Hackernoon logoHow My Life Was Ruined By A Silicon Valley Startup And Former PayPal & Uber Execs by@hankm7788

How My Life Was Ruined By A Silicon Valley Startup And Former PayPal & Uber Execs

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My name is Hank.

My life was recently destroyed by Citcon USA LLC (operating as “Citcon”), a Silicon Valley startup who claims to be the ONLY Alipay and WeChatPay processor in the US (This is a lie).

The story began when Citcon contracted my ex-employer to work on their software. Since May of 2016, I was assigned to work on their software. During the past year and half, I have built most if not all of their infrastructure and backend server.

I’ve enjoyed working on the Alipay and WeChatPay project as it was interesting and challenging, and I’ve seen my work making a difference. In fact, my code is what currently supports all of their clients, including many large name clients eg. Caesars Palace, and Duty Free Shop, and allowed them to claim to be North America’s ONLY Alipay and WeChatPay provider (Which btw I later found out to be complete BS, amongst the many other lies they’ve told).

Since a few months ago, they asked me if I could work only on Citcon’s software, as their workload demand has increased. I gladly agreed to do so with the permission of my ex-employer. During the past year I have went above and beyond their expectations on this project, including pulling many late nights and weekends for free to deliver their products. I have worked on their software harder than their own in-house engineer.

Citcon, while supports many major brands and has great PR image, actually has only one engineer — their “Head of Engineer”, Kenny Shi. Their daily scrum meeting was composed of Kenny, myself, another contractor based in Romania, and also occasionally another “Director of Engineering” whom I had no idea what he really did on the Engineering side since he was doing sales all the time.

Regardless, I enjoyed doing their work. However, what happened this past couple of weeks, has changed everything.

Two weeks ago, Kenny mentioned to me over the phone that he was interested in having me joining Citcon full time in California.

I was really excited when I heard this. I thought that it would be a excellent opportunity for me to try a new environment and to work on a project that I enjoyed working on. Despite their “small” or non-existing engineering team, Kenny did seem like a really nice person to me. He was patient, and provided constructive feedbacks whenever possible. I thought that he would be a great mentor for me had I joined Citcon. In fact his resume is even more impressive - Kenny Shi, Head of Risk at Uber, 10 years at Ebay / PayPal, etc…

It turns out Citcon really loves using larger companies’ names and past work experiences to establish their own legitimacy. Their CEO, Chuck Huang, claimed to be an ex-senior management of Visa, Paypal, and eBay. Taking a brief look at their website and google-able PR articles it seemed every person of their company were “senior managements” of one company or another. At the time I of course believed it and thought “wow this is an all-star team”, which all led me to be so shocked at what they have done to me.

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After I’ve expressed that I would consider joining Citcon, Kenny and I had some very quick negotiations. To be honest, the salary they offered, for a software developer with 5+ years of work experiences, was probably the lowest for a bay area startup I have ever seen. After adjusting for Silicon Valley living costs, it would be even less than my previous job’s take home pay. However I did not bargain as much, since I was genuinely interested in the job and the team. We quickly nailed down on the job details, and Kenny said that he would finalize an offer letter for me.

During this period of time prior to finalizing my job offer. Kenny and his CEO Chuck, went to my ex-boss and told him that they would no longer want my ex-firm’s services (in particular, my services) as of mid November due to their “internal budgeting issues”. I was not aware of this, and looking back now, I still would not understand why they did this unnecessarily and lied to my ex-boss.

After we’ve signed the offer letter (Starting date mid-November) in the beginning of October. I went to my ex-boss immediately to let him know of my departure to give him enough time to plan ahead.

My ex-boss and I had known each other for many years, and we’ve had a great relationship. When I told him that I was asked to join Citcon and had accepted their offer, he was a bit surprised. To be honest I felt a bit guilty as he had treated me fairly over the past years. He wished me luck and we discussed a bit about transitioning and planning to finish the remaining work before I leave.

I went back to my desk to continue to work. Then, a few minutes later, I heard what appeared to be an angry phone conversation coming out of my ex-boss’ office. I was a bit afraid, thinking that it might had something to do with me.

Then, after the phone call was over, my ex-boss asked me to go back to his office. After he closed the door, he asked in a very steadily tone but clearly with disappointment, “You initiated the conversation yourself and approached Chuck to join Citcon, right?”.

I was shocked! I had no idea why my ex-boss would accuse me of this. Not only it would be unethical to steal away a firm’s client for my own benefit, it would have looked extremely bad on my reputation as well. Little did I know at the time that it would also open me up to litigation for violating my employment agreement.

I said “No, Kenny asked me to join them!”. My ex-boss then said to me “Well, I just called Chuck, asked him many times, and he insisted that you approached them and asked for the job. You know what, leave your computer, pack up your stuff and get out. Don’t touch any company properties on your way out.”

I’ve actually never seen my ex-boss this mad for the entire two years I’ve worked for him. He would not let me explain and just shut me out.

I had no choice but to pack my stuff and leave.

Later during the day I communicated with another partner in the firm, and he told me that apparently the client (referring to Chuck) had told my ex-boss over the phone, that I was the person initiated the conversation with them (ie. Chuck/Kenny), and I asked for a job at Citcon.

Despite the result being the same regardless who approached whom, the consequences were severely different:

1) If Citcon had approached me, fine. It was normal to change to a new job.
2) If I had approached Citcon and initiated the conversation, then I had basically just stolen away the firm’s client, and caused damages to the firm and in fact, poaching a client for a job was explicitly prohibited in my employment contract.

I was devastated. I had no idea why Chuck would tell my ex-boss that it was me who approached them first. I felt betrayed. Now looking back, I am assuming that Chuck was just scared to take on any blames, or maybe his agreement with my ex-firm restricted him from soliciting employees, so instead of standing up to what he did like a man, he just threw me under the bus to protect himself.

I emailed Kenny to let him know of the situation through email and phone call. I made a very clear request that Chuck and Kenny need to explain to my ex-boss the truth — — that it was not me who initiated the conversation, but Citcon had approached me first.

Kenny claimed that he did not believe Chuck had said anything regarding me approached Citcon first. He also agreed to clarify to my ex-firm the real situation. At the time, I was appreciative of Kenny’s help. Kenny later forwarded me an email that he had sent to my ex-boss which tried to clear up the situation. At the time I really thought that Kenny was trying to help me, but looking back now, that email was ambiguous and never really explained why Chuck had lied about Citcon approaching me first. In fact, the Email was more focused on telling my ex-boss to grow up over an employee leaving, than helping me to clear my name. I wish I realized that at the time, that Chuck or Kenny of course would not admit to approaching me first in an Email, or admit that Chuck had lied for various reasons, at the risk of leaving written evidence in case there was any potential legal issues with my ex-firm.

I then tried to reach out to my ex-firm to explain, but without much luck. A day after, Kenny approached me again, inquiring what the latest update was. This time he made an additional demand, asking me to finish some leftover work for Citcon, which I was working on earlier. He asked if I could recreate the work since I had left my work computer with my ex-firm already.

To be honest, I had no problem with doing that, and even offered to do it for free. However, my biggest concern was still whether that Chuck and Kenny had cleared my name to my ex-firm yet. I cared more about my reputation than whatever opportunity or money Citcon could have offered me.

A partner at my ex-firm who was more friendly to me had a chat with me. He told me that he could vouch personally, that Chuck had infact stated to my ex-boss using the words “No we did not want to hire Hank. Hank wanted to come to Citcon, he came to us asking for a job.”

I was confused and did not know whom to trust, since the partner that spoke with me was a close friend with me and I did not believe that he would lie to me.

I asked Kenny again on whether Chuck had indeed misrepresented the situation. Kenny claimed that my partner was lying to me. He insisted that Chuck had Never said anything about me approaching Citcon first. In fact, he claimed that it was my ex-firm playing a mind game with me, just to get back at Citcon for stealing an employee. Kenny then went further to ask for a phone call between him, Chuck, and myself, for them to explain what really happened.

On the call, Chuck claimed that in the phone call he had with my ex-boss, he did not even say a single word, and claimed that my ex-boss just called to yell and release his anger. Kenny, on the side, also went along with Chuck and reassured me with his own reputation that in no way had Chuck said anything in the nature. They then went on to claim that my ex-boss was lying, and made up stories just to alienate Citcon<>me. They talked about their tens of years of experiences working in Uber and Visa and seeing many people transitioning jobs being a normal thing (I’m assuming they are using those names to make themselves sound more professional and credible).

At the time, they sounded convincing and I believed them deeply. I was in fact really appreciative of how Kenny and Chuck took the time to “stand up” for me and offering support. Little did I know, all of this was just their attempt to mitigate their risk and try to get me to move to California ASAP, since they’ve realized that the matter with my ex-firm was serious.

They then went on to discuss if/how I could leave Toronto and join them even sooner. Kenny even wanted me to first obtain a work visa (weeks before the scheduled starting date in November). I hesitated a bit as I really wanted to first clear my reputation issue.

One more thing worth to mention, on the phone call, Chuck started by making a comment “Hank this is the first time we are talking on the phone right?”. This was actually not true, as Chuck and I had spoke many times since 2016. I wasn’t too concerned with this specific comment at the time. Looking back now, I can tell that he said that line just to make sure that he was covered up personally on loose ends regarding this issue and could deny poaching me later.

After the phone call with Chuck and Kenny, I asked for the help of a friendly coworker at the firm to arrange for a meeting with my ex-boss first thing after the long weekend. At the time, I felt betrayed by my ex-boss. Since Chuck had never mentioned anything about me poaching them, it was unfair for my ex-boss to pin everything onto me, and damaged my reputation for no reason.

Over that weekend, I also volunteer to work on Citcon’s software, since it was urgent. I did it for free as I was appreciative of Kenny and Chuck’s kindness and wanted to show my gratitude in return. I worked entire weekend to make sure they could have their software delivered on time.

Tuesday morning after the long weekend.

I walked into my ex-boss’ office. We sat down. I then began explaining to my ex-boss that “I checked with both Chuck and Kenny, they guaranteed me that they did not say anything of sort about me approaching them first. They said that on the entire call it was just you talking. I don’t think you should pin everything on me, it should be normal for me or any employee to go to a new job.”

My ex-boss looked at me weird, as if there was something wrong with me. He then told me, “You do know that our office phone system records all calls right.”

I then immediately thought “Oh right! I almost forgot! That’s even better, we could just listen to it.” but then I suddenly felt an unknown scary feeling — because if my ex-boss had the gut to bring it up, it must be something bad not in my favor.

As we began playing the recording, I felt disgusted.

The conversation basically went down like this:
Ex-boss: Chuck, did you hire Hank away?
Chuck: Huh? Not sure. Maybe. Probably last week’s thing.
Ex-boss: What do you mean you are not sure, you gave him an offer letter right?
Chuck: No, it wasn’t me who wanted to hire him. Let me explain you — — Hank asked for a job from us.
Ex-boss: do you think I believe in that? I’ve known Hank for many years, you expect me to believe that he would go behind my back to steal my client and join you?
Chuck: Well it’s got nothing to do with me, it was him who asked to come.

I was thunderstruck.

Chuck (Chunbo) Huang, who introduces himself as “senior management” at Visa, eBay, and PayPal. And Kenny Shi, ex-Head of Risk at Uber, and 10 years of experience at PayPal/eBay. I respected both of you so much, and this is how you treat me?

I could not believe it at first. Chuck could have told my ex-boss that he had no comments and hanged up the phone, or he could have admitted the truth like a man, or at the very least he could have just said he wasn’t sure. But no, instead he told my ex-boss that I was the one approached Citcon for a job, just to cover his own ass.

They then setup all these traps to cover themselves up. When they had the chance to come clean, they didn’t, and instead made up more lies to cover their first lie.

What they did was disgusting had it happened to any employee. Nevermind the fact that I was considered important to the company as I had personally built their entire architecture.

Further more, because of what Chuck said, my ex-boss has a reason to sue me personally for damages, as my employment agreement clearly prohibits soliciting a client.

To my ex-boss, Tony:

I really wish you could read this, and believe me that I was not the one initiated the conversation to join Citcon. It was Chuck Huang and Kenny Shi lying to you to cover their own asses. I understand that it is now too late for me to ever return to the firm, and I wish you and firm best of luck.

To Chuck & Kenny:

You made me lose my job.

You ruined my reputation.

You make me face a potential lawsuit.

You two are disgraces to the software engineer community.

I am going to do whatever it takes to expose you two and Citcon’s shady practices to the public, so that others do not fall to similar situations as me.

Hank M.

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