In January 2015, Poptent and Userfarm announced that they were merging to form the largest crowdsourced Video company in the world. The new site, Vizy.com was launched just a few weeks ago but it seems that the company and the merger may already be dead. As of today, Vizy.com is offline, Poptent’s Chairman and CEO Nick Pahade has “moved away” from Vizy, most or possibly all of Poptent’s staff members have either quit or been laid off and the locks have been changed on Poptent’s Headquarters in Philadelphia. Over in the UK, the Userfarm team is working quickly to sever their ties to Poptent and Vizy. This morning they slapped their name on Vizy’s slick new website and moved it to Userfarm.com. The deal was sealed a few hours later when Userfarm sent this message to their members:
The message comes off as a bit disingenuous because Userfarm wasn’t “with” Vizy….they WERE Vizy. That’s why Userfarm was able to just stick their old name on the new website. It retrospect it seems like Userfarm was the driving force behind this so-called merger. As far as I can tell, Poptent only brought four things to the table; a few hundred active member accounts, tens of thousands of inactive member accounts, a handful of staff members and a mountain of debt.
And that debt is probably why Vizy imploded right in front of our eyes. All these recent developments have sent scores of Video Contest Filmmakers into a furious panic because Poptent still owes a lot of people a lot of money. These folks either won prizes in Poptent contests in late 2014/early 2015 or they were hired directly by Poptent to create content for Brands. Poptent always gets paid by their clients BEFORE they launch their video assignment. This process ensured that clients couldn’t back out if they didn’t like any of the videos that were submitted. But it also meant that Poptent was able to pay the winning filmmakers as soon as the clients made their picks.
But last fall Poptent reduced their payouts to a tiny trickle of cash. The staff blamed the delays on the impending merger and they promised that once their investors came through the company would pay everyone in full. But according to the grapevine, Poptent’s investors never delivered on their promises and that’s why Userfarm cut them loose.
I’ve tried to contact several staff members from Poptent, Vizy, and Userfarm but I haven’t gotten an official response or explanation about what’s going on. But that doesn’t mean people aren’t talking. A few ex-Poptent employees were happy to share the gruesome details of the doomed merger with some of the filmmakers that contacted them last week. I’m going to list some of their most important assertions. Please keep in mind that these “facts” have been told to me second hand. However, at least a half dozen filmmakers have contacted me and explained that one or more high-level Poptent employees (that were involved in the merger) have told them the following:
1. Vizy has “de-merged” with Poptent. The decision was made by Userfarm at their European HQ.
2. Filmmakers and employees are owed more than $500,000 in prize money, back-pay and benefits. It’s unclear if Poptent alone owes that $500K or if Userfarm, Poptent and Vizy combined owe that much.
3. Poptent can not afford to pay off their debts. The company may continue to send everyone small amounts to stave off legal action for as long as possible.
4. Poptent is probably going to have to declare bankruptcy.
5. If Poptent declares bankruptcy, there is almost no chance that any filmmakers will ever receive the money they are owed.
6. At least one former Poptent/Vizy employee is telling filmmakers that it’s time for them to talk to a lawyer.
7. The Poptent website is going to get shut down by the end of the month.
I’ve also heard from several sources that Userfarm may be in financial trouble too. Apparently they have also fallen way behind on their payments and they have filmmakers who are also worried that they’ll never get paid.
This whole story is incredibly sad and I’m deeply disappointed by the actions of everyone who was involved in this merger. To me it looks like they “borrowed” money that was earmarked for filmmakers and gambled that cash on a risky and ill-conceived merger. The bet didn’t pay off and now the folks in charge are just shrugging their shoulders and walking away.
I’ll have more on this story later this week. If Poptent or Vizy or Userfarm owes you money, I’d like to hear from you. E-mail me at VideoContestNews@gmail.com or leave a comment below.