A recent post falling into the third category apparently earned its writer the threat of legal action before the startup in question abruptly reversed course and started erasing itself from the internet.
Marketer Penny Kim wrote over the weekend about her former employer in a post titled "I Got Scammed by a Silicon Valley Startup." She said the company, which she did not explicitly name in the post, had failed to pay her and engaged in other unprofessional practices. People on the internet determined the company must be Santa Clara-based WrkRiot, and Business Insider confirmed a number of details in Kim's account with the company's CTO, Al Brown.
One jaw-dropping detail Brown confirmed: The company's CEO "gave employees fake receipts for money wire transfers to convince them the company had paid their back wages when in fact it hadn't," reports Julie Bort in a post published Tuesday about drama at the job search platform.
Between Kim's post and Business Insider's confirmation of details, WrkRiot spasmed through an awkward phases-of-grief response to the allegations. On Monday, New York Times reporter Mike Isaac posted a screenshot of a legal threat the startup posted on its Facebook page.
"WrkRiot is considering legal action against a disgruntled former employee who has launched a slanderous campaign against WrkRiot and some of its employees via social media," the post begins, going on to accuse the former employee of attempting to extort $50,000 from the company.
"WrkRiot believes this former employee's writings have led to dangerous situations for many of our employees through the leaking of personal information and through threats being made over social media from others who have taken the former employee's misinformation as truth," reads the post.
A link to the original post included in Isaac's tweet leads to a Facebook page that appears to have since been removed. Also inaccessible: WrkRiot's website, which displays a "Website Expired" note and is password protected.
Kim's post is reminiscent of posts earlier this year on Medium from employees at Yelp, which characterized the online review company's atmosphere as overly stressful and complained of certain roles being underpaid. Those posts also gained significant attention, though clearly were less damaging to Yelp than the post by Kim has been to WrkRiot. (Also, those posts lacked Kim's smoking-gun legal accusations.)
The post is also an example of a category of content that has been around for decades, but seems to be especially popular this summer, centered on disillusionment with the startup world.
Other recent examples include Dan Lyons's Hubspot tell-all Disrupted and Antonio Garcia Martinez's recently-published Chaos Monkeys, about working at Facebook. Fictional accounts, such as two essays by writer and CEO of publication The Bold Italic Sunil Rajaraman, are also gaining traction.
In the case of Kim's post, it's not all talk. Business Insiderreports the marketer has filed a complaint with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement against her former employer for failing to pay her.
Inc. has reached out to Kim and WrkRiot for comment and will update if they respond.