From the global crypto boom to India’s startup success story, the light at the end of the tunnel after the pandemic, revealed the fragility of narratives that already appeared too good to be true. Not only did the Terra and FTX fiascos rock the crypto space, but they brought dubious dealings of the founders in the spotlight. On the other hand Byju’s reporting a sudden spike in losses raised questions about India’s startup ecosystem, while Ashneer Grover’s ouster from his own firm BharatPe opened another can of worms.
Every year has its heroes and villains, while stars rise in across different sectors, there are also those who go from inspirational figures to disgraced icons within a year. As controversial tycoons have their highs and lows, spats and controversies, here’s a look at entrepreneurs who crashed as quickly as they ascended to the heights.
Sam Bankman Fried
Founded in 2019 as a successor to crypto trading firm Alameda Research, FTX quickly shot up to prominence and challenged Binance for the position of the world’s top crypto exchange. Its founder Sam Bankman Fried wasn’t just hailed for his success, but also came forward as a savious of smaller exchanges on the verge of a collapse. But while its token FTT was gaining value, reports of the sister firm Alameda on the bring of bankruptcy emerged, triggering a major selloff leading to FTX’s collapse. It was later alleged that SBF had also secretly transferred as much as $10 billion to Alameda, and about $1 billion of customers’ funds have gone missing.
Ousted Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal. |
He was among the shining Indian-origin stars of the American tech sector alongside Alphabet’s Sundar Pichai and Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, when he took over as Twitter’s CEO in November 2021. But months into his term, Parag Agrawal faced a takeover bid from Elon Musk, who had acquired 9% stake in Twitter to become the biggest individual shareholder. Agrawal resisted, and what followed was six months of drama and a war of words between him and Musk, who later backtracked before both agreed to the acquisition. The fall from grace came when Musk had Agrawal and his CFO Ned Segal escorted out of the Twitter headquarters after sacking them.
Terra founder Do Kwon. |
The founder of the crypto firm Terraform Labs, boasted of cryptocurrency Luna as his greatest invention and also called his investors Lunatics. When the algorithmic stablecoin revealed as highly unstable crashed, it wiped out $40 billion, which could indeed drive investors insane. A probe into the collapse resulted in an arrest warrant against Do Kwon in South Korea and an interpol notice in his name, while he was living in Singapore. The precursor to the FTX debacle, saw the downfall of another eccentric entrepreneur, known to emerge from the crypto world.
Byju Raveendran |
Back in 2011, former teacher Byju Raveendran founded an edtech platform named after himself with his wife Divya Gokulnath. He became the face of online education in India, and his unicorn was poised to ride towards glory during the pandemic, when demand for virtual classes skyrocketed. But as funds dried up in the aftermath of the lockdowns, it was found that Byju’s had reported fees to be collected for three years as a single year’s earning. Byju Raveendran’s questionable parameters to calculate revenue were exposed, and the firm reported a 30 fold spike in loses. The firm preparing young talent for future employment, also had to fire 2500 people to save costs, while Byju’s hired Lionel Messi as brand ambassador to save face after the fall from grace.
Ashneer Grover with his wife. |
Inspired by success stories such as Paytm and PhonePe, Ashneer Grover founded BharatPe in 2018 with two others. But he actually became a household name after appearing as a judge on reality show Shark Tank India, where he evaluated the potential of new entrepreneurs. But all along, he miscalculated his relationship with his own firm and cofounders, as he had to step down from his post as MD. Later, in what he calls doglapan, the BharatPe board with the support of his co-founder Shashvat Nakrani, sued Grover and his wife for misappropriation of funds. If that wasn’t enough, Grover was also dropped as a judge from Shark Tank India.
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