- Media company Ozy’s cofounder pretended to be a top YouTube exec in a conference call with Goldman Sachs, reported The New York Times.
- The call, made in February, was regarding a $40 million Goldman Sachs investment into Ozy, said the report.
- NYT also wrote that Ozy has been padding its traffic stats while raising millions.
A co-founder of media company Ozy allegedly impersonated a top YouTube executive in an investor call with Goldman Sachs, according to a report by The New York Times’ media columnist Ben Smith published Sunday.
Ozy operates as a multi-media company, which includes a website, a podcast branch, several newsletters, and a festival.
In February, four Goldman Sachs investors were slated to speak with Ozy founder Carlos Watson and Alex Piper, the head of unscripted programming for YouTube Originals, per the investigation by Smith.
The company was gearing up to close a $40 million investment deal with Goldman Sachs at the time, and Piper was looped in to testify about Ozy’s success.
However, right before their
meeting, Piper told the investors he was having technical issues and suggested they move to a conference call instead, reported Smith. During the conference call, Piper spoke glowingly about Ozy and its traffic, but investors noticed that his voice sounded strange and “might have been digitally altered,” wrote the Times.
Someone from the Goldman Sachs team later reached out independently to Piper’s assistant at YouTube, and the “confused” executive told her that they had never spoken to each other before, per the Times. The “Alex Piper” they heard on their conference call, the investors realized, had been an impersonator.
YouTube’s security team launched an investigation. Several days later, Ozy founder Watson came forward to say that the voice in the call had been Samir Rao, Ozy’s co-founder and chief operating officer, reported the Times.
Watson said the impersonation incident was due to Rao’s mental health crisis and told the NYT details of the diagnosis. (The Times did not elaborate on what the diagnosis was). He also said that Rao had taken time off from work and was back at Ozy when the Times’ report was published, wrote Smith.
“Samir is a valued colleague and a close friend,” said Watson. “I’m proud that we stood by him while he struggled, and we’re all glad to see him now thriving again.”
Ozy’s board said the incident was an “unfortunate one-time event” and “fully supported the way it was handled,” according to the report.
Goldman Sachs didn’t take further action after this. Google, which owns YouTube, had its security team look into the matter. It found that a crime may have been committed and was in contact with the FBI, unnamed sources told The Times. The FBI did not independently confirm to The Times that it was investigating the incident, however.
The Times report also highlighted discrepancies between Ozy’s self-reported traffic reports and what independent sources said. In 2019, Ozy claimed it had 50 million monthly unique users. However, public analytics numbers do not comport with that claim. For instance, independent analytics company Comscore estimates that Ozy reached around 2.5 million people a month in 2018, which would mean the company had grown its traffic 20x in one year.
In response, Watson told the Times that the Comscore numbers were “incomplete” and didn’t include numbers from social media, television, or podcasts.
The report also cited several industry experts who cast doubt on Ozy’s numbers, with one Ozy ex-employee calling the company a “Potemkin village” — a facade that conceals a true, less desirable identity.
(Full disclosure: Axel Springer, which is the majority stake owner of Insider, Inc., invested in Ozy in 2014.)
Ozy and Alex Piper did not immediately respond to Insider’s requests for comment.
Read the full New York Times story here.
Courtesy By INSIDER