Epic & Kinetic Social Explains Why They Screwed Over Affiliates


Remember Epic Media Group and Don Mathis, the guys who just a few months ago, in my humble opinion, basically sabotaged their own company in order to spin off another company and not pay any affiliates? Well, the original article became a viral sensation in the industry and thousands of affiliates spread the word about not being paid by Epic, and worse what seems to be scheme to start a new company before crashing their business.

Since the whole industry was talking about it, in part based to the columns written here, more and more people started to send Kinetic Social their bills for Epic, asking why they weren’t getting paid. On top of that more and more people started to wonder about if they should really work with Kinetic Media and their founders, in light of what seemed to be a complete lack of ethics. Do you want to really work with a company that has basically tried to build itself out of the ashes of a failed company that owes people millions? Do you want to take that legal risk? I personally think not.

We have never received any response from Don Mathis about this, let alone an apology for screwing affiliates out of millions of dollars. Instead, he has basically wiped his hands of his company’s failure, is wooing new clients under the guise of this new company, hoping that people will ignore that he was involved in what I believe to be of the worst failures in online advertising and marketing history in the last ten years.

In response, Kinetic Social has been nice enough to make up a history for anyone who wants to read it. I believe that the purpose of this letter is simple: we do not have to pay your bills, you are completely on your own, we took your money and made a new company, so tough fucking shit. It seems to me that they admit they are screwing affiliates and publishers hard, but take no responsibility for their actions to pay publishers who have not been paid.

Here’s some point that they make, and some they fail to mention:

1)   The company was founded at EMG, from the same people
2)   They took the company away from EMG right before they knew EMG was going to crash and burn, taking the “valuable” assets and leaving crap at EMG
3)   They used the same investors as EMG to launch this “new” company.
4)   They have the identical management staff as EMG.
5)   They fail to mention they are in the same offices, using the same computers, the same electricity, the same telephones as EMG.
6)   They admit they were a part of EMG.

What they ignore is that their actually history is well documented and while Epic was failing other publications were noting that Kinetic Social was being created, siphoning off assetts from Epic Media Group. This was not a “buyout” but an inside deal that allowed the founders and investors of the company to take the profitable assets of Epic Media Group, so that when Epic failed, that they would not be part of any collections process.

Kinetic was originally conceived in Mid-2010. Co-founder Don Mathis had just sold (merged) his prior company Epic Advertising to Connexus Corporation, now renamed Epic Media Group (“EMG”). After the transaction, he and Kinetic co-founder Rick Okin – formerly Epic’s CIO – were serving the new holding company in interim/transition roles, reporting to the EMG/Connexus CEO. And it was during this time that they made two crucial observations about developments occurring in the digital media world

  1. Social media was on the rise as an advertising vehicle, and it represented an opportunity for consumer engagement like nothing else in digital marketing. This seems obvious in retrospect, but in mid-2010, it was not clear when or even if social media would become a major ad vehicle for top brands.
  2. There was a high likelihood that social advertising optimization efforts could be substantially enriched with data gathered from outside the social ecosystem, using advanced statistical techniques … and no one was working on this “Big Data” opportunity with regards to social media in particular.

For Don and Rick, these trends were significant. Seizing the opportunity, they began an effort – initially under the EMG umbrella – that would ultimately yield Kinetic as it exists today. In the beginning, a new social media proof-of-concept subsidiary was stood up, and Don experimented with several combinations of people, processes and partners before the right business and strategic approach was determined. Rick, meanwhile, explored ways to marry advanced statistical analysis, predictive modeling and data with social optimization efforts. Along the way, Kinetic achieved notable milestones, for example, becoming one of the charter members of the Facebook Preferred Marketing Developer Program (PDM)®, and becoming one of the original four companies selected to participate in the Facebook® Credits program.

In the meantime, EMG was in the process of divesting assets to focus on its core ad network competencies. In late 2010, Don held preliminary discussions with the EMG/Connexus CEO and with investors regarding the opportunity to spin-out Kinetic as a Management Buyout. This led to the spin-out of Kinetic in 2011, backed principally by TA Associates, and with an equity capital contribution to fund operations and development of the independent enterprise.

As Kinetic prepared for its emergence as an independent company, Don and Rick were joined by other critical founding team members and executives, notably Carree Syrek from WPP and Mindshare and GroupM, where she headed that agency’s social media business, and Chris D’Orazio from Traffic Marketplace, where he ran premium brand sales. Altogether, 19 people (out of the original EMG/Connexus employee base of 310 personnel) came over from EMG to Kinetic at the time of the spin-out. By July of 2012, Kinetic had more than doubled its employee base since it was spun-out and independently capitalized.

While its subsidiary-predecessor first transacted business in 2010, it wasn’t until Q4 2011 when Kinetic – now independent of EMG – adopted the business model that characterizes the company today. Formally, Kinetic tracks its launch to the inception of the social media subsidiary at EMG. But to its team, Kinetic was really born when it was spun out of EMG in 2011, and much of the most important progress of the company has occurred year-to-date in 2012.

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