InnovationFWD — an online publication primarily run by undergraduates that focuses on entrepreneurial pursuits — has launched one of its six sites at the University.
The publication was founded by Kevin Fung, a Yale graduate, and Vivek Katara, a current Yale sophomore.
When Fung was a student at Yale looking to expand his early stage startup, he struggled to learn more about innovation happening beyond his campus. “There was a real dearth of information on resources at other innovation hubs,” Fung said.
Since then, the site launched Jan. 15 and has a team of managing editors and writers at Brown and six other universities, including Harvard, Princeton and Stanford University.
InnovationFWD is meant “to identify promising early-stage startups and entrepreneurs and … report on their companies to the right audience at a national and global scale,” Fung said.
Brown’s two managing editors, Nick Faulkner ’20 and Annabel Strauss ’20, are “in charge of doing research (and) finding out what startups are out there” at Brown and affiliated organizations, such as entrepreneurial groups on campus, Strauss said. Faulkner and Strauss then assign articles to a member of InnovationFWD’s team of three writers at Brown.
Emily Skahill ’21, one of the writers that Strauss and Faulkner oversee, said that living in Silicon Valley fostered her interest in startups. Skahill, who expects to produce about two articles per month, said her goal for a “comprehensive article” is to highlight “the entrepreneur’s story and then how they got interested in what they’re doing and why they’re passionate about their product.”
“Our number one priority is quality journalism (and) accurate reporting,” Fung said. “We feel that a lot of what’s out there already doesn’t really do justice to the innovation that a lot of these incredible founders are coming up with.”
“There’s really nothing that kind of cuts through that noise to identify promising companies and share their stories to the right audience, whether that’s investors or influencers or customers,” Fung added.
So far, the site has received between 20,000 and 30,000 page views, Fung said, with a 24 percent return rate of users, “which means that there’s a lot of people who are interested in coming back to see the new articles we post,” Katara said.
The publication also produces a weekly newsletter, and its hundreds of subscribers receive a short email detailing one company and what InnovationFWD likes about it, Strauss said.
Currently, InnovationFWD is funded exclusively by its founders. “We’ve purposely not really pursued any kind of venture funding, yet, at least, because once you add venture funding to the equation, … we think it becomes a bit of a bias,” Fung said. “We want to stay as objective as long as possible at identifying cool companies and reporting on them.”
“Our long-term goal with InnovationFWD is to be the go-to source of information for early-stage companies on a global scale,” Faulkner said. The publication may be expanding beyond the United States soon, as Katara said that they “have connections to establish grassroots in China and London moving forward in the near future.”
While the publication currently focuses on universities, Fung noted that it’s important to them to “look outside of the Ivy League bubble” toward other innovation hubs, like accelerators such as Y Combinator or Techstars, which take place across the United States.
“Innovation is ubiquitous,” Katara said.