Sam Speaks

Sam Sethi, liar, cheat, fraudPing. That’s how Sam Sethi reached out to me at 4AM pacific time on Friday December 7th. He began by apologizing to me and acknowledging that he should have been more open with me early on and that he should have taken more heed to my feedback. In his words:

“you were right and I should have responded and trusted your thoughts and feedback … I am sorry. That doesn’t help fix things I know”

He is right about a couple things in that last. First, he should have responded to me and taken my advice, second he is sorry and it seems getting sorrier all the time, and third, it’s true – apologizing to me privately does not begin to fix things.

I did tell him, however, how to make a start. My first and most critical demand was that he immediately (as in that very day) get a cashier’s check sent overnight to my friend, Marc Orchant and his family – and prove to me he’s done so with a tracking number and a scanned image of the check. My second demand was that he post an apology to me as well as to the other bloggers he’s defrauded everywhere that he’s previously posted. Third, I want a promissory note from Sam co-signed by a witness other than his wife.

In the chat, which again took place over Skype, Sam agreed to do these things. I told him that I would be willing to suspend further aggressions if he took these steps. Unfortunately it looks as if my willingness to give people the benefit of the doubt is a liability when dealing with Mr Sethi. As of tonight I haven’t seen a tracking number, a scanned cashier’s check or even a legitimate public apology. The post he did on Blognation was more excuses and denials – and, unsurprisingly the comment I made on that post was deleted in short order. I’ll post it below for your viewing pleasure.

I’m not going to publish the full transcript of that Skype chat yet – there is always tomorrow though. Sam, it’s your move…

Incidentally, I don’t know why Mr. Sethi’s name appears over my comment (#4) but it is pretty obvious that Sam isn’t saying these things to himself. (I don’t think he’s that far around the bend)

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About Oliver

Oliver Starr is a well known blogger, speaker and serial entrepreneur. His current blogging is focused on mobile technology and applications, green (eco-protective) technologies, and entrepreneurs and their companies. He is currently engaged as the Community Evangelist for Pearltrees.com, a new social curation tool. Oliver was also a professional cyclist and six time member of the US National Cycling Team.
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9 Responses to Sam Speaks

  1. Tom McKenna says:

    Oliver, What was your motivation in writing the “open letter”?

    You obviously believe you were greatly wronged and as the facts stack up, you do appear to have a valid case. Your “first and most critical demand …. a cashier’s check …. to my friend, Marc Orchant and his family”. Yet you seem to be doing all in your power to sabotage BN raising the required funds. You seem hell bent on preventing your own demands ever being met. I find this very strange.

  2. admin says:

    Tom, thanks for your comment. I think you’ve raised a fair question. I’ll try to provide an answer you can see as reasonable.

    The premise that I am “hell bent on preventing my own demands ever being met” as you put it is based on two key facts; first, that Sam is actually close to closing a round of funding from any source and that second; should he close such a round, that he would actually honor the contracts that each blogger has signed.

    Based upon my own experience as well as the experiences of a number of bloggers that preceded the current crew at Blognation I don’t think either of these key events are likely to take place and were unlikely far before I ever authored my lengthly missive.

    Sam claims that he was very close to closing a round of funding, however he has been lying about the funding status of Blognation to the editors for months. Here you can even listen to Sam lying to one of Blognation’s former edtiors about having already raised 1 million British Pounds – he told me he’d raised half a million, told all the editors during a group Skype chat they he’d secured $600,000 USD, and then published leaked a term sheet to TechCrunch that showed an investment of 250,000 British Pounds (after publishing a post on the Blognation chat showing a letter from one of the people he claimed was helping him raise funds referring to a $250,000 USD investment).

    To give you an idea of what I mean, take a look at the term sheet that was leaked to TechCrunch. It is fraught with errors. The dates are either missing or have passed, the amount to be raised differs from the amounts that Sam has previously claimed to be raising and the document is filled with spelling errors and typos. Hardly the type of thing you’d see being presented by a venture fund, least of all one from conservative Brits.

    Add to this the fact that Sam had already shown himself willing to forge documents as evidenced by this example and you might better understand my sentiments.

    Having heard, seen, and read so many different valuations and amounts for a simple seed round, while at the same time being given excuse after excuse after excuse as to why we hadn’t been paid I no longer felt that a raise was likely before I took action.

    In addition, Sam claimed at one point that he was taking a loan against his assets to provide key people with interim payments. Contrary to his claims elsewhere (and once again I can prove my contention simply by publishing more of my Skype discussions with Sam) Sam did not leave me off of this list but had actually told me as was not only at the top of it but was also going to be receiving somewhat more than he’d promised other editors. After all, by his own words – again from Skype chat – Sam considered me Blognation’s MVP (not neccessarily for blogging alone but for the experience and business contacts I brought to the table.

    These interim payments never arrived and I realized that if Sam didn’t think he’d be reimbursed from a raise for this personal outlay that would be one reason why he wouldn’t deliver as promised.

    Compound this with the word from prior (now resigned or terminated) editors that Sam had played the exact same game with them and you can see how I’d come to this conclusion.

    Thus, I realized that I had only a few options. I wrote Sam a private demand letter asking not for an immediate payment but simply for a promissory note that was signed by him and witnessed by a second part other than his wife. In the note I wanted specific payment terms to be guaranteed. He never replied to this demand.

    In my demand I told Sam that I planned to go public with his fraud if he failed to respond to my letter and I kept my word. Again, I had reasons for this.

    Partially it was to smoke Sam out about funding. See, I figure that if Sam actually had a deal done or almost done then he would have agreed to my demand for the note if only to prevent me from going public and possibly screwing up his deal – that’s what I would have done, anyway.

    Besides, if you already have a contract with someone what difference is a promissory note going to make? If you don’t intend to pay you’re going to get sued if you do intend to pay the note matters little.

    When Sam failed to respond I had little choice but to keep my word and go public.

    I also believed that at this point his deal broker would have approached me and given me the commitment to pay Marc and I that I was demanding if I would back off and agree with the VC that I wasn’t going to file suit.

    This didn’t happen either and that lead me to the inevitable conclusion that the funding Sam claims to be eminent is vapor.

    If this proved to be the case as I suspected it would be I would show the world what a lying bastard this guy is and prevent him from doing the same thing to more bloggers down the road. Remember all the current BN people are second generation, he’s already run the scam once and then bullied people into silence. I have the email from them to prove it and many are coming out now that I’ve shown the world that the emperor has no clothes.

    My final reason was that the contracts that both Marc and I executed are not with Blognation, LTD but with Sam Sethi personally. Sam has reasonably substantial assets and because our contracts are with him my remedy does not require that I pierce the corporate veil to get at him. In other words, funding or no, Sam is going to pay the Orchant family and I every penny he owes, plus attorney’s fees, interest and if the courts agree, damages as well. It would have been cheaper for Sam to have just been honest.

    Hope that answers your question and demonstrates as well that this was not a random spasm of anger but a calculated move based upon Sam’s history, deceit and the need to get to the bottom of things one way or the other.

    Oliver

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  4. Tom McKenna says:

    Oliver, the motivation was thus payback.

    He stuffed you on payment and as you didn’t think it likely he could raise funds, you decided to give him a public flogging.

    That’s your prerogative, but whereas the initial fault reflects poorly on Sethi, your course of redress amounts to vigilante justice – you appointed yourself judge, jury and executioner and in so doing have kyboshed whatever slim chance BN ever had of raising and disbursing funds.

    Everyone loses this way including you as in mind you are now institutionally unemployable -employers don’t trust loose cannons. The courts are the proper forum for these issues.

    You torpedoed whatever (slim) chance there was of BN editors getting paid for Christmas. That is a shame.

  5. admin says:

    Tom,

    You asked me a question. I gave you an honest answer. One that indicated that I had given careful thought before taking the action I chose to take. I had particular reasons for doing what I chose to do and I spelled those out for you in my response.

    It is pretty clear that you had already made up your mind as to your opinion of those actions prior to my reply so I’m not sure why you bothered to ask.

    I don’t believe that what I did was in any respect acting like a “loose cannon”. It was a calculated decision – one I might add that I discussed with my friend Marc prior to his tragedy – and he agreed that at that point we had exhausted the more diplomatic options.

    I am thankful that you don’t determine the mindset of the corporate world. I guess it remains to be seen if I am institutionally unemployable. With the failure of Sam Sethi to pay as promised and with having turned down the position I was recently offered in order to keep my commitment to Blognation I am actively looking for work and suppose that if your contention is correct that will be reflected in my success or failure to secure new opportunities.

    I’m not sure, Tom, if you are friends with Sam or have it in for me for some particular reason. I do find it somewhat ironic that you accuse me of acting as judge, jury and executioner while basically making an essentially lifelong pronouncement about my future prospects after asking me for my motivation.

    I’m not going to defend myself as I don’t believe I need to. Sam was wrong, Sam was dishonest, Sam was given many, many opportunities to make things right and he chose to do otherwise.

    I also take consolation in the number of other former Blognation editors that have written to me both privately as well as by posting in more public forums applauding my actions and sharing their similar tales of deception, deceit and fraud also perpetrated by Sam Sethi.

    I’m sorry you can’t see just how monstrous this guy is and I’m sorry you think that I was solely or even significantly motivated by payback.

    Perhaps you have never been in a similar situation. Perhaps you haven’t been faced with decisions like the one I chose to make or perhaps you aren’t courageous enough to expose someone like Sam even if it meant exposing yourself to comments like the two you’ve just made above. Since I don’t know you, I can’t answer those questions. I can only ask and answer one of my own:

    Who does the hard things? He who can.

    Oliver Starr

  6. DanB says:

    Few thoughts,

    First, If more folks aired disputes like the one with Sam in public – and let public opinion drive behavior, there would be less need for courts. And – as the most litigious country in the world, where court battles limit innovation and free expression – I think a few less law suits is just fine. If Sam wants to regain his reputation – he can do so – by actions and not words.

    Second, private companies – unlike the bigger publicly held companies, hide all sorts of bad behavior by not having to release their books. Maybe – just maybe – if VC funded companies had to open the books, there would be a few less situations like this. People who become employees (or contractors) should have the right to make informed decisions through transparent accounting practices.

    Finally and most importantly – being someone that has known Marc since 1974 and basically grew up with him – thank you for your efforts and keeping everyone updated. The world lost a gem and I appreciate your taking the time to honor him by helping out. We MUST – MUST find a place to share our stories and the wisdom he gave us.

  7. Tom McKenna says:

    Oliver, I don’t know either of you and I do respect your right to seek redress as you see fit. I just think your frustration at his duplicity led you to actions which were slightly offside.
    I wish you well and hope you can move quickly past this debacle. I am also very sorry to hear of your friends passing. That is indeed very sad news.

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