Lesson Learned

This morning, I woke up to find out that a job-matching company I’d been advising, WrkRiot (formerly known as 1for.one and apparently also known as JobSonic), was in the news and for the worst of reasons — a post from a former employee entitled “I Got Scammed by a Silicon Valley Startup”. A few of my friends noticed my name on their now deleted team page (which they found through this Hacker News post), and I’m grateful that they immediately reached out to me about it.

Effective immediately, I have terminated any association with the company, and I have asked them to remove me from their team page and anywhere else they may have referred to me. I never received any cash compensation from them, nor do I plan to exercise the options they issued to me. In other words, I have no financial connection to the company.

Nonetheless, I owe an apology to anyone who took the company more seriously because of my association with them. I should have gotten to know the company and its leadership better before associating myself with them and lending them my credibility. Lesson learned.

Moreover, there were flags that should have scared me off. Once I signed up as an advisor, the company was very aggressive about dropping my name in his outreach to VCs — without asking my permission to do so. As for technology, it was immediately clear that the team was in over its head — they were asking me extremely basic questions about machine learning, and having an intern without the necessary background work on problems in the critical path. Overall, the company seemed more interested in using my name than in actually following my advice.

So why did I remain as an advisor? As a matter of fact, I’d asked to terminate the advisory relationship back in May — I was becoming increasingly busy with other commitments, and they were at the bottom of my priority queue. But they talked me out of it, mostly by convincing me that they wouldn’t take up much of my time. And indeed they didn’t: until today, I had not communicated with the company in the past three months.

Still, I should have been more protective of my credibility, not just to protect myself but to protect anyone that credibility could be used to harm. If the company hurt you, I apologize for even the small part I may have played in enabling them. Please let me know if I can make it up to you somehow.

And, moving forward, I’ll be more careful. Lesson learned.

UPDATE: WrkRiot CEO Isaac Choi was indicted on June 8, 2017.