Joonko, the DEI-focused tech startup whose founder is accused of duping investors, appears to have lied about working with several US corporate icons — even as it raised tens of millions of dollars to fuel its expansion.
As of Thursday, The Post has learned of at least four major companies — American Express, PayPal, Accenture and Atlassian — that were falsely touted as Joonko customers or “partners” on its website or in press releases dating back to 2019.
The New York-based startup, which pitched its AI-powered job recruitment platform as a boon to corporate diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, is teetering on collapse after Joonko’s board accused ousted CEO Ilit Raz of exaggerating the size of its business around the time she secured a $25 million funding round.
“American Express has never been a client of Joonko, nor worked with them in any way,” a company spokesperson said in a statement.
An Atlassian spokesperson told The Post the company “has never been a customer of Joonko’s.”
Accenture also denied have any ties to Joonko. “I can confirm Accenture was not a customer and does not have a business relationship with this startup,” Accenture spokesperson Peter Soh said.
Similarly, PayPal never partnered with Joonko or had any deal with the firm, a source with knowledge of the matter confirmed.
Joonko disabled its website earlier this week after The Post and other outlets reported on the allegations against Raz.
The Post has reached out to Joonko representatives for comment.
Raz allegedly claimed Joonko was working with about 150 companies “when in practice the number was significantly smaller,” according to Israeli tech news outlet CTech, which first reported on the allegations. When confronted with the allegations, Raz resigned.
Prior to the website shutdown, Joonko listed several corporate giants on its homepage as “partner companies,” including Adidas, Nike, Intuit, PayPal and American Express.
Archived versions of the “partner company” section from last September that are still viewable online displayed a similar mix of prominent companies.
Joonko also boasted about its ties to major companies in press releases dating back nearly four years.
In a September 2019 press release announcing it had obtained $2.4 million in a seed round led by the Alabama Futures Fund, Joonko claimed that it was “already trusted by companies such as Adidas, PayPal, Intuit and more.”
When Joonko announced its $25 million Series B round last September, the startup claimed that “employers like Adidas, Accenture, American Express, Crocs, PayPal, Northwestern Mutual, and Intuit rely on its automated sourcing platform.”
The same release touted “remarkable growth” at Joonko under Raz’s leadership “with 500% growth in sales for two consecutive years,” but did not provide further revenue numbers.
Representatives for several other corporate heavyweights that Joonko claimed as clients, including Nike, Adidas, Northwestern Mutual, Crocs and others, did not return requests for comment.
Intuit, another company frequently listed in Joonko materials, declined to comment.
Raz’s alleged misdeeds included submission of fake invoices that were attributed to real people at real companies, fake wire transfers and the creation of fake bank accounts, a source with knowledge of the situation told The Post on Monday.
“It really is one bad actor. It’s staggering, the individual [wrongdoing] and the level of sophistication of the CEO,” the source said at the time.
Raz has not responded to multiple requests for comment.
Well-known venture firm Insight Partners led the $25 million fundraising round and was joined by Target Global, Kapor Capital and Vertex Ventures.
Insight and Vertex each have seats on Joonko’s board.
Joonko’s alleged tall tales were not uncovered during Insight Partners’ due diligence effort ahead of the round, which included financial audits, customer calls and background checks, The Post previously reported.
Questions about Raz’s conduct emerged after she repeatedly resisted the board’s call for her to build out a full leadership team, including a separate chief financial officer to oversee the business.
In a scathing statement earlier this week, Joonko’s board of directors alleged that Raz had “engaged in egregious, unethical and fraudulent conduct, which caused harm to the company and its shareholders.”
The board is still investigating Joonko’s financials over the last year to assess their accuracy and said “next steps are being considered” based on the probe’s results.
Insight Partners said it “does not tolerate, and our investors expect us to take seriously, any findings of misconduct, deceit or unlawful activity at our firm or any of our portfolio companies.”
Insight Partners and a representative for Joonko’s board declined further comment on the situation.
Joonko launched in 2016 and has raised about $38 million in outside funds.
The startup has offices in downtown Manhattan and Tel Aviv and has more than 50 employees, according to its LinkedIn page.
At present, it’s still unclear if Joonko will be able to resume operations.
Source by [New York Post]