Is Blognation in a meltdown?

Blognation seemed to be a great idea when it launched. Get great bloggers from all over the world, under one banner, pay them well and the advertising money will follow the quality content.

Unfortunately, the money part seems to have proven a little problematic.

One of Blognation’s authors, Oliver Starr wrote an open letter to Blognation’s founder, Sam Sethi, on the Blognation US site today where he claimed none of Blognation’s authors have yet been paid. That post has since been deleted off the Blognation US site.

Oliver Starr has since re-posted the open letter on his own blog.

The allegations Oliver makes against Sam are pretty damning. He says, amongst other things:

You made promises that people took to the bank and then you defaulted on them leaving everyone that trusted you to face the consequences. I am not kidding when I say that there are people on Blognation that probably won’t have a Christmas thanks to believing in you. There are people that are going to be late on car payments and there are people that are going to have to think twice before they go to the dentist because they are out some $10, $20 or even $30,000 dollars of income that they were expecting, for which they HAVE A CONTRACT and for which you have an obligation because you told us that you had the money when in fact you never really did!

He goes on to further add:

that’s a pretty ugly litany of yours up there; lies, more lies, still more lies, exaggerations, evasiveness, manipulation, usury, fraud even – honestly Sam I think there’s a good chance that what you’ve done is actually criminal not just pathological and antisocial – perhaps even psychotic behavior. Sorry to have to recount it – I never would have expected that I would have had to write anything like this to you. It goes to show that you just never know people until you’ve been down the road with them a few miles, huh?

Read the entire post – it is long but extremely well written and worth the time.

I was in touch with Sam over Twitter direct message since this broke and he said he was working on his own response. At time of writing I haven’t come across his response. I tried phoning him but the number I have no longer appears valid.

I spoke to Nicole Simon, Germany’s Blognation editor, and she basically confirmed everything Oliver said and Nicole has her own post on the matter up now too. I tried talking to Conor O’Neill, Ireland’s Blognation editor, for his perspective but failed to get him.

If what Oliver says is true, and given that Nicole backs it up, I have no reason to doubt it is, Sam’s reputation is in shreds. The Blognation brand is also in serious difficulty. No investor will touch Blognation now with Sam still involved unless Sam can come back with a seriously credible explanation for these posts.

If Sam cannot explain adequately the accusations against him, Blognation can still be saved, I believe. There is a value in the group of authors Sam gathered, in the material they have written so far, and the material they may yet write. If someone credible can step in and take ownership of Blognation from Sam then not all is lost and the brand and all the work to-date might be saved.

That is a big “if” though!

UPDATE – Sam Sethi has said he is unable to raise funding and he is closing Blognation. As I mentioned in the piece above, there is still a chance that the brand can be saved if a buyer steps in.

18 thoughts on “Is Blognation in a meltdown?”

  1. Tom not sure why you cannot call me directly my mobile is working and as you say we twittered so you could have asked me. I will send you my direct dial.

    Saddened by the way some people have reacted without all the facts but have come to expect that. I will respond in full but not in the heat of the moment.

    Ask anyone in Europe how hard it is to raise Angle/VC funding and then ask if they managed to do it in less than a few months?

  2. Tom, what can I say about this? Every new company, especially startups have issues. I’ve been a part of four now and nothing is different. I’m still blogging at bn Canada and even covering Web Community Forum there.

    I am still working for bn. That should sum it up pretty well.

  3. @Sam – the only thing that needs to happen is for Blognation to pay up and provide money backed assurances for the future. That will shut everyone up. Everything else – fact or otherwise – is irrelevant detail.

  4. Sam, I tried the mobile number I had for you several times but didn’t get through. I know exactly how difficult it is to raise funds having been involved in several startups myself down the years. Having said that I never took anyone on until I had the resources in place to pay them.

    No employee of mine ever went unpaid for any work. Ever.

  5. Tom, I was in deep West Cork all afternoon with no access to mail or mobile so I’m only catching up on this now.

    There have been a lot of mistakes in blognation as this ambitious project got off the ground. However I continue to believe in the vision and will happily continue to edit blognation Ireland.

  6. Interesting how there were more BN posts today than any other day this week – is this a silent backing by BN authors? I have not seen any other author bow out and both JP, CN & IE have published that they’re still involved.

    Very Odd.

  7. No matter “how hard it is to raise Angle/VC funding”, you do not hire anyone, especially under a contract, unless you have the money to pay them from day one.

  8. I can confirm non-payment and gross abuse of trust and reputation. Blognation – great idea, bad driver.

  9. Was in the centre of battle yesterday during all this. Sorry I wasn’t in your roledex Tom as one of the editors you chose to contact (I posted in the Techcrunch article inviting anyone to contact us regarding questions or comments).

    I’d like to echo what Tris said above regarding startups and add it should be CAREFULLY noted who comments on behalf of blognation. Those editors who have actively created communities and the brand within their country are enthusiastic and excited by the brand and VERY supportive of the team and Sam himself. Those who have not had a smooth start (for professional or personal reasons) have not been so complimentary. I particularly enjoyed Debi’s Canterbury Tales – Prelude “Feast around the table” illustration and thought very appropriate.

    Keep your original perception of it being a great idea turning into reality. When the payment issue passes (which it will be), people will simply shrug this off and go on with their lives.

    Robert Sanzalone
    editor, blognation Japan

  10. I like how “oh, but we’re a Web 2.0 company, funding is HARD” is an excuse for not paying employees with contracts, these days. I seem to remember the same sort of thing happening at the end of Web 1.0, in fact…

    If he had even been honest with employees about his cashflow issues, it wouldn’t have been so bad.

  11. What Sam fails to take responsibility for are his lies. He conned bloggers into writing for him on the basis that he had funding. He told anyone who would listen in London that he had raised VC money. He even wrote it on the Blognation about page which is cached in Google. The about page, before he took it down, said –

    ‘What is the business model behind blognation?
    blognation is backed by undisclosed venture capital funding, by vendor advertising and through affiliate advertising.’

    Now that he has been forced to say that he hasn’t, EVERYONE (a lot of people already had work it out) now sees him for the liar he is.

    Conor I’d stop chasing your loses. Alternatively ask Sam to provide you with character references from senior people in the London sector. I doubt that there are many people left who’d be prepared to provide one. Sam lies. Ask anyone.

    Robert I very much doubt that the payment issue will pass. It seems highly unlikely, given Sam’s reputation in London, that he will raise VC funding. The only chance I see is for him to raise angel level funding from someone outside the sector.

  12. At first, I have to apologize for my bad English!
    I personally believe, that blognation is a great idea. Blogger can write what they want and get money for it. But in my opinion there are problems with the driver.

  13. Exactly what i have expected, deleting improper arguments – let his authors in the dark and unpaid. And if this guy didn´t post his article on his blog, it would be a ripo-off to this day.

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