Tim Lee – Wolf of Startupland?

Who is Tim Lee? That is the question. Late last year, I started getting tips from multiple founders regarding a strange duck, called The Sabotage Institute. Depending on who you talk to, Sabotage Institute is a VC, a Dumpster Fire, an Incubator, a Pretangel or an aptly named company designed to sabotage the reputations of companies and people.

Many of the Sabotage tipsters urged me to look at one of the founders, Tim Lee. Described as a high-pressure, huckster. More than one and less than ten entrepreneurs referred to Tim with harsh epitaphs, relating tales of Tim’s used-car salesman approach to recruiting founders. Fortunately, my friends who were approached by Tim were in well-positioned companies and did not feel the need to sabotage their companies,  careers, and reputations by aligning with Tim Lee and Andy Powers.

Others, like Armortext, took money from Sabotage and the CEO, Navroop Mitter wrote to me to defend Sabotage when I referred to them as a possible Pretangel in this post.

I was unable to find enough verifiable facts positive or negative to confirm these reports, so I filed the information away in my Tim Lee, possible wolf of startupland file.

Then Communiclique (doing business as CliqueAPI because changing your name if you’re crooked makes it harder to hit a moving target) and Andy Powers were convicted of bilking investors out of $10 million. Tim Lee was the CFO of the company (see this post and this SEC filing). Now maybe it’s just me, but if you’re the CFO of a company with outside investors, you might have a fiduciary responsibility to ensure the company’s books are in order. If the court finds your company guilty of financial fraud, you are either one of two things: 1) totally incompetent or 2) a criminal.

If you were the CFO of Communiclique you may have credibility problems after the Commonwealth of Virginia Courts found your company:

  • Claimed $80 million in revenue when in fact the state found no customers or revenue
  • Claimed a reputable investment bank valued you at $350 million when in fact the bank never performed a valuation on the company
  • Fraudulently repurposed a proposal from an investment bank as a valuation
  • Ignored a court order to cease and desist raising capital

When I wrote this post on Andy Powers and Communiclique (CliqueAPI), one name kept popping up and that name was Tim Lee. So Tim was included in the post. And then… I got this message via LinkedIn Messenger:

Before talking to Tim, I went back to my file and contacted my sources who initially reported him.  The sources gave me the following insights:

Tim is a fast-talking, used-car-salesmen who clearly had no experience or knowlege of Venture Capital. That when you called BS on him, when you pointed out he was not making sense, he’d talk over you or change the subject.

So guess what, I talked to Tim and he acted consistent with the forewarnings, he was full of double-talk (English for French word. bullshit). His words had little connection to the facts.

When I asked him about his relationship with Clique or CliqueAPI or CommuniClique or whatever the hell they’re calling that piece of shit today, let me paraphrase his response, “I’m not involved with that and I can’t speak to it because I’m under NDA for the company of which I’m not involved.”

  • Fact: Tim Lee was the Cheif Financial Officer, of Communiclique, Inc where he was responsible for managing the financials of a company that the State of Virginia found was defrauding investors.
  • Fact: Tim Lee left a respected, reputable company in which he was a co-founder and partner to become the CFO of CliqueAPI
  • Allegation: Tim urged acquaintances to invest in Communiclique

When I asked him about his relationship with Andy Powers, he answered he didn’t have one anymore. When I asked him if Andy Powers was a partner with him in Sabotage VC, he told me that Andy was not involved in Sabotage.

  • Fact: On that day when I checked the Sabotage web page, I found there were three partners. Tim Lee was one of those partners and the Andy Powers who according to Tim “is not a partner in Sabotage” was one of the others.
  • Fact: The Sabotage.vc website is no longer there.
  • Fact: If you google “Sabotage Institute” today, one of the listings points to the guy who Tim Lee assured me is only a minor advisor in Sabotage and not a partner in the firm in which Tim now does not recall he was a partner. 

Tim Lee appears to be trying to erase all evidence that he and Andy Powers were partners in more than one dumpster fire. Unfortunately for Tim, there are breadcrumbs all over the web that document their relationship. For Instance:

  • Tim scrubbed all references from SabotageVC and Communiclique from his LinkedIn account… unfortunately he didn’t change his LinkedIn URL, www.linkedin.com/in/timleesabotage.
  • When you google, Tim Lee Communiclique, Google points to Tim’s LinkedIn page that has been recently scrubbed of any reference to Communiclique and Sabotage. Let me google that for you.
  • On July 9th, Tim was elected chairman of the board of a charity, the Lever Fund. He attempted to erase any reference to his association with Andy Powers, Communiclique and Sabotage on his bio. But the breadcrumbs remain in google as you can see in the bio and subsequent google search result below:
  • Someone is removing references regarding Tim’s involvement with Sabotage and Clique on Crunchbase, Facebook, Twitter, Angel List.
  • Hey Tim, oops, I mean hey someone, you missed one… you need to get rid of the reference to Sabotage on this page, Five Questions For Tim Lee. Here’s a picture to memorialize the facts.

 

In order to get Tim’s reaction to this post before I published it, I messaged him on 9/14 on LinkedIn. I asked him if he’d like to comment before I posted a new blog about him. Crickets!

Even with his silence and the scrubbing, the questions remain. There is no denying that Tim Lee was an executive officer of a company that the Commonwealth of Virginia apparently found guilty of Securities Fraud, Bank Fraud, and Wire Fraud. I have heard from defrauded investors in Communiclique that Tim, a former wealth manager, financial advisor recommended investing in Communiclique.

Questions:

  • Was Tim a victim or a perpetrator of fraud?
  • Why is Tim attempting to erase his relationship with Andy Powers, Communiclique and Sabotage?
  • If he was simply guilty by association, why wouldn’t he stand up and defend himself instead of pretending his history is not his history?
  • Is the board of the charity, Lever Fund aware of Tim’s history?

Tim, I hope for your sake that you are just being poorly advised into squirrely behavior. If that is so, you are making yourself look guilty by trying to pretend you were never involved. I’m sorry you didn’t respond to my request for information. Maybe when the dust settles the facts sill show that you, like so many others, are just an innocent victim. I invite you to respond in comments below. I will not edit or alter them.

Update September 22: I just received a tip that Tim’s LinkedIn says he was a Vice President at Merril Lynch (see LinkedIn image below). The tipster states that Tim Lee started and ended his Merrill Lynch career in a junior position as a financial advisor. He was not in a supervisory role of any kind. I guess when you create holes in your CV by pretending you weren’t the CFO of a criminal enterprise or a Partner with a criminal in an Institute of Sabotage, you need to puff up the facts in other areas. Nope, Tim was not a VP.

Update September 29: According to this Tweet, Tim was never a VP at Merrill Lynch. The tweeter not only worked with Tim but according to his LinkedIn background, he and Tim were partners in a wealth management firm.

And this one where Tim’s former partner wishes Tim would pretend they were never partners. I guess Tim taints the name of his former firm.


Disclaimer: I volunteer my time and am an independent contractor for many organizations. The Views on my blog post are my own and do not represent the views of any of the organizations with whom I dedicate my time. That includes my clients in my coaching practice, the members of my Driven Forward ThinkTank, the University of Maryland. Mach37, The Founders Institute. These views also do not reflect the opinions for any organization that I was formerly associated with including, James Monroe Elementary School, where I graduated with distinction from 6th grade, Lexitron which I left in 1982, Montgomery Youth Hockey or Vistage an organization was grateful to be a part of and happily parted ways in 2014.