Political social media venture, Gray Line land funding

State's INCITE fund investing alongside Jacobson, TNInvestco

A budding social platform looking to increase people's awareness of and interactions with various government representatives has raised more than $1 million from an investment group led by former Vanderbilt University Medical Center boss Harry Jacobson.

Citizengine Inc. also received money from former investment banker Duncan Dashiff, an investment entity linked to Bone McAllester Norton attorneys Charles W. Bone and Trace Blankenship and the state's INCITE Co-Investment Fund. Jacobson put in $500,000, while INCITE contributed $350,000 and Dashiff invested $150,000.

Citizengine, which is also known as iCitizen, is being run by Joel Lee, the communications executive formerly at VUMC and Vanguard Health Systems. In a statement, Lee said his venture is designed to create "a new level of accountability" by being a conduit for greater communication between government officials and voters.

"This funding will help our company to establish a new, more robust method for representative-constituent communication," Lee said. "We want to provide a platform for individuals and communities to understand issues of importance and voice their ideas through new channels of influence in politics at the local, state and national levels."

Also getting growth funding recently is the parent company of transportation company Gray Line of Tennessee. The company, which ranks among the country's largest motorcoach businesses and transports more than one million people annually, received $2.1 million from XMi High Growth Development Fund, one of the TNInvestco entities picked by state economic development officials three years ago. The INCITE fund chipped in another $700,000.

Gray Line President H. Beecher Hicks III said the funding will help diversify his company’s offerings and create jobs around the state.

INCITE fund officials also said they contributed $500,000 to the recent raise of almost $5 million by health care enterprise software developers Agilum. In all, the fund has helped fund almost $23 million in investments across the state. The fund's last round of investments included an online sports business venture launched by former MBA, Vanderbilt and Chicago Bears linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer.