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We’ve been watching WeCrashed at Casa Murphy lately, which is the AppleTV+ drama with Jared Leto and Anne Hathaway absolutely crushing it as Adam and Rebekah Neumann, husband and wife and former founder/CEO and chief brand and impact officer of WeWork.
That might be why this story that our own Kate Sullivan wrote about her tangential experience with a business that—well, that wasn’t quite all it was cracked up to be —struck me as something to share today.
by Kate Sullivan
About a year ago, when I came across an interesting ad for a digital marketing chief at a startup. I’m not actively looking for work, but I still get a lot of notifications on LinkedIn, MediaBistro, and the like, so I clicked through.
Sometimes you’re just curious.
The job wasn’t for me, but the company did have an operations management position that would have suited my partner to a T. So, I forwarded him the ad, then promptly forgot all about it.
Until a couple weeks ago, that is, when a new BBC documentary premiered.
Jobfished is about a fake digital ad agency that scammed 50 people into working for free, with the promise of excellent commissions and future compensation, including equity.
They toiled for months doing briefs, sample projects, and wooing clients. Some quit other jobs to come on board; others started planning their futures based on the promise of visas or hefty salaries.
Then it all fell apart. I read the BBC article with mild interest, until one detail caught my eye. Let’s set the stage with how the BBC described things:
The Zoom call had about 40 people on it - or that's what the people who had logged on thought. The all-staff meeting at the glamorous design agency had been called to welcome the growing company's newest recruits. Its name was Madbird and its dynamic and inspirational boss, Ali Ayad, wanted everyone on the call to be ambitious hustlers - just like him.
But what those who had turned on their cameras didn't know was that some of the others in the meeting weren't real people. Yes, they were listed as participants. Some even had active email accounts and LinkedIn profiles. But their names were made up and their headshots belonged to other people.
The whole thing was fake - the real employees had been "jobfished". The BBC has spent a year investigating what happened.
Wait a second: Madbird? That sure sounded familiar. I looked up the posting I’d forwarded to my partner.
Sure enough: Madbird. It was the same company. Neither my partner nor I had actually applied, thankfully. But, talk about a close call. I felt empathy for the poor folks scammed out of time, knowledge, and compensation by this fake agency.
It’s unclear to me whether the founder actively meant to con people, or whether he truly but misguidedly thought that he could slip a solid foundation under his house of cards by just landing that “one elusive deal” that would legitimize everything.
That idea sends more shivers down my spine than the idea that he was a sociopathic con man, because it makes you take a second look at any job posting.
Did he think that someday, he’d get to laugh at his founding myth? “Yeah, we faked it till we made it, and look where we are now!” And does his motive even matter to the people who basically worked for free to a fake company?
Who do you trust? Who would even go through the trouble of trying to make you trust them? And how do you know the difference?
7 other things worth knowing today
Mass graves, destruction, and evidence of the intentional killing of civilians greeted Ukrainians in the suburb of Bucha, outside Kyiv, after Russian soldiers retreated. I’ve been looking carefully all weekend at some of this, aghast but also trying to compile confirmations that it all actually is the horror it appears to be, since this is truly the kind of thing that could get the U.S. involved more directly. Western reporters now do seem to have gone beyond simply sharing images from social media that were given to them by the Ukrainian government, to verifying much of it themselves. (NYT, $)
Russia denies it all, says the massacres were done by Ukrainian troops or “radicals” on their own people, and called for a U.N. security council meeting. (US News)
Twitter co-founder and former CEO took to Twitter (where else?) to say that he is “partially to blame and regret it” for trends of “centralizing discovery and identity into corporations [that] really damaged the internet.” This kind of reminds me of when Robert MacNamara, former secretary of defense and one of the architects of the Vietnam War, chose the title, “In Retrospect” for his memoir. (Mashable)
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky gave a remote speech at the Grammys last night. "The war. What's more opposite than music." (CNN)
Nearly half of Uber and Lyft drivers in the U.S. have quit or are driving less due to high gas prices caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine, despite temporary fuel surcharges added to fares by those ride-hailing companies, according to a survey shared with TechCrunch. (TechCrunch)
South Carolina won the women’s national college basketball championship last night, beating one of my alma maters, UConn. Tonight it’s the men’s game: Kansas vs. North Carolina. (CNN)
The nation’s oldest active park ranger is hanging up her Smokey hat at the age of 100. Betty Reid Soskin retired last week after 15 years at the Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, California. She led tours honoring women who worked in factories during wartime and shared her own experience as a Black woman during the conflict. She worked for the U.S. Air Force in 1942 but quit after learning that “she was employed only because her superiors believed she was white,” according to a Park Service biography. (AP)
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Thanks for reading. Photo credit: Unsplash. Want to see all my mistakes? Click here.
Interesting story. Sounds like you definitely dodged a bullet!. good for you. Never heard of the word Jobfished but did read an article in Vanity Fair (I believe last year) that there was something similar (I cannot for the life of me remember the back story..lol frustrating) where these 2 people - husband and wife - had this company they tried to scale and hired all these people who quit their current jobs and moved elsewhere (different states) only to discover that it was all a scam and there was no job or the money they reported they had. I am always amazed (not in a good way) the degree to which people will upend another's life in such an egregious way - with no regard for others. Says a lot about that person.
I think there’s an important difference that is being overlooked. My understanding of “Fake It Till You Make It” is a mantra to help people with fear, low self esteem and any other issue preventing them from pursuing/achieving their goals. This article describes a con which involves someone knowingly deceiving others to achieve gains for themselves. Actions such as “stealing” pictures and creating false ID’s have less to do with “faking” it and more to do with breaking the law.