World startup convention turned out as big scam
The world Startup Convention, billed as the ‘world’s largest startup funding event’ in India, turned out to be a fraudulent scheme after hundreds of people spent significant amounts of money to attend.
The event, organized by purported investors Luke Talwar and Arjun Chaudhary, was supposed to take place in Greater Noida, near New Delhi, over three days, starting on March 24.
The convention was marketed as an opportunity for aspiring entrepreneurs in India’s third largest startup ecosystem. to connect with industry experts and potential investors for funding purposes.
Fake Elon Musk posters were distributed, claiming he would speak at the convention, but in reality, the Tesla CEO was never scheduled to attend.
In addition, the organizers turned to influencer marketing to attract attendees. Several social media influencers with millions of followers, such as Ankur Warikoo, Raj Shamani, and Chetan Bhagat, were paid to promote the event without disclosing that they were paid for their posts. This is considered a violation of advertising guidelines and could mislead potential attendees.
According to the information received, more than 2,000 startups have allegedly been scammed out of more than Rs 100 crores of wealth in the name of the ‘world’s largest startup funding fest.’
The event, which was expected to attract more than 9,000 angel investors, did not witness a single investor and saw participants from across the country demanding justice for the time, money and energy they invested.
How aspiring entrepreneurs and students were hoaxed
Initially planned to take place from January 14-16, the Global Startup Convention has been rescheduled for March 24-26. Attendees from cities like Nashik, Chennai, Darjeeling and Surat flew in to attend the event, spending substantial amounts of money on registration, accommodation and travel expenses.
Arriving at the India Expo Center and Mart in Greater Noida, attendees were met with long lines, a cumbersome registration process and multiple delays. To their disappointment, there were very few investors present at the event, and the quality of the programs and the organization in general was mediocre.
As a result, several angry attendees filed complaints with the police, and Bambrew, a Bangalore green startup that sponsored the event with $60,000, is considering legal action, according to a report by Inc42.
Organizers were also asked to account for their fake billboards, some of which featured Musk, and their use of influencers to market the event.
The Global Startup Convention had several sponsors, including Builder.ai, Coffeemug.ai and several smaller exhibitors, in addition to Bambrew. We also observed some angel investors attending hastily arranged pitch sessions surrounded by large crowds of people.
Even before arriving at the event, we received messages on Twitter about the poor organization and the breaking of many promises. Upon arrival in Greater Noida, there was no shortage of complaints from the attendees.
Protests erupt and Police get involved
The tickets, which cost participants between Rs 6,990 and Rs 25,000, sold like peanuts due to the significant promises of bringing together thousands of potential investors and dignitaries.
A businessman who had travelled from Kolkata told the media that Union Minister Nitin Gadkari was supposed to speak at the event via video conference as per the event schedule but this too was cancelled. Around 2 pm, an angry crowd of more than 500 people began protesting against the organizers and demanded that they be refunded their ticket money.
The police soon arrived at the scene to appease the protesters and according to the latest reports, the organizers were booked by the Gautam Budh Nagar police.
Ashok Kumar, the Greater Noida Police Deputy Additional Commissioner, stated that the organizers told the police that investors would come in the next two days of the event. However, when nothing of the kind happened, the agitation among the demonstrators increased and the police had to act.
Influencer Marketing comes under scrutiny
Attendees took to social media to express feeling let down by the event, blaming influencers such as Ankur Warikoo, Raj Shamani, Chetan Bhagat and Prafull Billore, who were hired by the organizers for influencer marketing for the event.
Ankur Warikoo, a best-selling author with 2.2 million followers on Instagram, denied any direct involvement in the event. He said his team had requested that organizers remove ads featuring him after he parted ways with the event in January, but they never complied.
Chetan Bhagat and other influential people declined to comment on the matter.
This is not the first case of social media influencers and content creators in India facing accusations of irresponsible advertising. Several have been criticized for promoting cryptocurrency, online gaming, and financial markets.
Attendees took action against organizers and social media platforms, using hashtags like ‘#JusticeforStartups’ and ‘#WSCScam.’ One participant tweeted that the event lacked investors, format, explanations and key guests, and that it was an alleged fraud.
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