Accelerators / Business development / Philadelphia

#TBT: That time the Fyre Festival fraudster fled Philly

As Billy McFarland awaits sentencing on a blitz of fraud charges, here's a look back at his Philly days.

Billy McFarland, circa 2012. (Screenshot)

Next week, Fyre Festival mastermind Billy McFarland will rise in a New York courthouse to hear the price he must pay for inflicting a multimillion-dollar scam that left hundreds of disillusioned concert-goers stranded in the Bahamas.

In March, McFarland pled guilty to two counts of wire fraud. Then in July, he was back in court and pled guilty to separate fraud charges, including a scam to sell bogus Super Bowl LII tickets.

But before he was looking at decades in jail, McFarland was actually Philly startup guy.

McFarland moved to Philadelphia in 2010 after DreamIt Ventures selected his content-sharing startup Spling for the storied accelerator. The founder was in Philly for two years and, during that time, Spling launched a private beta and hired a handful of locally based team members before eventually relocating to New York.

“The goal from the beginning was to be based out of NYC,” McFarland told in an Exit Interview published in 2012. “That said, without our time in Philly, we wouldn’t be in the position we are in today. At the end of the day, I really think it speaks volumes regarding DreamIt’s positive impact on the Philly tech community.”

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Here’s a video via McFarland’s Vimeo account, ostensibly voiced by the man himself:

“Billy was already rolling pretty fast,” an unnamed Dreamit source told Vanity Fair ealier this year. “Plenty of connections, a great kid. Super-nice, gregarious, attractive, charismatic, very smart. This idea could’ve been a hit.”

More from VF:

Could’ve been, that is, if not for the debut of Google+, whose “circles” feature provided most of the services Spling planned. “Google circles came at a bad time; they got this feedback all the time, ‘Why is Spling different than Google circles?’ ” says the Dreamit source. “And then, you know, it just kind of fizzled out.”


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