For two weeks in a row, Crunchbase has reported that a company called Yayyo was going to go public. Given that Crunchbase reports on pretty much every tech company that goes public, this usually wouldn’t be a big deal. However, when I saw that the site’s Alex Wilhelm wrote, “What [Yayyo] does and what it will do in the future isn’t entirely clear,” I decided to Google it. When I saw that Yayyo planned to be publicly traded under the stock symbol YAYO, I first raised my eyebrows in disbelief that it took until 2018 for a company to claim the stock symbol for cocaine, and then decided to keep Googling harder.
It turns out that it’s not 100 percent fair to say that Yayyo’s plans aren’t entirely clear. Their plans are clear, and it’s clear that their plans are extremely sketchy. Yayyo initially was working on an app that would automatically compare the price of various rideshare services for you; however, as they disclose in their prospectus, after Yayyo actually made the app, neither Uber nor Lyft wanted to give them access to their data. That version of Yayyo crashed and burned, but not before they got Master P to make a song about them:
Following this abject failure, Yayyo bought a bunch of cars with the intention of leasing them to people who want to drive for Uber and Lyft and pivoted to full-on pyramid scheme. From their prospectus:
Drivers renting cars from our Rideshare Platform can join the Ambassador program and refer other potential drivers and prospective customers to rent from the Rideshare Platform, providing our customers with additional income opportunities. The Company has designed and deployed a referral commissions team matrix that allows for both depth and breadth of commissionable referrals for the participating driver. As participating drivers add additional referred drivers to their down line, they progress in gaining additional levels of commission rewards. Eventually they are able to earn a free vehicle rental from Rideshare as a premium reward. [Emphasis mine]
In case you’re wondering who would have the audacity to take what’s essentially an Uber-rental pyramid scheme public, it helps to know that in 2006, the SEC brought charges against Yayyo’s CEO, Ramy El-Batrawi for massively manipulating the share price of his previous company, Genesis Intermedia, during the dot-com boom and bust. He settled with the SEC in 2010 and was banned from serving as the director of a public company for five years.
Currently, if you go to Yayyoipo.com, you’re greeted by a video of John O’Hurley, aka J. Peterman from Seinfeld, urging you to buy into Yayyo because, “The people that really made the money in the gold rush were the people that supplied the picks and the shovels,” plus some gobbledygook about disruption and “hyper-growth tech businesses.” It looks like an ad meant to trick old people into losing money.
Anyways, Yayyo’s IPO is now estimated to launch on October 12. I, for one, wish them luck in their thinly-veiled attempt at fraud.