Investing in Goodable.TV

Goodable.TV: Where good things happen. AKA Headspace for News.

Goodable.TV is a pre-seed technology company building an AI-powered application to deliver positive and inspiring news stories. The News Sucks. 90% of the news is driven by fear and negativity and > 40% of people currently suffer from anxiety and depression. While many wring their hands, Goodable is bringing technology and business model innovation which promises to deliver good news at scale. Goodable is not a media company, it is a technology company bringing advanced technology to the media market. Early beta traction is impressive (85,000 Fans) with very low CAC demonstrating strong consumer interest. This funding round builds infrastructure for public launch and securing distribution partnerships. We are investing alongside OnDeck and C-level angels from Reuters, LionsGate, Nextdoor, etc.

The Story

The human brain is wired to pay greater attention to negative signals. The news business knows this and exploits our fight or flight response to support their attention-based model. Reading the news you would not know that the data shows the world is getting much, much, much better. Like many, I have turned off the general news and rely on carefully curated feeds on specific topics. A couple of years ago my family and I started a gratitude practice at dinnertime. Everyone goes around the table and says what they are grateful for that day. Our own attempt to combat negative news and an endless, incomplete to-do list. It has changed the character of our days completely. It is amazing how 5 minutes of focus on the good can break the fight or flight response. Much more effective than another cat video. Occasionally I share some good news during gratitude (like the graphs above). It occurred to me that good news prompts could be helpful to many people battling the negative news-driven stress onslaught.

On Deck is a modern learning platform with aspirations to be “The Stanford of the Internet.” Earlier this year I was part of their Writing Fellowship (is it working?). I met Mohammad (Goodable CEO) who was in OnDeck’s flagship program for start-up founders during that fellowship. As he shared his vision, it struck a chord with me. Having seen a couple of efforts in this area before, my primary concern was how are they going to scale and make money with a business model that was exactly OPPOSITE of the entire current industry. Paul Graham recent wrote “Crazy New Ideas” in which he warns against dismissing implausible-sounding ideas from reasonable domain experts. I have also written about the power of a Counterintuitive thesis on investment returns. When you make a bet that most people think is crazy, and you are right, the rewards are outsized on the upside. I have found the trick to betting a counterintuitive thesis correctly is to find a credible team paired with some kind of unique insight and/or innovation that enables fundamental disruption.

Goodable has unique insight and is innovating in two areas that I believe will enable them to fundamentally disrupt a significant portion of news and attract customers at scale.

Technology innovation. There is good news out there, the problem is finding it and delivering it to the right people at the right time. Goodable deploys advanced AI with sentiment models to identify good news from hundreds of sources. Advanced categorization and tagging algorithms enable them to deliver targeted good news across geographies and interest areas to various customer segments across multiple devices. They have cracked the code for creating a structured good news database at scale.

Business Model innovation. While pre-revenue today, Goodable threw out the attention driven ad model and intends to monetize through:

  • Subscriptions. Community, enterprise, healthcare (to treat depression), and personal at an average of $5 per month per subscriber.
  • In-Platform transactions. Product purchases, donations and other calls to action to support good things in the news. Average 8% transaction fee.
  • Partnerships. Brands, OTT carriage partners and others will pay for good news feeds. Estimated at $1M+ per partnership.
  • No Reporters. Previous good news efforts have invested heavilly in original content prior to getting revenue scale and have typically run out of runway. Goodable’s tech based approach changes the business model in a very positive way.

The product is pre-MVP with a strong email list and following already from PR and the private beta. This is the first round of capital for the company and is oversubscribed. We have the opportunity through my OnDeck relationship and my personal passion for the category. I personally look forward to adding the good news feed to my information diet. Goodable’s technology and business model innovation could crack this nut which many are looking to consume.

Why I am Investing

I have personally experienced the value of adding a focus on good news. Mohammad has identified technology and business model innovations that have a good chance of disrupting the news model at scale. The technology innovation should allow Goodable to scale in a way prior efforts in this area have not. This is a solution that almost everyone I talk to wants and is not able to find. OnDeck sees a lot of company ideas through their Founder fellowship and only invests in a very select few. The validation from C-level angel investors in the business is another major vote of confidence. I am excited to be a very early supporter of this one.

Why this deal is Incisive

Goodable.TV ranks very highly in key areas of our Meta Themes.

Disruptive innovation creates new markets. The news business model is broken and is unlikely to be disrupted from the inside. Muhammad initially took his idea to CNN and they turned it down. Using AI sentiment and a new business model to deliver good news is just the kind of innovation that might work. What is the market size for good news today? What was the market size of ride sharing before Uber? What was the market size for digital contract signatures before Docusign (one of my early investments)? The innovation will create the opportunity for people to consumer good news at scale, a whole new market segment.

Americans are lazy. Today I have very little control over my news feed other than opting for various editorial filters (which have their own slants built-in). What if there were a “sentiment dial” on every feed that I could adjust to improve my mood during times of stress? That enables me to be lazy. Goodable is building the infrastructure for that.

Great founders figure it out. Goodable management has over 40 years combined journalism experience. They have first hand experience of being pushed toward fear based news as both a producer and consumer. Muhammad has spent over a decade trying to crack the good news problem. Recently with the maturation of AI sentiment technology and growth of paid news subscriptions, it is possible for Goodable to deliver on that vision. Given his platform and vision, the company has delivered a level of customer interest I rarely see at this stage of product development. Management is definitely figuring it out.

Software Eats Everything. Most news even online is basically broadcast pushed. Personalization algorithms are tuned for more attention not sentiment today. Goodable would not have been possible 5 years ago, the sentiment software was not good enough and no one was paying for news. Software advances in AI and content subscriptions and transaction software enable Goodable to deliver their product today. Sentiment software will enable further eating of the old broadcast and echo-chamber news models.

Invest when I can be helpful. Goodable is a product I want for myself and my family. I have a reasonable network with content sites and large news aggregators. I will spend an above average amount of time with this investment.

Invest with other smart people. Investing in an OnDeck graduate could be 10 years from now like investing in a Stanford graduate today. Their OnDeck fund is very selective in investments and their endorsement speaks volumes. When C-level executives from the companies soon to be disrupted (Reuters, etc.) invest, those are the smart people I want to be investing with.

Trends I am betting on

Personal Wellness/self-care. What good is meditating if you immediately get triggered from your Facebook feed? The pandemic has refocused most of us on the importance of wellness and self-care. I am betting this attention will extend to mental wellness and include some tactics for improving our information diet. Those who want to change their information diet today don’t have many choices. Like supermarkets in the 70s packed with processed foods. It was hard to find anything organic if you wanted to – it was not a choice available at scale.

Efficiency wins.. The need and desire for more good news have been around and recognized for a very long time. The problem has been the business model to deliver it at scale. Bad news simply sells better, especially in an ad-supported environment. Today’s AI technology enables good news to be found and delivered an order of magnitude cheaper than any time in history. There are additional ways to monetize attention today as well (subscriptions, transactions, sponsorships, etc.). If there is an efficient way to deliver something lots of people want, the value will be created.

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