Squirrel News is a curated service for solutions-oriented news
Please introduce yourself and your startup Squirrel News to our readers!
I’m Jonathan, and I founded Squirrel News last year. Prior to this, I studied political science and sociology, wrote as a freelance journalist for major German newspapers, and worked for several years in Berlin media startups.
Squirrel News is a curated service for solutions-oriented news. Supported by a non-profit organisation, our editorial team collects the most important constructive news stories, interviews and videos from the international media landscape. The selection is available free of charge via app, website and newsletter.
How did you get the idea of Squirrel News?
It was a gradual process and the result of several developments, the main one being the rise of constructive journalism as a countermovement to solely problem-focused reporting. There’s also the current overload of information, which makes it difficult to navigate through for readers, and there are many different alternatives coming up these days trying to tackle those two problems.
At a previous job I had the opportunity to try around a few approaches in this area. When my role there ended, I asked myself what I would like to do in the coming years, and, by that time, my vision of Squirrel News had become more and more concrete.
Why did you decide to start with Squirrel News?
I had already enjoyed working in startups in the past, but I was never a founder myself before Squirrel News. Last year, I reached a point where I wanted (and had to) think freely about my future. It then became clear that I wanted to try Squirrel News, something I hoped would last for a long time.
What is the vision behind Squirrel News?
Our vision is a world in which people are as well informed about the opportunities, potential and progress in the world as they are about the downsides.
How difficult was the start and which challenges you had to overcome?
A very big challenge was and still is the financing – or more precisely the fact that we started without any significant capital. On this basis, getting a team of 10 or more people together and bringing demanding technical projects like a mobile app to fruition is not that easy. On top of that, you always underestimate how long everything takes. In the future, we hope to finance ourselves mainly through voluntary small donations. This has already started off quite well, but it still has to grow.
Who is your target audience?
Basically, we want to be there for everyone: young and old, men and women, locals and immigrants. However, the sources we curate might limit that a bit. For example, we refrain from using any stories from tabloid media outlets, which could have an impact on our readership. We also presuppose a certain framework of values – human rights, science, and so on. Anyone who denies climate change, believes in QAnon or wants to abolish democracy is unlikely to be too happy with us. But at the same time, our news might be even interesting for those groups, as they help to constructively connect with society and to find meaning in the world.
What is the USP of your startup?
Squirrel News has two great strengths: on the one hand, it draws attention to positive developments, social innovations – new ideas and solutions to social challenges that often inspire and fall short in most media. On the other hand, Squirrel News also helps to combat the constant information overload: by carefully selecting comparatively few articles, we create a compact reading experience which also stops at some point, unlike the timelines of many social media platforms. If you consider our selection process concerning new stories, we’re quite unique in that aspect.
Can you describe your typical workday ?
Currently, three days per week are mainly dedicated to producing new issues – collecting news stories, discussing their impact and quality, writing headlines, teasers and so on. The rest of the time – especially on the two days that are left – I handle everything else – administrative issues, calls with our developers, or brainstorming new ideas for PR and marketing.
Where do you see yourself and your startup Squirrel News in five years?
By then, we hope to have established ourselves and become a trusted source of information for many people all over the world.
What 3 tips would you give to founders?
1. Only start projecta that you are really passionate about. 2. Question whether or not your approach can really give people something they need and that helps them. 3. Do some other things from time to time. It’s not that easy to free your mind from your own project.
Thank you Jonathan Widder for the Interview
Statements of the author and the interviewee do not necessarily represent the editors and the publisher opinion again.