Harsh Dalal is likely a fraud#

Introduction#

Harsh Dalal is a 19 year old at Singapore Poly and claims to be the CEO of a 120 employee company with a lot of traction (70k users, 9.8 mill raised from VCs, 120 employees). These claims have all been reported by multiple media sources ^1, ^2. As a result of these claims, Harsh has received a lot of media attention. He got on Forbes 30 Under 30, has joined as a guest on Singapore's Money FM 89.3 Breakfast Huddle, was interviewed by Tech Blitz Japan, and even appeared on CNA Asia First’s morning TV news show (^0).

However, after doing a lot of due diligence, I believe the following claims are true:

  1. Harsh claims to have received funding from several different venture funds but has not actually been funded by any of them.
  2. Harsh has entirely made up a fake venture capital fund called Grand Canyon Capital and claimed he has been funded by them.
  3. Harsh has either fabricated fake people out of whole cloth (as employees of his company), or at the very least faked the credentials of those employees. He refers to them like they exist in a video interview with CNA Insider (“Matt” and “Yoon Jin” who is mistakenly captioned as Eugene): https://youtu.be/Nmn_DVfsNes?t=286
  4. Harsh has significantly exaggerated the size and traction of his company. Harsh does not have 120 employees or 70,000 users or 9,000 projects with Carbon or 6,000 teams created with Workspace etc. Xenon, Carbon, and Workspace most probably do not exist.

These are serious accusations, and I do not make them lightly.
Just an hour ago, TechInAsia put out an expose at the same time (https://www.techinasia.com/scrutinizing-remarkable-tale-teenage-forbes-30-30-inductee). It looks like many people have converged onto the fact that Harsh is not legitimate. They do a good job, and I wanted to give my own independent research to verify their claims.

Evidence#

Harsh falsely claims to be funded by several prestigious VCs, and has even made up a fake VC#

He claims to have raised US$9,8 million in Series A funding from "sovereign wealth fund Korea Investment Corporation, Startup Capital Ventures, and Grand Canyon Capital". I believe none of this is true.

I went to the Startup Capital Ventures website, which has a news page here: https://startupcv.com/news/ . I could not find any mention of TeamLabs or Codexia Studios (the previous name for TeamLabs) in any of their news announcements. This leads me to believe that Startup Capital did not actually fund Harsh.

I then looked at the website for Grand Canyon Capital https://grandcanyon.capital/ and most of the links (Most pages return a 404 Not Found: News, Funding, Blog, Careers, Portfolio, FAQ, and Contact) 404. Most damning is on the front page Grand Canyon Capital claims to have funded Uber, Deliveroo, AirBnB ... and TeamLabs.
Even though they claim to have 11 successful exits, I could not find any mention whatsoever anywhere of any successful funding rounds or exits of Grand Canyon Capital.

The Grand Canyon Capital website says that they were founded in 2012 but checking their ICANN domain registration reveals that “grandcanyon.capital” was registered in 2020. And its predecessor “grandcanyoncap.com”, registered in 2018, is a rather amateurish Google Forms website that really doesn’t look like the website of a VC who funded possibly the three biggest unicorns of the 2010s.

Worse yet, Harsh has used the name of a real founder to lend his VC legitimacy. The Linkedin page of GC Capital claims to have one founder, Giancarlo Ciscomani here, Harsh might delete it. Giancarlo Ciscomani's LinkedIn page is here . But this Giancarlo Ciscomani is in fact the founder not of “Grand Canyon (GC)” Capital, but a different GC capital, “Governance Commitment Capital”! ^5. Harsh has stolen this guy to be the founder of his nonexistent GC Capital.

Harsh fabricates fake people and claims they are his employees#

On the TeamLabs LinkedIn page https://www.linkedin.com/company/team-labs/people/ , there is a CTO, Yoon Jin Lee, and a senior software engineer at Team Labs, Amith Boralkar, both of whom claim to have attended MIT. I emailed MIT Records and Registration and MIT replied that “we can find no evidence of people with these names having any academic record here at MIT”.

Harsh has significantly exaggerated the size and traction of his company#

There's an archive on the Wayback Machine where the TeamLabs website claims over 750000 commits with Xenon, 9,000 projects with Carbon, 6000+ teams creating with Workspace). ^3 But if you look at his current site, ^4 Carbon is "coming soon", and he is "limiting signups" on Xenon in their "closed beta". How can there have been 9000 projects with Carbon and yet Carbon is "coming soon"?

Most of the site has suddenly been taken down, with the employees page and newsroom page removed (where the company announces many new products and funding rounds, and brags about being interviewed by X or Y). Trying to sign up for any of the products on the site is impossible: if you put your email in, you never get an invite to any product (I suppose because he’s "limiting signups" in their "closed beta").

Forbes suddenly changed their description of him (changing plain declaratives to hedging with "According to Dalal..."), then after that removed him entirely from the Forbes 30 Under 30 list: "In light of a request from Harsh Dalal to amend information, Forbes is undertaking a comprehensive review of his profile.")

There are very little organic mentions or engagement despite this company's long history and supposed outreach</span> (6000+ teams creating with Workspace, and not a single tweet, screencap, or mention?). See this excellent comment from xarius2 (https://www.reddit.com/r/singapore/comments/mvt1ki/19yearold_singapore_tech_entrepreneur_named_in/) where he digs out all the company's past and current products (13 over 9 years and again, can’t find any engagement at all?) They also claim to be partnered with Google, AirBnB, Spotify, Deliveroo, Hilton, on their website, but I am willing to bet that these companies haven't heard or used any TeamLabs products before.

I also believe that their office location 59 Robinson Road #08-00, S068891, doesn’t exist. Harsh claims in the CNA video interview that they had to close down the office because of Covid. OK, fair enough (but quite convenient). But as far as I can tell, there is no 59 Robinson Road. 59 Robinson Road simply redirects to 80 Robinson Road.

Harsh has walked back many of his claims after being caught in the act#

Harsh asserts, then redacts, the claim that KIC and SCV have invested#

Tech In Asia just published this expose half an hour ago:

“Earlier media reports cited Korea’s KIC and Silicon Valley firm Startup Capital Ventures (SCV) as investors in Team Labs. But Dalal asserts that those articles are inaccurate: SCV and KIC have not invested in the startup.

He also says he’s unsure where the investor information was sourced from.

But Tech in Asia uncovered an official press release published in 2019 saying that the startup got investments from Grand Canyon Capital and KIC. The announcement, which contained quotes from various Team Labs staff, was only removed after we spoke to Dalal.”

Harsh is walking back his lies about having fake clients#

CNA's updated article removed information about Team Lab’s investors and Team Lab's clients:

"Editor's note: This story has been amended to reflect clarifications made by Harsh Dalal. It was originally stated that Startup Capital Ventures and Korea Investment Corporation were investors in Team Labs. They are not."

"It was also originally reported, based on the company's website, that clients included the Coca-Cola Company, Google and Hilton. Following clarifications from Dalal, references to these companies have been removed from this story."

Harsh is still lying and hiding behind the fake VC he created!#

Again, from the Tech in Asia expose:

“For the first time after multiple conversations with us, the Team Labs CEO claims that all the startup’s numbers – be it for employees, finances, or users – were “conveyed by” Grand Canyon Capital and cannot be attributed to him.

He adds that he only looks after product branding, marketing, and strategy, while Grand Canyon Capital is responsible for everything else.

“The investor incorporated the company and has managed it on a day-to-day basis, and I have never signed any document on behalf of the company – ever,” Dalal says.

He explains that despite holding the title of co-founder and CEO, he does not have executive powers. These reside with Grand Canyon Capital, as the VC firm is the substantial shareholder of TeamLabs, which he “was told has been incorporated in the US.””

Harsh still maintains that Grand Canyon Capital exists. But strong evidence suggests that Grand Canyon does not exist (at least not in the form he claims that it does). Yet Harsh is still trying to hide behind Grand Canyon Capital EVEN NOW. Is this the behaviour of a remorseful person? Or is this damage control of an unremorseful liar?

Conclusion#

Initially, I was quite sympathetic to Harsh. I thought that it was possible that it could have been a small lie that has slowly snowballed. But the more I dug, the more I was convinced that Harsh is not just a young boy who doesn't know any better, but in fact a deliberate liar and fraudster who---even now---is continuing to lie even as his outrageous claims are unraveled around him. Harsh has put so much effort into lying, fabricating not just fake claims and fake users, but also fake screenshots, fake employees, and fake VCs. He has even used the name of a (presumably real) person in order to lend his fake VC legitimacy.

This is not a young boy not knowing any better. This is the systematic work of a person with no moral scruples whatsoever who is deliberately setting out to deceive. In fact it seems to me that Harsh probably expended more effort building his edifice of lies than he would have actually spent building the company!

I also want to lambast the journalists at CNA/Forbes/Money FM/Tech Blitz, who gave Harsh so much attention and traction on their platforms without doing the basic due diligence on Harsh. As long as these media companies uncritically accept and promote stories like this, fraudsters will continue to have a platform to peddle their lies, at the expense of hardworking, honest CEOs and CTOs. Good on Tech In Asia for publishing their expose. I applaud their bravery.

Appendix#

SHA256 hashes (information I would like to attest to, but cannot reveal at this time):

SHA256 hashes generated with https://passwordsgenerator.net/sha256-hash-generator/

  • 0a982118156b8d91bba6bdece2d819e0fd6449a886e1c85199e21be0b0a119bd
  • a91c2668d9c2a81c1c97366d8fe3ee96d1e2f3ff03dcc3f00ae1f54cdeea0fa5
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Pub: May 12 2021 08:18 UTC
Edit: May 12 2021 10:15 UTC
Views: 15039