Brand.com has mysteriously disappeared - Technical.ly Philly

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Mar. 11, 2015 12:12 pm

Brand.com has mysteriously disappeared

The domain is for sale. The emails are dead. The top execs are gone. The office is dark. What happened to online reputation management firm Brand.com?

As of March 2015, Brand.com's office in the Curtis Center at 601 Walnut Street appeared to be shuttered.

(Photo by Juliana Reyes)

Update: Both brand.com and nhq.com now redirect to landing pages listing the domains as “available for purchase.” (3/12/15, 11:04 a.m.)
The Brand.com office was quiet.

Located toward the end of a narrow hallway on the seventh floor of the Curtis Center’s east wing, its big glass doors were locked. The lights were off. All that was left was a big white “B” cut out of a blue square — the company’s former logo — affixed to a white wall overlooking the receptionist’s desk.

Behind the receptionist’s desk stood an orange superhero, with his fists on his hips and a shit-eating grin on his face. He wore a maroon cape around his chiseled shoulders and a belted pair of underpants to match. The logo on his chest, which bulged steroidally, read “RC.” Reputation Changer. That was Brand.com’s former identity.

But what had happened to Brand.com was unclear. Where did everyone go? We were there to find out.

After receiving a mayoral welcome in 2013, after announcing the addition of former Gov. Ed Rendell to its advisory board just last November, the company had quietly gone silent.

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Mayor Michael Nutter poses with Brand.com President Michael Zammuto at the company's ribbon-cutting ceremony. (Photo by Zack Seward/WHYY)

Mayor Michael Nutter poses with former Brand.com President Michael Zammuto at the company’s ribbon-cutting ceremony in September 2013. (Photo by Zack Seward/WHYY)

Let’s start at the spring of 2013.

The future was looking bright for the online reputation management company, which made a splash by nabbing the Brand.com domain from MakerBot VP Chuck Pettis for, reportedly, $500,000. It announced that it was rebranding from Reputation Changer to Brand.com and moving from West Chester into Center City. Its success was built on charging $7,500 or more to clean up a company’s online reputation.

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That fall, Mayor Nutter cut the ribbon on the 7,000-square-foot office, celebrating the company moving 120 staffers into the city and its expected growth of 100 more that year alone. The company boasted perks like a chair masseuse and a personal trainer, both of which would come in a few times a week.

Now, the company appears to have shuttered its Philadelphia operations. Its once-prized domain is now for sale, according to to DomainNameWire.com.

President and COO Mike Zammuto left the company in November. He’s now president of Chaikin Analytics. When reached for comment, Zammuto wrote at length about his excitement about joining Chaikin Analytics and how Philly’s finance-technology community is promising. “I think FinTech is going to be the big thing for a while,” he wrote in an email.

He declined to elaborate on the circumstances surrounding his departure from Brand.com, citing a separation agreement.

The company lost 70 staffers in 2014 through layoffs and turnover, a former staffer who asked not to be named told us. Another former exec, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the staff had shrunk to 60 when he left last fall.

No one who still works at Brand.com (at least according to their LinkedIn profile) has returned our messages, the company’s phone numbers have been disconnected and all the emails we’ve sent to Brand.com email addresses have bounced. The company opened a small New York City office in late 2014, said one former sales staffer, but it’s not clear if it’s still open. Brand.com’s website is still up, however. A lawyer representing Brand.com contacted us after he got word that we were working on a story. He agreed to take questions via email but did not respond to them.

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Amid the radio silence from Brand.com reps, we found these clues about the company’s sudden disappearance.

Brand.com left its office in the historic Curtis Center at 601 Walnut Street and did not leave a forwarding address, a receptionist for Keystone Property Group, which manages the Curtis Center, told us. A staffer from Locks Law Firm, which has an office across from Brand.com, said that the company had been gone since January. Keystone Property Group leasing manager Scott Paymer declined to share details on the company’s lease, though a source familiar with the terms who asked not to be named said it was a five-year lease.

It turns out that Brand.com had another office space, too: a 4,500-square-foot space in the nearby Public Ledger building in Old City, for which Brand.com signed a five-year lease in the spring of 2013, months before the flashy Curtis Center ribbon cutting, according to the source familiar with the deal. It was a sales office, said the former sales staffer who asked not to be named. Brand.com was looking into subleasing this office last fall, according to the source familiar with the deal.

A few months later, in December, Brand.com reached out to realtor-to-Philly-founders Dan Gummel, inquiring about office space at the Bourse in Old City, which had recently been public about its mission to attract startups. One week later, a Brand.com staffer told Gummel the company was likely going to move all its staffers into the Public Ledger building office, Gummel told us.

Brand.com did not get any tax incentives to move to the city, said the Commerce Department’s Luke Butler. The company was eligible for job creation tax credits, but Butler said the city could not disclose if those credits were used, citing state and local laws.

What’s more mysterious is that Brand.com appeared to be on some sort of upswing or transformation.

In November, the company got a new CEO: Dave Armon, the New York City-based former COO of PR Newswire. That news came with the launch of a “groundbreaking platform” for content marketing, plus the announced addition of Rendell to the company’s advisory board. (The only other mention of the Rendell news was this article in Metro US, which appears to have been commissioned by Brand.com. “Reporter was commissioned to write this in-depth article,” is the only disclosure.)

Armon’s hiring pointed to Brand.com’s new direction: less online reputation management, more content marketing.

See, Brand.com had been quietly running another arm of the business called News Headquarters since mid-2013, at least according to the company’s Twitter. They landed a flashy three-letter domain for that one, too: nhq.com. News Headquarters billed itself as a service for publishers and PR firms to “commission reporter-written articles.” Its tagline? “Journalism redefined.” (Editor’s note: Could this have been one?)

Why the switch? One exec who spoke on the condition of anonymity said it was because last spring, Google got more aggressive on SEO tactics and that made the SEO and reputation management business harder. Strategies the company had previously used stopped working. Clients were getting angry and demanding their money back. (Most notably, according to an Ars Technica report, a Seattle public utility demanded a $17,500 refund last summer after Brand.com’s services failed to work for its CEO.)

So the company pivoted.

It looked more and more like a “large-scale PR firm,” the anonymous exec said, and it seemed more sustainable than relying on Google and its finicky algorithms.

But it wasn’t without consequences. The company had to downsize.

One former staffer said of the circumstances in late 2014: “Everything was tanking. People were leaving. Morale was really low.” Still, he doesn’t regret the experience, he said.

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An out-of-date sign in the Curtis Center? (Photo by Juliana Reyes)

The sales staffer who asked not to be named also remembered his Brand.com days fondly. He wrote in a LinkedIn message:

Brand was exciting and fast paced – very dot.com in the early 2000’s feel – lots of high energy. Work hard, play hard philosophy. We cranked techno music on the sales floor – and it was a really exciting company. We always had snacks or energy drinks handy – and it was not a 9-5 job, it was work as long as you wanted job because every additional hour you worked could mean more money for you and for the company.

We spoke briefly with News Headquarters Vice President Myles Fuchs last fall, when we called about Brand.com’s Google penalties. Fuchs did not respond to our recent requests for comment about the changes at the company.

This past January, we were in touch with Armon and Chief Operating Officer and Chief Content Officer Jonathan Cooper to set up a meeting to hear the latest about the company’s new direction. But the day before our scheduled meeting, Armon said he had to be in New York City and canceled.

Plans never came together for another meeting and the next time we checked, just four months after he had joined the company, Armon appears to have left Brand.com. The company is no longer listed on his LinkedIn. He’s now the Chief Marketing Officer of a New York City media company called 3BL Media.

Cooper, a former Digital First Media VP who worked at Brand.com for seven months, left the company in January. He’s now working in media consulting and also founded a craft beer card game, according to his LinkedIn. Armon and Cooper did not respond to requests for comment.

Several Brand.com sales execs (they had many) also departed, including VP of Sales Jay Steffey (now at Cint), VP of Sales Strategy Steve Driben (now at Comverge) and Senior VP of Sales Chuck Evans (now at IBM). Brand.com Chief Technology Officer Kinkar Saha, who appeared to have worked remotely from India, left the company in November after almost four years in the role. Ron Gamble, the company’s creative director of two-plus years, also left last summer. None of them responded to a request for comment.

Strange occurrences seemed to follow Brand.com around, including the time the online reputation manager had to do damage control on its own online presence after a series of alleged cyber-attacks got the company penalized on Google. Or the time when former COO Zammuto was the victim of an alleged $500,000 Bitcoin extortion scheme, where the blackmailers “threatened to smear the reputation of Zammuto and his company.”

Even cofounder Rich Gorman doesn’t know what’s going on with the company. Gorman, who said he founded the company with Justin Singletary and one other man he declined to name, said he stepped away from the business in 2013 after the Bitcoin extortion scheme “spooked” him.

“I lost my enthusiasm for the business at that point in time,” he said in a phone interview Tuesday night.

His understanding is that Brand.com was undergoing a “reorganization” but that he didn’t know anything past that.

Two staffers we spoke with said that Gorman was still involved and would come to the office in 2014, though Gorman maintained that this was not the case. Singletary, on the other hand, was hardly ever around, the staffers said. Singletary did not respond to a request for comment via LinkedIn.

Gorman admits to past issues that have dogged him online since. When asked, he said that those issues had nothing to do with the founding of Brand.com. He declined to discuss his other business ventures, though he and Singletary appear to have another company together: the Savannah, Ga.-based fulfillment center business Fulfillment.com. (Singletary lists himself as a “managing member” of Fulfillment.com, while a 2014 Arizona court filing associates Gorman with the company.)

So what now? The exec who asked to remain anonymous said the last he heard, the company was entertaining acquisition deals. Meanwhile, some Brand.com customers are still waiting for justice, so to speak.

“He really pulled a fast one on everyone, including Mayor Nutter,” said disgruntled customer and local entrepreneur Anthony DiMeo, who points the finger at Brand.com’s former COO Zammuto. DiMeo, who says he paid the company $3,000 for online marketing, said the company stopped answering his calls in February.

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Juliana Reyes

Juliana Reyes has been covering the Philadelphia tech scene since 2012. She's co-president of the Asian American Journalists Association Philadelphia chapter and a two-time Philadelphia News Award winner for "Community Reporting of the Year." The Bryn Mawr College grad lives in West Philly, likes her food spicy and wears jumpsuits often.

  • Mike Krupit

    Thank you, Juliana. Your style made me wanting to keep reading, “…shit-eating grin,” “chiseled shoulders,” “belted pair of underpants,” “bulged steroidally…” It got me thinking I was going to be reading Fifty Shades of Technically Philly.

    • Former Brand.com Exec

      I guess this is a big deal for Philly….but bottom line is that it’s a reputation management startup that tried to pivot into content marketing and failed….

    • onlinereputation

      i have predicted this vanishing because they were just selling lies most of the times by saying they will remove bad listings from google while charghing you thousands upfront….

      Stop getting scammed by these so called reputation management companies that charge you before work is done.

      give me a shout at: reputationdr@gmail.com and ill take care of your online reputation at no charge Until the entire situation is fixed! thats right, ZERO RISK, if im unable to perform, you dont pay me a single penny (95% success rate.) theres no point risking thousands and not getting anything for it!!

      I am purely result driven, this means you don’t risk anything because if I’m unable to provide you the results, you dont pay anything! no catch, no risk, no setup fee, no deposit.

  • Guest

    I worked there for a year. And I must commend Juliana Reyes for her balanced reporting. She got the facts straight and mentioned allegations that are relevant without weighing in on them. It would not be hard to spin this as a dotcom version of the Wolf of Wall Street. Not hard at all. Because honestly, that was sort of the situation while I was there.

    There were things that happened that were straight out of the movies, although I can’t be too explicit without giving away my identity. Let’s just say… drugs. Drugs and illegal business practices and people’s arms being twisted into doing illegal things at the risk of losing their jobs.

    But yeah there were free back massages! And you could set your own hours and make (theoretically) infinite money! So that was enough for some people to stick around. Myself included. I wasn’t involved enough to have any blame placed on me and I needed the money, so I kept my head down. Eventually they made it clear, though, that their staff was expendable. That they didn’t care about us or our time or our lives or… anything. And that was when I let myself become expended.

    • jacob hammer

      As another former employee, all of this makes perfect sense. As a company that represented disgraced cult leaders, sex offenders, and white collar criminals, there was always a sort of dark humor about when this sort of thing was going to happen. Honestly, I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner.

      • Jacob Hammer

        Oh, hey there, Jacob. Good to see the official company alias is still going strong.

        • jacob hammer

          plot twist: all brand.com related conspiracies lead back to jacob hammer

    • Former Brand.com Exec

      totally agree. I was on the sales floor when they fired the old sales manager that was doing coke with employees and showing up drunk to work…not going to name his name as i’m sure he doesn’t need the bad publicity but this was a major problem at one time.

    • I didn’t drink the Kool-aid

      I also worked there back in summer of 2013. I was fresh out of college and bright eyed and bushy tailed. I made the mistake of going out with a few sales people for drinks after a long day (and a few big sales [also read as scams]). After drinks we went to this kids place to burn some tries. Turned out there was coke. So much coke. I did not partake because fuck that. Needless to say I was fired with a few days.

  • http://zivtech.com Alex Urevick-Ackelsberg

    I’m curious if this makes you think a bit about how you cover companies- just cause they’re from Philly doesn’t mean we all should cheer them on. I can think of a couple of other companies that Technically Philly has written about / promoted that are as bad as, or worse than, Brand.com- should you be taking more of the business model of a company into account when you decide to write about them?

    • Zack Seward

      Yo, Alex. We don’t “promote” companies by covering them, there’s a difference there. I will take the feedback about business models, though. We regularly touch on them in our business coverage, but it’s worth hearing that there’s demand for more of that.

      • The Man

        The line between promotion and a positive or uplifting slant to an article may be in the mind of the reader, but there is definitely an element there when you finish reading an article and find yourself internally cheering for the subject. Sooo….let’s at least acknowledge our angles and not get all prickly-stickly.

  • Juli

    So how much did Rich Gorman pay Technical.ly to publish this trash?

  • Former Employee

    It is sad to see any company go down the drain. I worked at Brand.com and the employees were all hard workers for the most part. Any time you have people working very hard and for a common goal, failing is not fun. Hopefully those in charge will learn from the mistakes they made. The fundamental flaws of certain individuals that were making decisions cost this company the business. Unfortunately, the smoke and mirrors that were never reality were portrayed internally and externally. This gave a false impression of reality on the ground and misled many that were looking in from the outside. Many people feel deeply betrayed and lied to by people they trusted. Lots of great lessons for everyone to learn though so hopefully better decisions will be made in the future for everyone involved and affected by this ship sinking.

    • Former Brand.com Exec

      Startups fail, and this one hurt.

    • Former Brand.com Exec

      Agreed. Not all startups succeed. We all have learned from this experience and are moving on. Not much more to say other than the fact that we all tried hard, some pretty poor decisions were made at the end, and now the company is over.

  • Joseph N. DiStefano

    I remember these guys pitched me a couple times. I had a tough time making sense of their answers to basic questions and I took a pass. Thanks for the update.

  • http://www.about.me/stevepalmer Steve Palmer

    Very interesting to say the least.

  • AP1987

    I worked there for about 7 months before I got super skeeved out by the shadiness / sinking ship atmosphere & quit. Gorman’s definitely not being honest about not visiting in 2014. He was there on several occasions even in just the brief time I worked there.

  • Aubree Parsons

    Thank you for this article! I worked with Brand.com as a freelancer for several years, until they suddenly stopped sending assignments or paying invoices. They still owe me thousands of dollars, but I guess I have no chance of ever seeing it.

  • Ex NHQ Staffer

    I worked on the NHQ side of things for exactly one month, right before everything started tanking. We had an emergency company meeting on April 1st to address how we had to completely overhaul the process for publishing commissioned articles because Google had penalized all of the “news” sites owned by NHQ (which is where said articles got published). My role changed from editor to basically database manager at that point. It was crazy.

    Two weeks later, I was laid off because NHQ was completely changing its editorial direction to use outside websites instead of their own network of “news” sites, so they didn’t really need an editing staff anymore. I had honestly been counting on a layoff before that, because the whole company was such a disorganized mess.

    Also, that Geekadelphia article doesn’t look like something that was written by NHQ. Doesn’t follow the style guide at all. I’m pretty confident the piece on the Bitcoin scandal is an NHQ-commissioned one, though.

  • Former Brand.com Exec

    As a former Brand.com executive that was there to the end, I can truly say that this article has taken a Philadelphia startup that failed, and turned it into “sensational media.”

    The real story here is that Brand.com pivoted, like many startups, from an Online Reputation Management company to a Content Marketing Company. The company ran out of capital during the shift. The CEO, Dave Armon, panicked and tried to sell the company and move the management team to another company.

    Dave Armon fired the entire staff and then left the company, before the company had even missed its payroll. Dave Armon didn’t provide any messaging to clients, he didn’t contact vendors, he just up and left. Then he tried to hide by removing Brand.com from his social media.

    Where is Dave Armon now, the CEO that I looked up for guidance since October of 2014…looks like he never even came into Brand.

    The fact is that prior to Dave Armon, this start-up had its fair share of challenges. In the reputation management days, we had to deal with shithead clients that needed reputation management like sex offenders, disgraced politicians, and companies that had brand damage. Such is the nature of reputation management, a really crappy industry that has to deal with crappy clientele.

    Brand took what looked like a promising turn into content marketing, then failed. The CEO wasn’t much of a leader. Debts are owed that weren’t paid. Not sure what else to say. That’s about it. Another Philly startup that bites the dust.

    • Former Employee

      I am sure Armon made mistakes but the company was having issues way before then.

    • another former Brand.com victi

      I call BS on the above. I was there. Payroll issues were the norm during the last few months; we all held our breath every payday to see if we would actually get paid. The NYC “office” was just a rent-by-the-hour space. And Rich Gorman was indeed present and running the company up until near the end, when he disappeared like a fart in the wind. Dave Armon was only brought in to be the fall guy, after Gorman decided to cut and run. By that point, none of us were actually working, but using the Brand.com office as a job-hunting resource.
      Vendors, employees and clients all got royally screwed. No bills were paid, employees were unpaid, and staff was instructed to lie to clients to try to get more revenue out of them. I would be willing to bet payroll taxes weren’t paid. People had insurance premiums deducted, only to find out that the insurance hadnt been paid. Many employees ended up paying for insurance they never got and had to eat those hospital and doctor bills. All their talk of “the platform” was BS. They didnt even pay the server hosting company that housed their whole product. They promised clients articles in publications like Forbes and the Wall St Journal, but most clients ended up with crappy content in shitty blogs and aggregator sites.
      As another commenter noted, it was eerily reminiscent of a dot-com Wolf of Wall St, but without any of the fun or money.

      • Former Brand Employee

        I remember hearing about Dave starting with brand in october. I was excited about him starting but then saw him promote one of our best guys in the company to sales manager, and then fired him 1 week later. he could have demoted him but instead fired him. this was one of our best guys…by january i had enough. never saw dave armon, rich gorman, no one. it was weird like everybody gave up. This was once a great company…i think it just never recovered when google blacklisted it in 2014 (taking it out of google in total for bad back links). Google changed their mind and didn’t like reputation management companies anymore. even the biggest, reputation.com was penalized too and fell to irrelevance. i don’t think there was anything anybody could do after that to turn the company around….now what’s left is a sad string of messages of people pointing fingers at each other…face it people, you tried and lost. end of story

  • Mike Krupit

    Wow. Nice work getting the community talking! All the comments left me with one further thought. The values of the company (provider) do NOT need to reflect those of the customer. I’ve worked with companies who had clients or customers who might have held core values that didn’t align well with the mainstream. Think about politics. Think about who might need a lawyer. One even supported the phone psychic industry. However, those who build companies to profit from those situations don’t need to – and shouldn’t – adopt the values of those they are serving. Just appreciate your customers, whoever they are, and offer a good product or value. Keep your own team and operations behaving to your own – presumably “higher” – values and morals.

    • Brand Has-Been

      Former Brand contractor here — I agree with this completely. I worked with Brand for several months on a contract basis and think that overall, the article here was a great break-down of what it FELT like to work for the company. I think that all startups are kind of icky in some places, and take shortcuts, but overall it wasn’t a bad place to work. It was a startup. I have no idea about anyone doing drugs or Rich Gorman’s personal life or any of that crap. People were valued, but yeah, things could often be stressful because — STARTUP.

      There were a lot of good, creative people there who at the end of the day just couldn’t figure out how to crack the code for success. It was like everyone was waiting for someone to come up with that one idea that would link everything together. I guess that’s where management and vision and such come into play and perhaps, failed. I can confirm that the Google de-indexing absolutely farked things over pretty badly. Up until that point, it did seem like something special was coming together. I don’t think they recovered from that setback.

      Anyway, I was certainly never asked to do anything illegal. And even if I did hear a rumor of something untoward going on, I just kept my head down and did the work I was hired to do, because rumors are rumors. And I made sure it was the best damn work I could give a Brand customer for their money, and for a long time, it was just that. I still list Brand on my resume because I accomplished a lot there, and over 90% of startups fail, so it shouldn’t be THAT unexpected.

  • Johnathan

    These guys were caught bribing forbes, huff po, etc… writers. The FTC likely caught them illegally bribing writters. Dont believe me? What do you think the NHQ platform was? 😀

  • Guest

    Thanks for covering this. This company was indeed a very strange place, financed and run by some very mysterious people. There was a culture of promising the impossible to customers, many of whom were desperate, as they were convicted criminals. The concept behind the NHQ operation at one point involved about 7 websites on which the company would post bogus “news” articles about a client to help bury negative results. As far as I could tell, the people who wrote these stories were offsite freelancers who were paid very little. There was also a plan of having articles about clients placed on real news sites, though there seemed to be a total lack of understanding of how the media works and why that scheme was problematic, not to mention unrealistic.

    The fact that some of the execs now seem to be trying to downplay their involvement (Gorman) or pretend it never happened at all (Armon) should probably raise eyebrows. I would not be surprised if there are legal concerns. You really don’t have look very far to find some pretty unhappy former customers: e.g. http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/seattle-city-light-wants-refund-on-image-boosting-effort/

    The company’s twitter account now seems to be attached to http://www.johnrampton.com/ and says it’s now based in Palo Alto.

    • http://www.johnrampton.com/ John Rampton

      Saw this and will jump in. Company assets are being sold. I acquired the Twitter. Not associated with Brand at all.

    • Brand Has-Been

      I’ll try my best to divulge some information without crossing any lines, but there’s a lot of confusion over the NewsHeadquarters side of Brand.com and those “spammy” or “fake” news sites.

      The idea was, on the NHQ side, to build a news network like HuffPo. There was a staff of over 100 remote writers at one time, and the initial strategy was to do news aggregation, with an increasing focus on real, hard-hitting journalism, particularly in the political and tech spaces, as the network developed and became profitable. There were a handful of writers who were DC insiders and others with a lot of talent in covering the tech sphere, but mostly everyone was aggregating. NHQ paid them a pretty industry-standard rate relative to the length of articles and the quality of journalism. For comparison’s sake, a standard news aggregator/blogger at HuffPo is usually unpaid until they achieve enough of a following to become a staff member, so NHQ did at least pay everyone equally, and most writers were able to write full time (though they wrote a LOT of content).

      On the Brand side, they wanted a news powerhouse that stood on its own merits that they could then put their client-focused reputation management content on, in order to deliver on its promise to wipe out negative reviews with fresh, respected and indexed content. It was working for a while, though it’s my opinion that the news network should have been developed further before trying to put client content in its editorial schedule. Some people think that sounds icky, but solicited content is becoming pretty normal in the new media world, so it’s not a quirky, uncommon practice by any stretch.

      Everything changed when Google blacklisted Brand.com and its NHQ sites. I agree with others that Brand was starting to see some success and engaged in some chest-beating that probably put them on Google’s shit list. They were acting like genuine contenders when they were really guppies in a giant shark tank. They should have just focused on building quality content.

      In the end, I think that Brand.com execs were a little impatient, and vastly underestimated the time and funding it takes to build a news network from scratch. The company was actually onto something, but after the blacklisting, that’s why any content you can still find on those news sites appears spammy and fake. It wasn’t at the time. What you’re seeing is just a hollowed-out, aborted project that once had real promise. It’s kind of a shame, but startups rise and fall all the time, and if the strategy had succeeded, NHQ’s news network would have been on par with Gawker Media or HuffPo or other networks built on aggregation (and eventually, actual journalism).

  • Chip Hinkie

    The company was mismanaged. Externally all was presented as a rising star in the otherwise bleak Philadelphia tech seen. Internally the company was a continual mess. Zammuto ran it into the ground. Change agents cooper and CEO Dave Armon couldn’t put it together. The inability of top brass to recognize problems existed was nothing short of staggering. The company under Zammuto and again under the leadership of Dave Armon had a different vision every single day. Some companies die because of their inability to pivot off a failing model but this company failed because of it’s inability to believe in a vision, stay the course, and provide value for its client base. They didn’t even know who their clients were. The elephant in the room was always the astonishing lack of vision and leadership. The company had debt for sure but not the kind that cripples a startup with a proven model. For all involved it was a bitter sweet experience. This article is begging questions to a larger story but the chaos and confusion written here IS THE STORY . And another one bites the dust. Tally Ho!

  • Former Brand Exec

    Let me clear my throat for this comment…ehh emm…okay so this is a phenomenally written article. Hats off to the writer. First and foremost, Rich Gorman was in that office pitching to potential investors as recently as August 2014. He was “jamming” away in that office until the very end. In fact, when he removed one of the sales managers, HE HIMSELF WAS RUNNING THE SALES FLOOR. Flip flops, v necks, flat brim hat and all. I will guarantee you he is the person who commented about “sensational media” on this article. That is a tagline he used frequently.

    Anyway, the company failed because of terrible leadership. Every single week they were changing the “business plan”, if there even was one. I understand the Rep Management industry is tough, but Brand.com was the best until we pounded our chest and got really public about it. That’s why Google took us behind the tool shed. Brand.com was generating 600k of new sales last spring while matching that with reoccuring revenue accounts. How does a business bringing in 1.2 million in revenue per month fail you ask? It’s leadership is incompetent.

    BrandYourself.com just got offered 2 million dollars for 25% equity on Shark Tank. Obviously the Rep Management industry can still make some money. Instead Brand.com decided to try and play with the big boys and got stomped. No soup for you.

    There was some amazing talent within Brand.com though. One thing I will debunk is that there were no “scare tactics” being used. It was a fast paced, sink or swim atmosphere….survival of the fittest. That was a clear message straight from Rich’s mouth. So it wasn’t like a gun was being held to your head to do “illegal business” practices as another commenter alluded to. People were making their own decisions to stay and be a part of it.

    For a second it looked like Brand.com was on it’s way to becoming a really successful branding agency. Rep Management was one thing, but building brands online for start-up companies or simply re-branding was really where Brand.com succeeded. Problem is that Rich didn’t want to be just another “agency”. He would say that agencies do “commoditized practices” like building social pages, websites, etc. I don’t fault him for taking a swing for the fence and in theory if we delivered on what we were pitching Brand.com could’ve been a home run, but there was a lack of focus and direction.

    With all this being said, I wouldnt trade my time at Brand.com for anything.

  • Donald Snyder

    Looks like they’ll be back at it soon. Cliff Stein (fondly known as “employee #1 at Brand.com”), David Polykoff who helped manage the Indian team that built Brand’s poorly designed “SAAS platform”, and Michael Petrucci who ran recruitment at Brand and is now “VP of Publisher Relations” all started a new company called NEWS INNOVATIONS and a product eerily similar to Brand’s SAAS platform called “News Launcher.” The stories aren’t over yet!

    • Tahlia Silverstein

      Donald Snyder and Dan….you are both spot on. Brand.com is NEWS INNOVATION who is beginning to promote their new NEWSLAUNCHER.COM site. Seems all the original partners (including Ira Riklis) are now SILENT partners. One would almost have to conclude that the Brand.com bankruptcy may have been fraudulent on many levels. NOTE: I have been a victim of serious cyber attacks by I believe some people connected to this company (via Ira Riklis). If anyone has any information please contact me. -Kirby Sommers

  • Dan

    Rich Gorman is the co-founder of Brand.com and very, very active and involved. He made every decision as CEO. He is a convicted felon and sex offender and currently being sued for defamation and harmful acts toward a competitor: Case – 2:14-CV-01655-5RB.

    Rich Gorman is a thief, narcissist and criminal. Since he co-founded Brand.com, Fulfillment.com, Reputationchanger.com, Gorman Economics, Costfulfillment.com, Costneutraceuticals.com, Directresponse.net and Vanguard Economics, he has destroyed hundreds of peoples lives for his own selfish enrichment.

    Richard hired Mike Zamutto as his President to hire, fire, and handle vender payments. Rich then hired Jonathan Cooper as his COO to take over vender payments. Between Mike and Jonathan, they decided to pick and choose who to pay. They owe hundreds of thousands of dollars to multiple venders!

    Rich Gorman fired Mike Zamutto and hired Dave Armon as his new President. Dave was useless and fired 4 months later. Brand.com is now out of business.

    Rich Gorman is now the very involved SILENT PARTNER of News Innovation. He is hiding behind Dave Polykoff his CEO, Cliff Stein, Co-Founder and VP and Mike Petrucci, Co-Founder and VP of Talent Acquisition. Looks like Rich has found another way to alter his model and prey and steal from uninformed customers.

    Richard Gorman is now getting a tastate of his own medicine. Brand.com is out of business. His Chadds Ford mansion was recently put up for sale. The States of Florida and Pennsylvannia do not want him. Rich Gorman is a scam artist and will pop up again and continue to hurt people lives and rip them off!

  • Adam Levin

    Rich Gorman is attained an unbelievable level of douchebag.

  • Tahlia Silverstein

    The third partner was Ira Riklis whose father Meshulam Riklis (once married to Pia Zadora) ran off without paying rent at Trump Tower in 1991. Like father. Like son. Looks like a lot of lawsuits are enroute to all parties. Former Gov Ed Rendell had a close relationship with Ira — which is what would have led to such a welcome for a “startup.” Rapid American Corporation (Riklis owned company) filed for bankruptcy protection after being in business for 56 years to bait off asbestos lawsuits. Seems like this is the same pattern. http://www.nytimes.com/1991/10/05/nyregion/trump-the-landlord-seeks-rent-from-100000-a-month-guests.html

  • Webcide Com

    http://seekingalpha.com/instablog/37322386-webcide-com/4008066-brand-com-may-be-a-six-figure-purchase-by-webcide-com

    Brand.com will be active again , soon ,Thanks To Planned A Six-Figure Purchase By Webcide.com .Thanks To Planned A Six-Figure Purchase By Webcide.com , Brand.com maybe active again ,soon .With a name like webcide , you can imagine that an online reputation management company would be stuck in the shadow of Reputation companies .The solution? Purchasing a memorable URL of its own – Brand.com.

    Brand.com and the term ‘brand’ have much greater recognition with potential clients and with the general public than the term ‘Reputation’, When purchased , Brand.com will deal only and exclusively in online reputation repair by removing negative search results from Google , using an advanced legal process developed by Webcide.com .

    About Brand.com , Alexia might complain that the word “brand” doesn’t mean really anything, the company says the URL captures the idea that “online reputation is a critical component” of the brands of Fortune 500 companies, governments, and celebrities.

    The new Brand.com will offer brand management and reputation management services .Brand.com under the management of Webcide.com , will remove libelous or false information about you or your company from Google, Bing, and Yahoo search results, for a $ 12,000 fee.

    Leading Online reputation management companies will tell you ” If you want to hide bad content, you simply have to create lots and lots of high quality good content.” .

    The days of burying negative search results with faked positive content , are over . Google is now after all ORM companies , using cheap SEO tricks .

    That is also the reason by the former Brand.com company went out of business , after Google de-index all their work from their search engine.

    Google loves negative information and no matter what you will do , they will always rank on top the dirt about you and your company .

    If something negative has been already published about you , you have only one choice : to de-indexing it from Google , so that it will stop to show up as a search result .

    To get Google to remove search engine results takes a court order.

    Anyone can get a court order, of course, with the appropriate time, money, knowledge and legal assistance . Webcide.com has developed this know how , and they charge only and exclusively after the negative search result is removed .

    The Companies seeking to remove negative articles, blogs, reviews about them , take no risks using Webcide.com services , they have nothing to loose , No Upfront Fees , No Monthly Retainers .The plan now is that Brand.com will provide those removal preocedures under their domain .

  • and he’s back at it
  • Reputation Armor

    I recently got a call from a former Brand.com customer that said the company issued her a refund on her credit card and never called her back after that. She said only days after signing up with them.. Poof they were gone. I know this article is “old news” but I always wonder where, why, and what now?

  • http://www.repwarn.rocks Ruth Anitha

    Acceleration gives your enterprise a sound and a level to rest on, considering the balance on the net of unsatisfied and content customers is highly inaccurate.

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