Goodable curates positive news that makes you calmer and healthier
What inspired you to start Goodable?
Muhammad spent most of his career reporting from war zones, starting in Canada as a national correspondent and then going on to become an International Correspondent with ABC and CNN. This includes averaging 100+ flights per year, with 2 Emmy/SAJA nominations for his work. One day he woke up and realized that instead of just covering the world’s problems, he wanted to help solve them instead. He began analyzing why news networks only covered negative stories, at the expense of positive ones. What he found was that users were hungry for emotionally satisfying content that empowered them to help others, but nobody was delivering it to them.
Muhammad left his high-profile job at CNN, where he had delivered hundreds of live reports from around the world and returned to Toronto with the idea of building a news platform that helps people. It was based on a simple idea: If news is one of the biggest drivers of depression in the world, why can’t the same mechanism be used to help people live happier, healthier lives?
Back in Toronto, Muhammad started to meet with investors to pitch his idea and get their feedback. Every investor gave him a meeting, most of them passed. At the time he had no idea how to build a company. He turned to what he knew: using social media to build an audience. When he left CNN, he reached around 200,000 impressions per month on his own. As soon as he shifted to only positive news, his reach skyrocketed. Today, Goodable regularly reaches an audience of more than 40+ million people per month. More importantly, people rely on Goodable to start their day, as a way of reducing the negativity in their lives.
Goodable approached building their startup differently. Instead of building a product, going to market, and fundraising, they decided to build a community first by connecting and engaging with their audience. The company also got into a great accelerator-style program called On Deck, which was a major turning point. It gave Muhammad access to mentors, founders, and investors in an active community. As Goodable’s growth began to explode, investors started asking to invest, including heavyweights from News and Entertainment.
Muhammad recruited a team, beginning with his long-time friend and former colleague Jonathan Vize, who he’d known for fifteen years and was one of Canada’s top newsroom leaders. Today, they have engineers, developers, and journalists who work side by side, delivering news that gives the world hope, joy, and relief from anxiety.
He shares the story of a Canadian woman whose father was bedridden with cancer. He used to read the news everyday but decided to stop because it was making him miserable. The woman decided to share Goodable with her father and encouraged him to scroll through their news feed. She told Goodable it was the first time she had seen her father smile in months. Stories like these are why Muhammad and his team are building Goodable as a wellness company that improves people’s lives.
Goodable’s focus on community led to explosive organic growth during the pandemic. They generated over 325 million impressions and 125 million video views, with more than 225,000 total followers in the last two years. They’ve now signed partnerships with Twitter, Google, and their content is available in 30,000 venues across America, from restaurants to gyms to doctor’s offices. They are now backed by a roster of A-list investors, including Goodwater, Google, On Deck, and several others.
How does Goodable curate its content?
Without giving away too many details, Goodable uses machine learning to filter negativity from your newsfeed, and replace it with content that helps you feel better, sleep better, and perform better.
Goodable also has an enterprise component with their enterprise subscription for employers. The team can design a news feed that can increase employee productivity and help with employee absenteeism and morale issues. They have found a way to make employees happy by providing them with positive and uplifting news that puts them in a good mood and wanting to come to work.
What are some of the key learnings you could share?
Every startup begins with a story. Make sure yours is a great one that leaves your audience wanting more.
First-time founders often don’t speak the same language as investors. Learn to speak their language. Find out what gets them excited and what they don’t like. This will help you when you’re asking them for funding.
As a founder, you should also get used to hearing 'no' often. Muhammad shares the story of a startup founder who decided to flip the psychology of hearing no. He decided that he wouldn’t be happy until he’s heard no at least 100 times. By his 50th 'no' he received his first check, but he decided to keep going because he set it out as a goal for himself. It’s about staying in the game and not tapping out.
He advises against focusing too much on all the startup success stories that you hear. Instead, the key is to stay focused, build your startup and share your story.
Lastly, Muhammad shares a personal learning which is to help as many people as you can. When you put goodness into the world, it will reward you and fuel you during tough times.
Is it fair to turn a blind eye to negative news?
Muhammad uses the example of a hypothetical town where all there is to eat is McDonald's. They’re in every neighborhood and there’s no other option. What happens in that town if you’re the first person to open up a Whole Foods? And what if you could offer it at the same price, and same distance, as McDonald’s? If you give people an equal choice between something that makes them happy and healthy versus something that makes them miserable, they will always choose what makes them happy. That is what Goodable is doing, they’re offering people a choice, providing them with an alternative to only negative news.
What was your biggest fear launching your startup and how did you overcome it?
Muhammad shares that he faced two obstacles. The first obstacle was leaving his job without any financial parachute to build up his company not knowing where his next paycheck would come from. That was one of the hardest things to overcome. The second obstacle was underestimating how hard it is to build a startup. He had friends growing up who took their startups from zero to eight figures in revenue, and today he deeply respects the sacrifices they made and courage they had to pursue their visions.
He now understands that being smart isn’t good enough. You still need a whole lot of luck and divine grace to succeed as well.
Could you share your most dramatic pivot and how valuable those pivots were?
In the beginning, the initial idea behind Goodable was to create a TV series and pitch it to Netflix, like Anthony Bourdain except searching the world for goodness. Muhammad and his team are experts at storytelling so they knew they could create a series, get paid, and sell the rights to a broadcaster. As long as the series was renewed they would be fine.
Their biggest pivot came right in the beginning, at the idea stage, when they realized Goodable could become a global category-defining company if they connected with the audience themselves. It’s a longer, harder road but the payoff is 100 times greater.
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