Grapple partners with top East Coast venture capital firm

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Grapple Media, a New York-based startup developing artificial intelligence software to fact check online information, will join forces with one of the world's top venture capital law groups.

Grapple engaged this month with Newark-based McCarter & English, which agreed to defer all legal expenses on Grapple's behalf for up to one year, pending the acquisition of investment capital. By teaming with McCarter, Grapple joins one of the most lucrative early-stage client portfolios in the nation.

Over the past 12 months, McCarter's venture group was one of the most active in the nation, consummating 185 investment transactions totaling around $440 million on behalf of both companies and investors.

The startup will be under the care of David Sorin, chair of McCarter's venture capital and emerging growth companies practice, and his partners. Mr. Sorin merged his early-stage and venture practice, SorinRand, with McCarter & English in 2013, enabling his group to offer startup companies a full spectrum of law services in addition to the investment and venture capital practice. 

"This is a tremendous opportunity for us to join a very well respected practice and a selective and esteemed group of early stage companies," Grapple Founder and CEO John Harper said. "Mr. Sorin's interest in our startup is a vote of confidence that has resonance with some of the most progressive and active technology investors in the country, and his firm's experience and competence will give us a strong footing as we prepare to launch our first product and scale our company."

McCarter has garnered national attention for their portfolio of startup and investment clients. Among international firms that serve early stage companies and venture groups, PitchBook, a leading source for information regarding venture capital and investments, ranked McCarter & English fourth regionally (tied), ninth nationally and ninth globally in terms of transaction volume among law firms. McCarter also ranked ninth in enterprise software and tenth in global early stage transactions.

"We are excited to work with John and his team at Grapple," Mr. Sorin said. "The demands on media to timely publish news as it occurs, coupled with the high cost of quality control and source checking, has created an environment in which “fake news” can flourish, undermining public confidence in the press.  Grapple is working to restore confidence in the accuracy and veracity of the news we receive by offering a real time, cost-efficient solution.  We are proud to have been selected by Grapple as its counsel and look forward to assisting the company in achieving its important goals.” 

Grapple, founded by Mr. Harper in December, plans to release a pilot prototype in coming weeks capable of mapping a news event and tracing any online news story to its point of online origin. The prototype app, designed primarily for journalists, editors and researchers, will simplify the process of authenticating facts or debunking hoax and politically motivated news articles by accelerating research and fact-checking of digital content. 

The company's long term goals include developing a fact checking system capable of running autonomously on any web portal, providing line-by-line fact checking for anyone with a computer.

In addition to its partnership with McCarter, Grapple also recently became part of IBM's Global Entrepreneur Program, winning $12,000 in digital services and support for the startup's news authorship and fact checking project. 

Prior to founding Grapple, Mr. Harper worked for five years as a criminal justice, politics and local government reporter with The New Orleans Times-Picayune, the Courier & Daily Comet, and the digital affiliate of The Cleveland Plain Dealer.