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WrkRiot Collapses Amongst Allegations of Fraud (qz.com) 120

HockeyPuck quotes a report from New York Times: This week, WrkRiot, began unraveling in a highly public fashion (Warning: may be paywalled). Its former head of marketing revealed that the start-up had been mired in internal chaos and had sometimes paid employees in cashier's checks before delaying payment... Penny Kim, the former marketing director at WrkRiot, wrote about her experience at the company -- a story that consists of alleged deceptions, including forged wire transfer receipts, late paychecks, and lies from executives. Her entire story can be found in a Medium post titled "I Got Scammed By A Silicon Valley Startup." Quartz reports: "Here's the story Kim lays out in her Medium post: In May 2016, after three interviews, she says she accepted the role of marketing director at 1for.one, one of WrkRiot's earlier incarnations. From the beginning, things didn't seem quite right, she says. The CEO, Isaac Choi, hired one of her direct reports without consulting her. A promised $4 million marketing budget never materialized. At investor meetings, the co-founders 'talked about themselves, their connections, and their qualifications for 30 minutes' rather than the product, which they touted as the next 'Credit Karma of LinkedIn.' The software engineering team was largely made up of young Chinese employees relying on visas sponsored by the company to remain in the U.S., Kim says. After repeated inquiring about salaries, Kim alleges, Choi sent forged Wells Fargo wire transfer receipts to 17 employees, and told them that if the money wasn't in their accounts that it was their responsibility to follow up with their banks. Kim ended up filing wage claims with the state of California as the paychecks stopped coming. Kim claims Choi fired her without cause and owes her back wages, a promised $10,000 relocation bonus, and three months of severance worth $50,000, as negotiated in her contract. A series of former employees, advisors, and even the company's former CTO have since denounced WrkRiot and its leadership, in particular Choi."
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WrkRiot Collapses Amongst Allegations of Fraud

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  • by RobotRunAmok ( 595286 ) on Thursday September 01, 2016 @08:56PM (#52812149)

    ...that's all anybody is really expecting. Like, one sentence, a parenthetical phrase, even, describing WTF WrkRiot is, what they make, something, anything, in the first paragraph of the summary to make me care about this. We get a "Credit Karma of LinkedIn" buried somewhere in the middle, which -- fascinating-ly -- is actually LESS than descriptive or useful.

    Slashdot, I love you guys, but most days you make it really, really tough...

    • by alvinrod ( 889928 ) on Thursday September 01, 2016 @09:07PM (#52812213)
      From the sounds of things, the company itself didn't really have a clue what they made either. Being the "Credit Karma of LinkedIn" makes it sound like they were dealing in fertilizer if anything.
      • by devjoe ( 88696 )
        The people who took jobs at this place should have known what they were in for when the only description they could get of the company was a comparison to a shady web site, somehow operating within another web site where it makes no sense at all for them to be.
    • by queazocotal ( 915608 ) on Thursday September 01, 2016 @09:13PM (#52812257)

      Relevant xkcd is relevant. https://xkcd.com/1060/ [xkcd.com]

    • by Nutria ( 679911 )

      Not just the gibberishly meaningless "Credit Karma of LinkedIn", but another "Credit Karma of LinkedIn". :eyeroll:

      No one should really wonder why /. has tanked in popularity...

    • In this case I disagree. Knowing anything about the business of WrkRiot beyond just "silicon valley startup" adds nothing to the story.

    • Like, one sentence, a parenthetical phrase, even, describing WTF WrkRiot is, what they make, something, anything, in the first paragraph of the summary to make me care about this.

      Yup. I had to search for it and still couldn't tell for sure what it is (was). It appears to have been some kind of job search board that went by the name "Jobsonic" in an earlier incarnation.

      • I think the problem is that they didn't know what it was either. Typical of bubble-age startups. From the article it looks like VCs have learned a thing or two since the last bubble.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Well, it's no "Education Connection of MySpace," that's for sure.

  • Fucked Company 2.0 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 0100010001010011 ( 652467 ) on Thursday September 01, 2016 @08:57PM (#52812153)

    We need a new FuckedCompany for this bubble. That was always some good reading.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It should be called "H-1B'd" considering how many of these failure stories involve companies who fraudulently claim no Americans are available to work, then fraudulently import workers for their sweatshops.

      • It should be called "H-1B'd" considering how many of these failure stories involve companies who fraudulently claim no Americans are available to work, then fraudulently import workers for their sweatshops.

        They lobbied it to be "no Americans would accept our working conditions".

        • Also, "no Americans with the appropriate level of experience would accept entry level pay rates" so we must go foreign!

    • Here is some good reading:

      > http://autopsy.io/ [autopsy.io] - Lessons from Failed Startups

    • To be fair, WrkRiot wasn't really a "bubble" company. It was funded through the personal wealth of its founders, who ran out of cash and started begging from employees. That could happen in any market.
      • To be fair, WrkRiot wasn't really a "bubble" company. It was funded through the personal wealth of its founders, who ran out of cash and started begging from employees. That could happen in any market.

        That means it was not a company, it was a hobby! 8-P

        On the other hand, if the founders paid for it and -didn't- have to borrow from employees because they actually made money, then it would be a company. 8-)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 01, 2016 @08:58PM (#52812161)

    For every legit startup, there are 9 others that are garbage. That ratio is being generous.

    • No. The ratio is correct. As has been the case for many decades. 80% of all businesses fail, and after a quick Google search Forbes shows that 90% of all startups fail. Most likelyrics it's a hired rate because people (the investors) are just stupid and a tech startup needs ZERO capital to get started. A real business needs capital to get started so less people try and those who do usually do more research and try harder. Still, both have extremely high failure rates. Too many ppl think that their busines

    • by Darinbob ( 1142669 ) on Friday September 02, 2016 @01:21AM (#52813087)

      I have to agree. I know people who actively want to work at startups, despite having been through all the troubles at previous ones, and I can only conclude that they have brain damage. Now if you get the salary, then that's ok. Get the salary FIRST, get the benefits second, and only then accept the worthless stock options.

      • by AuMatar ( 183847 )

        Or because we've worked at the large companies and while the money is good, there's no feeling of importance or ability to effect the product. Even at some of those companies who pride themselves at it. Some of us are just miserable phoning it in.

        Now I agree- never work for free unless you're getting cofounder level equity. But given a choice between a megacorp and a startup, I'll happily take less at the startup. In fact I recently just did that- sure I'm making 200K less (not including whatever the

        • by Darinbob ( 1142669 ) on Friday September 02, 2016 @01:50AM (#52813163)

          Most startups I've seen have really awful workers; no real experience in creating a real product that actually makes it to market. I've worked at a few places that had been startups or were pre-IPO but out of the startup phase, and most of the existing code bases were rotten and the hardware was rushed together. So the work generally involves throwing out as much of the startup stuff as you can get away with and starting over with something that actually works, and when you have to keep the original stuff then you always have a new "you won't believe how stupid..." story for your friends.

          The thing is, people at startups most often have no actual desire to get to market, some of these companies have a plan to get bought out by someone else. When they do want to make an actual product the primary goal is still to RUSH as fast as you can before funding runs out or the investors get bored; rush to get a mockup, rush to get a demo, rush to add a prospective customer's favorite feature, rush to change the entire focus of the company, and get all that rushing done by Friday or there's no job left on Monday. There is zero incentive to have quality, quality is a hindrance that only slows down the rush. Stopping and thinking can only be done on your own time, and startups insist that you have no time of your own anyway.

          There's a LOT of ground in between no-nothing startup and a megacorp though, plenty of places outside of startups where you can make a difference and be important and actually have a product make it to customers.

          If you're making 200K less, then you're a manager and not a real worker anyway, or an exec and even less able to do real work.

          • by AuMatar ( 183847 )

            Was never a manager, although I was a tech lead. I'm making that much less due to lucky timing on RSUs that were continuing to vest.

            My experience with startup workers is the exact opposite. Smart owners fill the top positions with talent, even if they need to pay to get it. You might cheap out on things like manual testers and go for the guy still in college, or take a flyer on that new guy out of college for the 10th member of your dev team, but you aren't doing that on core positions.

            Of course maybe th

        • This. I mean, I guess if you're brought in by the allure of "working at a startup" and aren't particularly focused on the viability and the leadership team? Fine, I bet you find a lot of trash. Don't care about getting paid a fair (if stingy) wage? You'll find a ton of trash.

          I started at a rather young startup and took a very slight pay cut (and 40% less than my top offer). Had an opportunity not only to work with the most talented tech team I've ever seen, but also to grow my own skills and leadership,
        • ... but dear god am I happier.

          Not being happy in your work has it's own costs and risks. But just "keep your eyes open" about what is happening.

          On the other hand, there are a lot of small established companies that are -not- so large, and are not startups. You don't have to jump "in the deep end of the pool".

      • I disagree. If you want to be paid well and on the dot, go work for a regular company. Working for a startup is a different proposition: it's stress, long hours, and a crap salary (some pay top dollar to attract top talent, but only if they are exceptionally well funded, and you do need to be a recognized top talent to get in. Most pay crap). It's not everyone's cup of tea, but some people thrive in such an environment. I've done it and it's great, but very demanding. I'd do it again but I'll probably
        • by Darinbob ( 1142669 ) on Friday September 02, 2016 @05:12AM (#52813635)

          The payday though is most often disappointing. Unless you've got a relatively simple product that's up and out to the public in a year and the bankers are excited and want to push you to IPO, there's generally a dilution of equity over time. So five or ten years at a startup and your payday is basically the size of a large bonus or a year's salary (which is great but it's not the quick retirement some people think they're going to have). If you take time to build a business instead of hoping for a quicky buy from Google then that time means equity dilutes. Bankers are getting smarter, they are much more likely now to want to see actual recurring revenue before the agree to help with the IPO, so it takes time and you need a real plan.

          There's no easy way to make sure those options don't get taken away. Even co-founders can find themselves cut out of the picture with just one vote on the board, so what chance does someone who actually was low class enough to actually have to interview for the job expect?

          • True, you shouldn't go in with the expectation of easy riches, just make sure you get your bit when it does hit. About those options, here's a decent article on the subject [stockoptioncounsel.com]. In a nutshell: make sure your options vest early and permanently (the latter is what screwed those FB people IIRC). Check the terms, and negotiate: in contrast to big companies where HR have nailed down renumeration and benefits to the last decimal in a rule book, startups have considerable leeway to meet your terms, especially if wh
          • by coofercat ( 719737 ) on Friday September 02, 2016 @09:56AM (#52814591) Homepage Journal

            I'd agree - the startups I've worked for weren't necessarily going for a buy-out, although that'd have kept the VCs happy. Along the way though, we got to play with some cool tech, got some (potential) customer interaction experience, occasionally flew a few places, got some 'everything's broken, you're the only one here, so make it work' type experience and drank a boatload of beer at various places when the bosses got their credit cards out. Of course, when the company went down the pan, we all got left with nothing, but it wasn't a surprise so we all had a 'plan b' lined up.

            I wouldn't go for that now as I like the 9-5 so I can be at the right places at the right times for my kids. But back when I was (mostly) single, it was great fun, and rewarded me in a lot more ways than a regular salary.

            Just as a side note, one startup I was at really did try to go for quality. We still had to move too fast quite a bit towards the end, but the foundations were pretty solid. All that means nothing now, because the product is long lost in some vault somewhere and provides no benefit to the customers we (nearly) had, or indeed the world as a whole. The question is, was all that quality worth it?

  • by The Raven ( 30575 ) on Thursday September 01, 2016 @09:01PM (#52812179) Homepage

    Obviously she must be horrible at her job as Marketing Director, and thus was fired with cause... /s

    Seriously though, I've never heard of them. What's the point of a job site nobody knows about?

    • by hawguy ( 1600213 )

      Obviously she must be horrible at her job as Marketing Director, and thus was fired with cause... /s

      Seriously though, I've never heard of them. What's the point of a job site nobody knows about?

      Every company starts as an unknown. You could have said the same thing about Google in 1998. "'Google??' what kind of name is that? Why do they even exist when we have AltaVista and Excite!?"

      Of course, few startups advance to become a household name, most fail or are acquired and are forgotten.

      • So having a news story about an unknown startup is about as dumb as interviewing the guy next to you on the bus. Sure, it might turn out to be interesting but chances are it's a waste of time.

        • by hawguy ( 1600213 )

          So having a news story about an unknown startup is about as dumb as interviewing the guy next to you on the bus. Sure, it might turn out to be interesting but chances are it's a waste of time.

          The story wasn't about the startup itself or their product, but about the way they defrauded their employees.

    • by phorm ( 591458 )

      Apparently to siphon money off the employees and potentially any investors stupid enough to invest?

    • by bengoerz ( 581218 ) on Friday September 02, 2016 @10:57AM (#52815027)
      Her breakup story just made the New York Times, Slashdot, TechCrunch, and Inc.com. Seems like she's a pretty great Marketer.
  • by hondo77 ( 324058 ) on Thursday September 01, 2016 @09:08PM (#52812221) Homepage
    Why do people stay at a company if it has missed a payday? The day my employer misses a payday, I go home and don't come back until they come up with a paycheck (if at all, since while I'm home I look for another job immediately). Do people stay out of loyalty or naiveté or what?
    • by queazocotal ( 915608 ) on Thursday September 01, 2016 @09:10PM (#52812237)

      Well, if you are required to work at the company to stay in the country...

      • by Anonymous Coward

        That's the real question, how the fuck did a small startup get a bunch of work visas?

        • by TroII ( 4484479 )

          That's the real question, how the fuck did a small startup get a bunch of work visas?

          The same way most companies get them, they lied to the government, and like most companies they won't face any consequences for doing so.

        • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Thursday September 01, 2016 @10:27PM (#52812589)

          That's the real question, how the fuck did a small startup get a bunch of work visas?

          By applying for them. I worked for a 10 person startup a decade ago, and 3 of the employees were H1Bs. They were highly educated, experienced, and already worked for us from overseas, but we wanted to all be in one place. There was a bit of paperwork, and some delay, but the process was straightforward.

      • Well, if you are required to work at the company to stay in the country...

        Not sure if you are being serious, but: if your company isn't paying you, then you are already in violation of your H1 visa.

        • by hawguy ( 1600213 ) on Thursday September 01, 2016 @10:49PM (#52812669)

          Well, if you are required to work at the company to stay in the country...

          Not sure if you are being serious, but: if your company isn't paying you, then you are already in violation of your H1 visa.

          Which is all the more reason to stay when the money they owe you is right around the corner, just need to wait for that wire transfer to come through, any day now.

      • by Ichijo ( 607641 )

        Why do people stay at a company if it has missed a payday?

        Well, if you are required to work at the company to stay in the country...

        Isn't forced labor the definition of slavery?

        • by qbast ( 1265706 )
          Yes. Thanks Cthulhu there is no forced labour involved here. These people are free to return wherever they came from.
    • by AuMatar ( 183847 )

      I work at a startup. I might deal with a missed payday or two- but I'd be expecting straight up equity in lieu of pay. Not paying me and not giving me equity or interest? Not happening.

      • Equity is not money. It's practically negative money for most startups. Even lottery tickets are worth more than equity.

        • That's generally true but if it was completely true, there'd be no point founding anything either because all you do is get paid in equity as it were until you get actual real money to pay yourself. Whether it's worth working for equity is a combination of whether you can afford to get nothing, how much equity you get, how much you enjoy the work and how good you believe the chances of success are.

          I do know someone working for a startup for pure equity. There's not a chance in hell they could afford to pay

    • by yarbo ( 626329 ) <moderkaka AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday September 01, 2016 @09:40PM (#52812397)

      She moved to California for this job. There's a certain amount of sunk costs involved in moving that makes the calculus a little trickier than just move back to Texas over a missed paycheck.

      Hindsight shows that it was a bad move, but there are counterexamples of people who have gotten their paychecks a little bit late and had a satisfying time at their company.

      • She moved to California for this job. There's a certain amount of sunk costs involved in moving that makes the calculus a little trickier than just move back to Texas over a missed paycheck.

        Yeah, too bad there are no other tech companies in California.

      • There's a certain amount of sunk costs involved in moving that makes the calculus a little trickier than just move back to Texas over a missed paycheck.

        Considering sunk costs in your evaluation of what to do going forward is irrational. Either the expected future prospects of an investment (time, money, effort, etc) are worthwhile or they are not. The past investments are already spent and gone and if one is acting rationally they should play no role in determining actions going forward. Yes it is frustrating to spend a lot of resources on something that ultimately proves a dead end or the expected return seems too low to justify continuing with but onc

    • by hawguy ( 1600213 ) on Thursday September 01, 2016 @10:57PM (#52812693)

      Why do people stay at a company if it has missed a payday? The day my employer misses a payday, I go home and don't come back until they come up with a paycheck (if at all, since while I'm home I look for another job immediately). Do people stay out of loyalty or naiveté or what?

      Because they realize that working at a startup takes a certain amount of sacrifice, I stayed at a startup when they couldn't make payroll for 3 weeks, they admitted it beforehand, and told us that we were free to take unpaid leave during that period if we wanted to, or we could work and eventually get paid. The CEO offered personal loans with his own money to anyone that had rent, mortgage or other obligation coming up. Most of the employees continued working, we got paid in 3 weeks as promised with a 25% bonus. Those that took the unpaid leave came back and returned to their jobs.

      Even in a hot job market like Silicon Valley, it takes more than a few weeks to line up a *good* job, so it's worth taking a bit of risk if you're otherwise happy with the company and the product you're working on.

      • by quetwo ( 1203948 )

        And I think that is the key. They were upfront about it, and allowed you to make an informed decision. The owners of this wrkriot company lied and deceived their employees about what was going on.

        If there are rough waters ahead, be open and honest about it. Most people will understand and try and help out. In this case, they lied about what their situation was to most of the employees they brought on and continued lying when they ran out of runway and couldn't pay them anymore.

        The crazy thing was they l

        • by slew ( 2918 )

          The crazy thing was they leveraged themselves so much, they had no way to control their spending. Private jet service? Hiring dozens of employees when you are on the edge of the cliff? Just speaks volumes of their willingness to live reality vs. living the dream.

          This is a good example of how the startup culture often manifests itself as a cargo cult [wikipedia.org]...

          Sadly in some startups, there is this continuous undertone that if they perform the various ritualistic acts they have observed in other startups, that will eventually manifest in the appearance of wealth. With some personalities (often spiritual leaders and prophets), failing to manifest such wealth, just causes them to double-down on their behavior on the belief that looking successful is a prerequisite to being su

  • Ahh, yet another answer to Credit Karma. Startups are a dime a dozen. Especially those that challenge well established companies.
    If I get one whiff of weird shit going on at a company I'm interviewing with, I'm gone.
    A job interview should be considered an opportunity to figure out whether the company is worth your time, as well as showing your stuff off.
    Anyone who treats it otherwise is either very naive or stupid. If you don't do your due diligence, you get what you deserve.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Yes most startups that fail are like this. What we did was enter a startup just like this, and work hard and succeed and spun off from the shipwreck. That is what Silicon valley is about. Joining a messed up startup and sinking is just your own fault. Most sink, but if you swim you will succeed even if the company is flotsam! Silicon valley isn't about getting free rides, its your chance to fly on your own and leave the rest to sink.

  • What the fuck does it even mean? This is wha WrkRiot positioned themselves as. It makes no sense.
  • Really? this?

    Ahh labor day weekend starts... tomorrow. Yeah!

  • I guess that is what you get when you try to be cute with a company name. If that is what this is about.

  • their previous company, formed from the founder's grandfather's dying fever-dream.

    No brandcuffs!

  • - Have an idea which is sold as being the next big thing.
    - Claim to have a great education at one of the great universities and follow on requisite experience needed to build up a company to build the next big thing
    - Maybe round up some venture capital or claim to have some VC
    - Hire some employees with promises of reasonable income for a startup with the implications that they will become wealthy beyond their wildest dreams in a short time because the idea is the next big thing and have the capital to m
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 02, 2016 @12:07AM (#52812903)

    Jesus. Getting pretty sick of this shit. Tell us what WrkRiot is. What is it? Why should I care?

    You fucking idiots.

    • by serviscope_minor ( 664417 ) on Friday September 02, 2016 @04:47AM (#52813569) Journal

      They're the Credit Karma of Linked in, duh.

      No I have no idea what the hell that is either.

      • by Shimbo ( 100005 )

        Credit Karma appears to be on of these 'fintech' firms, where you sign away all your privacy in return for free credit reports. So I guess Wrkriot were looking for a way to leech off LinkedIn. Her timing obviously completely sucked, because Microsoft bought LinkedIn in June and put a bomb under the leeches shortly after.

    • by naughtynaughty ( 1154069 ) on Friday September 02, 2016 @08:12AM (#52814119)

      https://www.crunchbase.com/org... [crunchbase.com]
      Total Equity Funding
      $1.13M in 2 Rounds from 2 Investors
      Most Recent Funding
      $130k Seed on August 1, 2016
      Headquarters:
      Santa Clara, California
      Description:
      Taking the search out of job search with a patent pending customized platform utilizing NLP and Machine Learning.
      Founders:
      Isaac Choi
      Categories:
      Employment, SaaS, Machine Learning, Natural Language Processing, Text Analytics
      Website:
      http://wrkriot.om/ [wrkriot.om]

      Company Details
      Founded:
      November 1, 2015
      Aliases:
      JobSonic
      Employees:
      11 - 50 | 1 in CrunchBase
      JobSonic is currently trying to make sure that job search engines cater to the needs of the job seekers by allowing them to be matched and ranked to all job postings in real-time. We have created a data driven job board using the latest technologies in natural language processing, text analytics and machine learning. Our goal is to make sure that all the people in the world will have an opportunity to work in a full time job positions and are able to get all the benefits needed to live without any worries concerning their health and retirement.
      Everyone deserves the right to work, provide, save and grow for their family. Everybody should be allowed the right to better themselves and in this current economic downfall people are being pushed into working for the on-demand market, which is actually suppressing people.
      We do this by allowing a person's resumes to be matched through signal classifications to every job posting on the web within their desired industries, salaries and locations in real time. Not only are their resumes matched, but the job postings will be ranked in order from the highest possible choices to the lowest.

  • I worked at a startup. it was my first job out of college. I remember being so excited because "we were going to make a difference," but really I was just fooling myself. I had no experience and this place was the only job I found that would take me before I ran out of rent money. 12-15 hour shifts, no health insurance, I had to bring my own computer (I only had a tower, no laptop so that was interesting), and we worked out of a basement. Eventually it became a little more professional with health insuranc
  • I remember hearing high-dram startup flame-out stories right around this time 15-16 years ago. The only differences this time are:
    - Phones/tablets instead of PCs/browsers
    - Truly stupid startups are able to stick around longer because of public cloud services
    - This round of startups isn't going to leave behind goodies like thousands of miles of dark fiber, data centers full of equipment, etc.

    Seriously, "the credit karma of LinkedIn?" What does that even mean??

    • ...The only differences this time are: ...
      - This round of startups isn't going to leave behind goodies like thousands of miles of dark fiber, data centers full of equipment, etc.

      I'm not so sure. AWS, GCP, and Azure have all been drastically expanding capacity.

      Tons of great software has been written and open sourced.

      We now have a ton of tech that makes previously difficult things very easy for a small team of developers to manage. There have to be some benefits in that.

  • Just about all the stuff described in that long blogpost is pretty normal. I've been screwed over just about more times than I can count. Today I smell bullshit from miles away and (re)act accordingly. CYA is the rule of the game. Know what you are getting into and avoid total doucebags.

    Web business is often shady and always at the intersection between employed, freelance and entrepreneur/in-on-your-own-good-will. Think and act accordingly and don't take any shit. If a deal is on and isn't delivered (that n

  • He asked us to write down our bank accounts and routing numbers.

    Say goodbye to the contents of your bank account. Those are the only things someone needs to write bad checks against your account. The check does not even need to have your name on it.

    Someone that is going to commit fraud and fake a bank authorization is certainly not above draining your bank account.

  • Isn't $135,000 kind of low for a Director of Marketing position in the Bay area?

Q: How many IBM CPU's does it take to execute a job? A: Four; three to hold it down, and one to rip its head off.

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