James Murdoch's Firm Invests in Startup to Build "Trustworthy" Tech

James Murdoch - H - 2020

The mogul hopes to fund a platform that can "navigate the blurred reality of our synthetic and natural worlds."

James Murdoch is adding a technology startup to his growing post-Fox investment portfolio.

The mogul's firm, Lupa Systems, is partnering with former Time Warner and AOL executive John Borthwick's platform Betaworks on a new lab to develop tech products.

Murdoch's co-investment in what's called Betalab aims "to fund early stage startups that aim to Fix The Internet," Borthwick wrote in a Medium post on Thursday — specifically in products in a "new emerging category of trustworthy, humane technology" that aim to protect users' privacy online as well as "a more sustainable news ecosystem and a better informed citizenry."

Murdoch framed the creation of the lab as a way to explore the next "creative revolution" in media. "Widespread and novel creation and use of synthetic media has the potential to be the next great creative revolution," stated Murdoch. "It is on course to support creators and open new possibilities for storytelling but also to undermine our collective relationship with truth and reality."

It's the latest move for Lupa Systems, which was founded in March 2019 and has offices in New York and Mumbai. The investment firm is the Murdoch heir's next chapter after Disney acquired most of the 21st Century Fox assets (where he held the CEO role) for $71.3 billion last year. 

In August, Lupa Systems teamed with investor Joe Marchese's Attention Capital to buy a majority of Tribeca Enterprises, which runs the annual Tribeca Film Festival. The firm has also invested in comics publisher Artists Writers & Artisans and virtual reality firm The Void. 

Murdoch said of his new investment, "The Betalab project will help accelerate early movers and create a platform from which we can begin to learn how to navigate the blurred reality of our synthetic and natural worlds."

Betaworks, founded in New York in 2008, has developed products that include Chartbeat, a web analytics tool for publishers, as well as Twitter display platform Tweetdeck. 

"Betaworks Ventures and Lupa Systems will provide initial funding for very early stage companies focused on this emerging area of technology," Borthwick wrote in his Medium post, adding that "this program will run for the next year."