Founder spotlight

The importance of mentorship.

Harleen Kaur and Sukh Singh (BASc ‘12) of Ground News

When Sukh Singh (BASc ‘12) and Harleen Kaur joined Velocity, they had a solid idea, the software to back it and customer validation.

Amassing more than half a million downloads, their first product showed verified, real-time photos and videos from anywhere in the world. But users were really drawn to the real-time updates of news happening around the world.

“People were seeing updates on news stories that they weren’t seeing in mainstream media and, unlike social media, our technology made on-the-ground news verifiable,” said Kaur, who is CEO. “People are looking to make sense out of what’s happening in the world and better understand international news.”

Today, Ground News is a news aggregation platform that aims to improve access to news and temper polarizing perspectives. The direct-to-consumer app has tens of thousands of subscribers across the U.S., Canada and the U.K.

Kaur and Singh had this deep understanding of what the end user wanted. At Velocity they were pushed to think about how to monetize that sustainably.

“One of the problems with our original idea was how to monetize it,” said Singh, who is CTO. “We met with major news outlets like CNN in Atlanta and CBC here in Canada. They were interested in our tech but selling business-to-business didn’t work out. Deciding to sell direct-to-consumer is.”

He said discussions with mentors and advisors around monetization were difficult but came from a place of them wanting to see Ground News succeed. The team participated in specific business-to- consumer startup roundtables and had discussions with other startups selling directly to consumers.

“This camaraderie and mentorship became invaluable to Ground News,” Singh said. “We understand that what subscribers are willing to pay for is under our control: the end product that the user interacts with. And that is ultimately how misinformation can be dispelled.”

Kaur adds that right now the onus to verify news content is on readers, especially on social media.

“There’s so much noise in the news and high emotions. Sometimes you don’t know what to believe,” Kaur said. “Ground News verifies news and makes it understandable.”