This Startup Is Telling On a regular basis Buyers It Will Be The Subsequent Uber


Ramy El-Batrawi has based 27 firms that at the moment are inactive or dissolved, hawking every little thing from relationship counseling to futures buying and selling to van leases to Alaskan fishing holidays, a HuffPost assessment of state information finds. He even ran a journey company in Palm Seaside, Florida, with a Saudi arms dealer concerned within the Iran-Contra affair, and was named as a go-between for an offshore entity listed within the Panama Papers.

In 2010, the Securities and Alternate Fee barred El-Batrawi from being an government in a publicly traded firm for 5 years as a part of the settlement over a $130 million inventory fraud case in opposition to an organization he led till it collapsed in 2001.

Now that his prohibition interval is over, El-Batrawi has one thing new to promote: shares in YayYo, a price-comparing ride-sharing app that doesn’t presently work.


The corporate, with El-Batrawi as CEO, is attempting to promote $50 million in inventory ― which it could possibly do due to newly relaxed securities legal guidelines that permit speculative startups elevate cash from mom-and-pop buyers. Proponents of the legal guidelines stated they’d boost the economy and create jobs, whereas critics stated the loosened guidelines put folks’s cash in danger. 

YayYo paid Grasp P to file a promotional track for the corporate and has been operating TV adverts on daytime cable information for weeks that includes the actor John O’Hurley, who famously performed a catalog salesman peddling bizarre merchandise and eccentric tales on “Seinfeld.”

“What should you have been an early investor in Uber or Lyft — what would you be price at present?” O’Hurley asks. The reply, he says, is that you’d have made “made tens of millions, if not tens of tens of millions.” (Uber and Lyft are valued at $62.5 billion and $7.four billion, respectively.)

However wait, there’s extra: YayYo, O’Hurley says, would possibly simply develop even quicker that Uber and Lyft. When and if YayYo’s app works, it would allow you to evaluate costs from totally different ride-hailing firms by plugging straight into the info that firms like Uber and Lyft have made out there to third-party developers.

Because the previous saying goes, if it sounds too good to be true, it’s in all probability operating inventory adverts on Fox Information at 11:45 on a random weekday morning.

Lyft has already filed a stop and desist order in opposition to YayYo and barred the corporate from utilizing its knowledge, a spokesman instructed HuffPost. Uber didn’t return HuffPost’s request for remark, however BuzzFeed’s Will Alden noted that the corporate’s phrases don’t permit its knowledge to be aggregated with that of its rivals.

A ride-hailing price-comparison app that may’t evaluate the costs of the 2 dominant ride-hailing companies is extraordinarily unlikely to succeed, not to mention be bigger and extra common than the 2 multi-billion-dollar firms whose knowledge it’s supposed to make use of.

A spokesperson for YayYo declined HuffPost’s request to remark for this story. Bob Vanech, a YayYo board member, instructed BuzzFeed final week that the corporate was prone to meet its $50 million objective.

A ride-hailing price-comparison app that may’t evaluate the costs of the 2 dominant ride-hailing companies is extraordinarily unlikely to succeed.

Buried on web page 54 of YayYo’s 69-page providing doc filed with the Securities and Alternate Fee is a biography that particulars a few of El-Batrawi’s previous enterprise ventures, in addition to his historical past of operating afoul of economic regulators. What acquired him briefly banned from operating a public firm was his management of GenesisIntermedia, a telemarketing firm.

The SEC alleged that El-Batrawi and Adnan Khashoggi ― a Saudi arms seller who was rumored to be the world’s richest man within the 1980s ― created an offshore firm to carry 15 million share of Genesis’ inventory. The offshore entity then lent these shares to stockbrokers in return for money. The mortgage agreements, the SEC stated, meant that if the value of Genesis inventory rose, El-Batrawi and Khashoggi would obtain extra cash.

So that they allegedly pumped up the value of the inventory by making false statements concerning the firm’s funds and proscribing the variety of shares that might commerce. Additionally they paid an actress to advertise the inventory in TV commercials.

When the worth of Genisis inventory fell because the inventory market dropped after the 9/11 terrorist assaults, El-Batrawi and Khashoggi have been imagined to pay again their loans, however they defaulted, bankrupting the brokers who had given them money. The Securities Investor Safety Company, a government-mandated business group that successfully insures clients’ accounts when a brokerage goes beneath, needed to step in with what was on the time the company’s largest-ever bailout.

At the very least 9 different firms El-Batrawi registered have been dissolved between 2002 and 2004 for failing to pay annual charges or to file stories to the state officers. Douglas Jacobsen, who was Genesis’ former chief monetary officer, instructed HuffPost he had created 20 or 30 totally different entities for El-Batrawi, plenty of which have been successfully shuttered in 2001.

Jacobsen blamed the Sept. 11 assaults for the companies’ failures: “9/11 ruined every little thing for everyone,” he stated. Whereas that rationalization appears insensitive, it’s in all probability not fully incorrect: Sudden inventory market drops like these after 9/11 will help unmask fraudulent enterprise schemes that depend on inventory costs persevering with to go up. When the general inventory market dropped, it dragged Genesis’ inventory down and prompted the brokers to ask for his or her a reimbursement ― solely to find they weren’t getting paid again.

However even in disclosing these not-very-promising previous enterprise ventures in his YayYo’s SEC submitting, El-Batrawi could also be overstating his skilled background.

The providing doc says that El-Batrawi additionally based Aloha Aviation Group, which then partnered with an funding automobile run by billionaire Ron Burkle to accumulate the then-bankrupt Aloha Airways in 2005.

A spokesman for Burkle’s agency, The Yucaipa Firms, declined to remark, however an in depth affiliate of El-Batrawi instructed HuffPost the SEC submitting doesn’t precisely state what occurred. El-Batrawi tried to convey Yucaipa offers and introduce the corporate to folks, but it surely didn’t actually pan out. El-Batrawi, the affiliate stated, is “being a little bit bit quick and free” ― exaggerating his involvement within the deal to bolster his résumé.

YayYo is nearly precisely what critics of the Jumpstart Our Enterprise Startups Act ― the JOBS Act ― feared when President Barack Obama signed the invoice in 2012. (The SEC completed the ultimate rulemaking to implement the legislation in 2015.) The laws capitalized on the concept crowd-funding may assist enhance the financial system by kickstarting investments in small, modern and dangerous firms which might be usually open solely to stylish buyers like enterprise capitalists. 

“It’s actually laborious to see how eradicating primary investor protections and exposing tens of millions of Individuals to ripoffs will spur ‘jobs,’ but it surely isn’t laborious to recollect the way it helped destroy the financial system,” Tyler Gellasch, a former Senate staffer and counsel for SEC Commissioner Kara Stein instructed HuffPost. “Sadly, that’s precisely the place Congress and the SEC appear to now be headed.”

From Gellasch’s perspective, the JOBS Act was a siren name to for shady businessman to take cash from gullible buyers. In YayYo’s case, it looks like that’s precisely what’s occurring.