. He notes that groups like the Knight Foundation continue to have a number of programs that are still run as non-profits that also give out funding to startups.

So far the proof has been in the pudding. Shapiro said that Matter received “hundreds” of applications for their grants, each totalling $50,000, along with mentoring and workspace in downtown SF. The final group of six, with founders coming from areas as diverse as Apple (former engineers), digital video, open source and media veterans, will show off their goods on a demo day June 13.