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Founder alleges YC-backed fintech startup is ‘copy-pasting’ his business – TechCrunch

Andy Bromberg, CEO of a16z-backed Eco, claims Pebble, another fintech startup that sneaked out this morning, “plagiarized” Eco’s materials and business model. Bromberg posted a Twitter thread this afternoon saying that Pebble engaged in “cut and paste, immaturity, lying and spying”. In the thread, Bromberg detailed the background to his claims and he also spoke to TechCrunch about the allegations.

Bromberg claims that Pebble co-founders, CEO Aaron Bai and CTO Sahil Phadnis, posed as Y Combinator investors to gain access to Eco’s waiting list. He also alleges that Phadnis asked detailed questions about Eco’s backend under the guise of looking for a job and that multiple aspects of Pebble’s product and marketing language are essentially copy-pasted from Eco.

Bromberg’s Twitter feed encouraged Bai and Phadnis to contact Bromberg directly. When TechCrunch reached out to Pebble to comment on the matter this afternoon, Bai said he was trying to get in touch with Bromberg and declined to comment further on the matter in the meantime. We will update this post accordingly if and when we receive more information.

TechCrunch announced earlier today that Pebble, which participated in Y Combinator’s Winter 2022 cohort, has raised $6.2 million in seed funding from YC itself alongside LightShed Ventures, Eniac Ventures, Global Founders Capital, Montage Ventures, Soma Capital and angel investors.

On its website, Pebble, founded last year, calls itself “the first app that pays you to save, spend and send your money – all in one balance.” It launched with two main products – a 5% APY interest offer for customers’ cash deposits and a 5% cash back offer when customers spend at its partner merchants, which include Uber, Amazon and Chipotle, said Pebble CEO Aaron Bai. The first product is based on the model of collecting funds from customers, converting them into stablecoins and lending them to institutions, Bai explained at the time.

Bromberg then told TechCrunch that the two core products were based on two of Eco’s core offerings. Eco describes itself on its website as “a simple balance that lets you spend, send, save and earn money.” Eco, which was founded in 2018 and has raised more than $26 million from investors including Activant Capital, L Catterton, Lightspeed Venture Partners and a16z, to date offers up to 5% return on deposits customers and 5% cash back through its app since its inception, TechCrunch reported last March. Bromberg said that while his yield product has temporarily suspended stablecoin lending due to current market conditions, his offering has always been based on that.

“It’s become so egregious at this point that we feel the need to call it out and point out that, ultimately, everyone is inspired by other companies. We all stand on the shoulders of giants, and that’s all true, but at some point, it’s just simply unconscionable to copy so brazenly, and if they want to talk, I’m super happy to talk to them, but I don’t really want to go contact them before making any public statements at this point,” Bromberg told TechCrunch in a phone interview.

Bromberg’s Twitter feed includes alleged screenshots of internal customer records, which he says show multiple attempts by Pebble co-founders to gain access to Eco. Bromberg told TechCrunch Eco was able to link these submissions to Bai and Phadnis because they were “repeated submissions with overlapping information,” such as the same phone number and email being used many times under different names, including Bromberg’s own name as well as “Andy Bro Burger” and “Poopy Bromberg”.

Bromberg also alleges that while Eco was onboarding Phadnis as a beta customer, Phadnis researched Eco’s costs and technology in detail, claiming he was a computer geek interested in backend operations. Bromberg attached what he says are screenshots of conversation transcripts with Phadnis, who was a student at UC Berkeley at the time, asking if Eco was offering internships and saying he was considering applying for a job at Eco. These conversations, Bromberg claims, took place in September 2021 – two months after Phadnis launched Pebble.

Using the phone number Eco had originally registered for Phadnis, Bromberg says, Phadnis opened an account under the name “Sam Johnson” and submitted what Eco’s systems detected was an ID. fraudulent.

Bromberg listed in a tweet the various components of Eco’s business that he claims Pebble copied:

“Investors have been duped by imitators who cannot create anything on their own. I don’t think investors knew those ideas and words weren’t original,” Bromberg added in the thread.

Bromberg told TechCrunch Eco has no plans to take legal action against Pebble at this time.


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