Deep Background

Beware of what’s on LinkedIn unless you check it

What’s on LinkedIn is what people say about themselves. Relying on it as proof of someone’s experience in business or academics can be a dangerous move.

The investors in WrkRiot likely wish they had thought of that before they put up money in 2015 to back the Silicon Valley job-search website and its founder, Isaac Choi. Over time, he brought in advisors with experience in recruiting and hired more than 15 people.

Daniel Tunkelang, a Silicon Valley veteran who was an advisor to WrkRiot, wrote in a later web post that “there were red flags that should have scared me off.” Choi, he said, “was very aggressive about dropping my name in his outreach to VCs — without asking my permission to do so… I should have gotten to know the company and its leadership better before associating myself with them and lending them my credibility.”

Penny Kim, hired in 2016 as marketing chief, said that she moved from Dallas despite doubts about the firm. Her suspicions soon mounted when employees’ paychecks were delayed for weeks, and she learned other executives had loaned WrkRiot tens of thousands of dollars to keep it afloat. She filed a wage claim with a California state agency, and was fired, Kim said in a lengthy post on the Medium website.

Choi replied with a statement on WrkRiot’s Facebook page saying she was a “disgruntled former employee” spreading “misinformation.” That statement, along with the rest of the company’s Facebook page, its website and its Twitter account, as well as Choi’s LinkedIn page have since been taken down, news accounts said. Kim said she was taken in partly by the persuasiveness of Kim’s self-narrative, and his LinkedIn entry.

“As he built WrkRiot, the entrepreneur said that he graduated from the Stern School of Business at New York University and that he worked at J. P. Morgan for nearly four years as an analyst,” the New York Times reported. “N.Y.U. and J. P. Morgan both said they had no record of Mr. Choi. At least one company listed on his LinkedIn profile also could not be found.”

A Forbes article said that “several organizations” Choi listed as former employers on his LinkedIn and Crunchbase entries “said they had virtually no record of Choi. None.” The Times added that Choi did not reply to questions about his résumé.

Another former WrkRiot executive, Al Brown, was quoted in the online publication Quartz as saying that Choi “was very convincing…I wasn’t thinking of really doing deep due diligence on my partner. I took him at this word.”

Subscribe to our Newsletter