While I am a tech geek who blogs for a living, I am also a businessman. I make a living by working online, and this very website is a huge part of that. So, when I see a public soap opera of the failure of a blog network, it grabs my attention. especially when that soap opera contains lies, deceit and the death of one of the major participants.
That blog network is BlogNation, operated by one Sam Sethi. Now, I will admit straight up that I have never heard of this guy until this story broke. But apparently he has a long history in blogging – and not a very good one. He used to work for Techcrunch UK and now has bad blood with Mike Arrington, who runs Techcrunch.
Let’s run through the plot:
- We find out that Mark Orchant suffered a massive heart attack. It made the homepage of Techmeme and, after reading it, I was saddened simply because a fellow tech blogger was having a hard time. This post was originally posted under the name of Oliver Starr.
- The followups to Marc’s condition also make Techmeme, this time listed directly on Oliver Starr’s blog.
- Oliver Starr then posts a scathing 3,000+ word post exposing Sam Sethi. My interest level went up in this story. Starr didn’t hold back on ANYTHING. And all of this was intertwined with the situation with Marc. When I first read this, I was thinking perhaps Oliver (a close friend of Marc) was having a tough time and taking it out on those around him. But, I didn’t know. Techcrunch republished Oliver’s letter, definitely making it even more public.
- The unfortunate move then comes down that Marc Orchant had passed away.
- The public feud with Sam Sethi intensifies. Oliver Starr says “There are worms, and then there’s Sam Sethi“. Marc Orchant was one of the other bloggers screwed by Sam Sethi.
- Techcrunch publishes a story about how BlogNation could arise from the ashes due to securing some venture capital funding. The story launches a sh*tstorm and eventually it comes out that BlogNation is closing down for good. Sam Sethi responds by basically blaming everybody but himself.
- Mike Arrington posts his final take on the issue, sparing nothing in calling Sam Sethi a liar. He says that Sam’s claim that he killed Blognation with his post on Techcrunch was a lie. And he all but says that it was Sam Sethi and the BlogNation fiasco (Sam owed several bloggers thousands of euros) that led to Marc Orchant’s death.
This is a classic case of business gone bad. Some of the participants seem to have taken the issue a little TOO public. Not everybody has acted professionally. But, one thing does appear to be true: Sam Sethi is not a trustworthy businessman. Let’s put it this way: If we are to believe Sam Sethi, we have to assume that a bunch of people are lying and conspiring against him. Not likely. On the other hand, if we believe the majority, then it is obvious that Sam Sethi is indeed a worm.
This drama was interesting to me because the last time I witnessed a public display like this from a web company was with the company called eFront Media. The difference was that I was directly tied to eFront Media. See, eFront’s entire business model was to acquire a bunch of websites and combine the traffic into a network on which to sell advertising. Well, PC Mechanic was one of the sites that was sold to eFront Media for a sum of around $1 million. Don’t get excited, though, it was a complete sham (which is obvious now that I am clearly running this site still and eFront has long since gone to the Deadpool).
But, the fall of eFront was very much public. They, too, were having a hard time paying their publishers. They were in severe default of contract with me personally. Most of their publishers were in the same boat as I. This led to a lot of disgruntled people. To cover their butt, Sam Jain (CEO of eFront) lied multiple times, promised to pay what was owed. They even tried renegotiated publisher contracts to better terms, all but threatening to block access to the sites unless the publisher signed the new contract.
I had a phone conversation with Sam Jain where he told me that if I wanted out, I would need to buy back PC Mechanic by paying them back everything they had paid me. This, of course, after being in complete breach of contract with me for several months. They were obviously making money with PCMech the whole time.
The whole thing fell apart very publicly when Sam Jain’s ICQ logs were stolen and posted publicly. It laid everything out. How they were trying to game publishers into crappy deals. How they wanted to “rape and spit on” a publisher who spoke badly of them. Shortly thereafter we got word that eFront’s hosting company was pulling the plug. Just in the nick of time, I managed to pull all of PC Mechanic off of their web servers and back onto my own server, but I would guess that several publishers lost their sites. Then we saw pictures of eFront’s main office with lock and chain on the doors. They had been evicted.
I sent certified letter to eFront saying I was taking back PC Mechanic for breach of contract. I never heard back from them, except for the fact that my letter was refused by the recipient.
According to Wikipedia, Sam Jain was court ordered to pay $3.1 million to Symantec for selling counterfeit software. I guess Sam went on to bigger and better things like selling warez after screwing over a lot of hard-working web publishers like myself.
The parallels of the two Sam’s are uncanny. Sam Jain screws people over with eFront, and turns into a liar when the finances go wrong. Sam Sethi screws bloggers over, not paying them, all while making tons of promises to them.
I took an interest in the tale of Sam Sethi not only because of the unfortunate death of Marc Orchant, but that Sethi’s doings reminded me so much of my ordeal with eFront Media. And you have to admit, the fact that both men are named Sam really is ironic as hell.
My thoughts go out to the family of Marc Orchant. It sounds like he was a great guy, and it is always unfortunate when we lose a fellow tech blogger.
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