Former Cheezburger and Garden.com exec launches firm to gobble up emerging digital media properties

Cliff Sharples

Cliff Sharples

Seattle Internet executive Cliff Sharples is currently on an around-the-world adventure with his wife and five kids — writing about the adventures they experience as they bump between places like Greece, Spain and Tanzania.

But he’s not letting a little travel get in the way of his next venture. Sharples, a former HomeAway and Kinetx Living exec who most recently served a short stint as chief operating officer at Cheezburger, has formed a new fund called Teneology with the goal of acquiring promising digital media businesses.

Sharples tells us that he plans to look for deals in the range of a $100,000 to $20 million, using cash from investment partner Tritium Partners of Austin, Texas.

“Our interest is in great content businesses along yet to be disclosed verticals in the digital media space,” said Sharples, who was in Spain when we connected with him via email. “Over the next few months, we will be evaluating and acquiring businesses that will ultimately build a multi-platform collection of brands.”

Sharples co-founded Garden.com in 1995 with his wife Lisa, taking the company public in 1999 right before the dot-com bust. Lisa Sharples later went on to run Seattle-based AllRecipes.com, departing the company earlier this year after it was sold to Meredith for $175 million.

Cliff Sharples tells us that it’s a “little crazy” launching an acquisition fund while committing to a year-long trip with the family, a voyage they started in September in Florence, Italy and will take them through Africa, Asia, Australia and South America.

The Sharples family

The Sharples family

“We’re just trying to keep it all interesting,” he jokes. Eventually, he said the headquarters will be based in Seattle, though they do plan to look for deals globally.

Sharples and Tritium see big opportunities on the horizon for Teneology.

“We are excited about our partnership with Cliff and his team to help identify founders who have the same passion for building a leading, high-growth company in the media and Internet services space,” said Phil Siegel, Tritium co-founder and Managing Director. “We believe that there is a great opportunity to leverage our team’s knowledge from over a decade of successful investing in Internet growth companies, to help Cliff and his team launch their new Internet and media company.”

A dollar amount was not provided for the fund, but Tritium’s principals said they expect the capital commitment to Teneology to be comparable to past investments they have made. Siegel is a former partner at Austin Ventures, and past investments have included HomeAway, RetailMeNot, ReTrans (Sold to Tailwind Capital), Vovici (sold to Verint), CreditCards.com (sold to BankRate) and Seattle’s All Star Directories. Tritium was started earlier this year with the goal of focusing on lower and middle market growth buyouts.

So, what’s the Teneology name all about?

“The company name is a fusion of ancient language  … with Teneo meaning to master or learn; -ology meaning the study of. Put them together, and you get my own word which I define as ‘the study of learning.’ That will certainly not be a tagline, however, and the brand is not designed to be a consumer brand on its own,” he said.

  • http://www.adamlieb.me/ Adam Lieb

    Cliff has been an advisor of mine for a couple of years. I usually count him as my favorite advisor because of his combination of experience and attitude. Any entrepreneur who he ends up working with through Teneology should count themselves lucky.

  • Fred Galstrom

    Ha. Mr. and Mrs. Huh burn through yet another executive. This time in five months? They have really honed their skills to be able to push someone out that quickly.

    • http://www.adamlieb.me/ Adam Lieb

      Ben & Emily didn’t factor into the Sharples family decision to travel the world for a year. Have to grind that axe elsewhere bro.

      • Fred Galstrom

        Thanks for responding, Bra. Is Mary Lewis, the former
        Director of Aquisition (for five months), the former CRO, the former CTO, the former head of HR, the former Director of Content and 40% of the former staff traveling too? If so… you’re right… couldn’t possibly be the Huh’s fault! They should put this in the benefits package listed on the website, “join Cheezburger and chances are you will be on long vacation in less than a year!”

        • http://www.adamlieb.me/ Adam Lieb

          Sounds like you have no clue what you are talking about!

          • Expatriate

            Yes actually, he does. Anyone who has left that company should be thankful, whether it was their decision or Ben’s.