I Got a Cease and Desist from dHack. Here’s Why I’m Not Complying.

Misha Larionov
Dec 7, 2017 · 6 min read

My name is Misha and I’m 16 years old. As my Medium bio states, I write for fun and self-improvement. Recently, I wrote an article about a company called dHack. While the article and the follow-up weren’t very widely recognized, receiving just under 1500 reads, they did result in a cease and desist letter being sent to my email address by a partner at a law firm known as Dentons. The letter, sent on behalf of clients “David Kalman and dHack Inc” is included in full below. My personal email has been redacted from this document for privacy reasons.

The full cease and desist letter

The letter also came with an image of my post in the Facebook group “https://www.facebook.com/groups/hackathonhackers/.”

Early screenshot of https://www.facebook.com/groups/hackathonhackers/permalink/1794975487224595/

When I first got the letter, I was pretty intimidated. After all, who wouldn’t be? Getting a letter of cease and desist can be scary. The threat of legal action alone is enough to strong-arm most people into complying. I, however, refused to be silenced and decided to take a look at my options. The first thing I noticed was that time was running out. The email was sent at 4:23 PM on Monday, November 13. The letter gave me until 5:00 PM the following day. I had less than 24 hours to decide what I was going to do, and since I’m a full-time high school student, I didn’t have time to contact a lawyer during the day. So, I asked for an extension.

My reply to the original email from Dentons

As you can see, they essentially told me to delete the articles anyway. I decided to keep the articles up. At this point I realized that this was most likely a scare tactic, and that the short deadline was to deny me the option of talking to a lawyer. I was not going to be just another person for David to intimidate.

The rest of this article is going to be my paragraph-by-paragraph analysis of and response to the letter.

In particular, your assertions that dHack is “sketchy”, a “[s]cam” and a “shady organization” are false, misleading and defamatory of dHack.

Here it seems to me that David was rather upset about dHack being called a scam. After all, scammers typically prefer to operate under the radar and getting called out reduces the number of potential victims. To this, I have a simple solution: Don’t be one. A scam is a “fraudulent or deceptive act or operation.” Based on the facts I presented in both my articles, and due to claims such as the one in the screenshot below, I don’t think calling dHack a scam is false or misleading.

One of the fraudulent and deceptive claims made by the Trainhacks Instagram page, which was run by dHack before going private

dHack has either already delivered the prizes or will be delivering them shortly.

The cease and desist letter is dated November 13. As of December 4, neither Toronto Youth Network nor the Toronto Hacker Club has received any of the promised prizes. While I may not be entitled to details from dHack, members of the Toronto Hacker Club and Toronto Youth Network have given me plenty. Contact information was given to dHack almost immediately and yet dHack still hasn’t delivered on their promises.

In fact, we expect that you are already aware of this, given the responses by Peter Stakoun and Raveen Singh to your Facebook post […] The fact that you have simply disregarded and ignored these comments is evidence of your malice toward our client.

Here’s where it gets interesting. Based on the profile picture in the upper-right corner of the attached screenshot, it is clear that Raveen was the one who took the screenshot almost immediately after posting the comment. Minutes later, TYN co-director Keshav Chawla speculated that David had forced Raveen to post this.

I didn’t include any of this in my original article since the comments were made on the post where I shared the original article. I didn’t mention it in my second article as I didn’t have enough info to support either Raveen or Keshav’s side of the story.

Your statements regarding the Hack for Good and CNTEch are equally speculative and misinformed.

This is the only sentence on those events. No supporting information is provided in the letter. I don’t know how they think it’s misinformed, but you can re-read my article for the “statements regarding the Hack for Good and CNTEch”

Likewise, your comments about our clients’ competence are unfounded, misleading and defamatory. Mr. Kalman has over ten years of experience in the start-up industry, has an impressive start-up track record, and is well connected in the venture capital community. Your failure to mention this […] either further demonstrates your malice toward our clients or demonstrates your failure to conduct proper research for your article.

Believe it or not, I did conduct proper research for the article. As far as I can tell, the whole sentence about David’s experience is completely false. On his LinkedIn profile, the oldest work experience I could find dated back to December 2008 (Almost exactly 9 years ago) as a medic for Magen David Adom. While this is an admirable job, Israel’s national EMS is far from a startup, and nine years is most definitely less than “ten years of experience”. In fact, the only startup of his I could find (apart from dHack, of course) is bioCuff, some sort of wearable medical bracelet startup with no evidence of a physical product. However, the Twitter account hasn’t had a meaningful tweet since 2015, and the only evidence of them ever having some sort product concept is their Instagram page. Unfortunately this “evidence” is a render of a generic-looking smartwatch similar to the Moto 360, and the Instagram has been as inactive as the Twitter. Interestingly enough, it seems that bioCuff incorporated this year, so maybe there’ll be something else from them soon.

your statement that dHack has “scammed organizations run by students out of thousands of dollars, and will continue to do so unless organizations know not to work with them” is defamatory and, quite obviously, intended to injure our clients

Fact: The Toronto Hacker Club is run by high school students.

Fact: Peter Stakoun of the Toronto Hacker Club gave dHack what he claimed to his team was seven thousand dollars (According to one member: “That’s only what we were told [by Peter], no one can be sure”)

Fact: dHack has not delivered any prizes to TYN or TOHC. They have also not given the TOHC a promised $16000 CAD, according to a contract leaked to me by multiple former TOHC members. The full contract can be found at this link.

Finally, our clients understand that you have communicated your defamatory articles and statements directly to prominent members of the technology community, further aggravating the harm to our clients.

David Kalman sits on the Sick Kids Tech and Innovation Advisory Council as CEO of dHack. Due to the illegitimate nature of his company, I thought it was despicable that he was allowed to be on the same council as founders of legitimate companies such as Ritual and Wealthsimple. After contacting Leonard Nolasco, manager of major gifts at Sick Kids, he promised they would be “reconvening with the co-chairs of the Tech & Innovation Advisory Council and will be meeting with Mr. Kalman to discuss further”.

In conclusion, I will not delete my articles. I will not delete my Facebook posts. I will not retract my allegations unless they are objectively found to be false. My statements are based on what I can reasonably believe to be fact and I will continue making sure the public is aware of the actions of David Kalman and dHack. If any new information comes up, either in support of or against dHack, I will gladly report on it. I contacted every member of dHack I could find and received no response. If any members of dHack would like to comment on any of my claims, please contact me. David has my email.

Thanks to Samyar Vahid.

Misha Larionov

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Student developer. I write to improve myself so I don’t take an L for my English mark.