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Cox And Its Board Member Tripp Rackley Launch $250M Fund To Build And Back Startups

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Cox Enterprises is perhaps best known for its holdings in areas thought of as “old media” — radio and TV stations and newspapers at Cox Media; cable and telephone services at Cox Communications — but today it made a move to tap into the rise of disruptive technology and startup culture. It’s launching a $250 million fund, which will be led by board member and serial entrepreneur Tripp Rackley, to “invest directly and exclusively in companies created by Rackley.” The fund will be managed as its own business independent of Cox, the company said, and it will be the sole investor in any projects that come out of the fund. Potentially more money will be added to the pot over time, TechCrunch understands.

Rackley has a track record in building tech startups that have had successful exits. The most notable ones have been in the enterprise sector, specifically in financial services — nFront, now part of Intuit; and Firethorn, now part of Qualcomm. He’s built his career in Georgia, and the new fund, as well as the new businesses, will continue to be based out of Atlanta — although the aim is to develop startups with national and international reach. Rackley is working with a team of 15 people.

“This significant investment from Cox Enterprises creates a platform to develop the companies and industries of the future,” said Rackley in a statement. “My entire career has been focused on building businesses one by one, but now, we will be able to deploy our efforts simultaneously into an array of companies to drive innovation and long-term value creation.”

The idea for the new fund came both from Rackley himself as well as Jim Kennedy, chairman of Cox Enterprises, who saw an opportunity to spur innovation in Atlanta. “Tripp felt that with a strong team and the right resources, he could create a completely new model to fund new businesses and focus on creating innovation that does not exist,” a source said.  Atlanta already has an established tech scene — it is the home to Blinq, a social ad firm acquired by Gannett last year, as well as social media marketing firm Vitrue, acquired by Oracle.

Another part of the goal here, it seems, is to use some of what gets created to inject some more innovation into Cox itself. The first company to be funded out of the fund is called Experience, an app that lets people upgrade their seats at sporting and other live events. Cox says it’s already being used by some 20 professional and collegiate sports teams in the U.S. across some 200 events to date.

That makes it look like fund could be dedicated to startups that are in some way adjacent to the media business for which Cox is already known — the privately-held company says it made revenues of almost $15 billion last year. But TechCrunch understands that with the fund fully independent of Cox, it doesn’t have specific parameters or limits to what kinds of companies might get funded — as long as the focus is on technology. Rackley told Bloomberg that he expects between 5 and 10 startups to come out of the fund covering media, security, mobile commerce and payments.

Full release below.

Cox Enterprises and Renowned Entrepreneur Tripp Rackley Create Quarter Billion Dollar Partnership

Partnership to invest exclusively in companies created and led by Rackley

ATLANTA – January 16, 2013 – Cox Enterprises, Inc. today announced the company is investing $250 million with entrepreneur and technology innovator Tripp Rackley. The investment creates an exclusive partnership with Rackley as he further develops cutting-edge technology businesses and leverages his proven history of success creating and growing high-value companies.

“Cox Enterprises has a long history of growing innovative businesses and creating new industries, and this partnership with Tripp marks an exciting way to revolutionize innovation,” said Jim Kennedy, Chairman, Cox Enterprises.

“This significant investment from Cox Enterprises creates a platform to develop the companies and industries of the future,” said Rackley. “My entire career has been focused on building businesses one by one, but now, we will be able to deploy our efforts simultaneously into an array of companies to drive innovation and long-term value creation. ”

Kennedy continued, “For several years we’ve observed Tripp’s success as an entrepreneur and recruited him to our Board of Directors because of that sterling track record. We’re thrilled to partner with him on this exciting new venture so that together we can build and grow the next generation of successful, high-value technology companies. It is a wonderful opportunity to work with someone we know, trust and respect.”

One such growth company Rackley founded is Experience (www.findexp.com), the partnership’s first investment. With Experience, fans can easily upgrade their seats from their mobile device at games or live events. Experience is available today with professional and collegiate sports teams nationwide.

Headquartered in Atlanta, Rackley will continue the city’s strong history of technology innovation in mobility, security, payments and media and create significant jobs through new businesses.

Rackley founded several Atlanta-based technology companies where he has provided leadership, strategy, vision and direction. Combined, his ventures nFront, Inc., now part of Intuit, Inc., and Firethorn, Inc., now part of Qualcomm Incorporated, created more than $1 billion dollars in shareholder value and more than 500 jobs in Georgia. Rackley is a graduate and distinguished Alumnus of Georgia Tech, Ernst &Young Entrepreneur of the Year, MIT Enterprise Forum Entrepreneur of the Year, and Member of the Georgia Technology Hall of Fame.

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About the Partnership

This partnership offers a new and unique approach to creating, incubating and growing innovative businesses and is backed by a $250 million investment from Cox Enterprises. Led by Cox Board Member and accomplished entrepreneur Tripp Rackley, the partnership is designed to invest directly and exclusively in companies created by Rackley. Operating from Atlanta, Ga., this is a standalone entity external from Cox Enterprises and its subsidiaries.

About Cox Enterprises

Cox Enterprises is a leading communications, media and automotive services company. With revenues of nearly $15 billion and more than 50,000 employees, the company’s major operating subsidiaries include Cox Communications, Inc. (cable television distribution, telephone, high-speed Internet access, commercial telecommunications and advertising solutions); Manheim, Inc. (vehicle auctions, repair and certification services and web-based technology products); AutoTrader.com (online automotive advertising and Kelley Blue Book, vAuto, HomeNet Automotive and Vin Solutions subsidiaries); and Cox Media Group, Inc. (television and radio stations, digital media, newspapers, advertising sales rep firms, Valpak and Cox Digital Solutions). Additionally, Cox operates Kudzu.com.