Interview: Christina Domecq, CEO, Spinvox (Pt 1): Managing Through The Crunch

45 Comments

Our story last week, that much-talked-about voice-to-text firm SpinVox, which got $100 million funding last year, was having to offer staff equity instead of salary, drew heated allegations from ex-staff about missing salaries, unpaid expenses and lavish company spending.

We asked CEO Christina Domecq to set the record straight. In a frank interview, which we are running in full in two parts, she says flying staff to a team party is important for morale, admits the US team had to go and blames the need for funds on the twin demands of expansion and the same credit crunch that’s hitting everyone else. But SpinVox may again have to draw on funds from backers including Goldman Sachs…

On the share-for-salary offer: “It is normal for us to make offers of shares for salary, it’s not the first time it’s happened. Taking a business to cash-flow positive is a point of triumph and pride, especially in a market that requires as much investment as this one has – our ability to do this on our own, almost indignantly, is very important. The take-up was in excess of 50 percent – it should be; the employees that work here are very excited … employees of SpinVox today own in excess of 40 percent of the business … we have some very rich equity schemes for employees and this was just another. I’m assuming it was leaked by someone who doesn’t have equity, is angry and was terminated – one of the problems with letting people go is, they lose their equity, so it can create quite a few angry people out there and it’s part of the pains of growth and building a business.”

Why is money tight right now?: Funding expansion and late payments from carriers: “We’ve got increased supplier demand globally. We grew five-fold in revenue last year and we’re growing another five-fold this year. To go from 30 million users to over 75, 100 million customers, that’s huge growth – we’re talking about doing that within 90 days. I’m not going to say the wireless carriers are the best payers on time – they’ll say they like to pay me within 30 to 45 days; they don’t. Across the board, we’ve seen carriers change their payment terms with us. We’re doing our best to manage day-to-day through this credit crunch like everybody else.”

Has last year’s $100 million VC round been used up?: “We still have access, through our investors, to capital. Our investors will continue to fund the growth of this business – with this kind of growth, it means continued investment. It’s a point of pride for an entrepreneur and management team like ours to move in to EBITDA-positive and cashflow-positive and to get off the investors’ blood – it’s a really important transition point. There’s availability of growth capital from our investor base.”

Does that mean new investment?: “Yes, it does mean additional investment, and also additional working capital facilities and additional debt facilities, because we need to continue expanding our infrastructure. I can’t say the banks are extremely helpful these days with facilities, so we are working with our current investor base and current hedge funds and anybody that works with us on extending facilities and creating the right environment for a growing business.” Does that go for Goldman Sachs as well? “Yes, it does.”

Some people are claiming unpaid salaries and expenses: “We’ve never missed a payroll date in all of our history here; I can’t imagine that there are unpaid salaries. If there’s an unpaid expense, I can only assume the expense hasn’t been signed off or it’s a potential leaver. These may be cases of people who have been exited and believe that they’re due more than they are.”

Do you still have the New York office?: “No, we don’t have the US office because we don’t need it. In New York, I only really have two employees based there now, and on the west coast I have several more. One of the worst decisions that I ever made was opening an office in Atlanta. We temporarily took some office in New York to be closer to our investor base, it had nothing to do with our employee base. Because of our success with some of our strategic partners on the west coast, I’m on the west coast a lot. We’re undecided on office in the US and not sure we need one. The ones who are still with me there seem generally very happy.” In the US, SpinVox has two carrier partners: “Alltel (NYSE: AT) and Cincinnati Bell, that’s really it.”

So do you see emerging nations as more important than developed territories?: “No, I just think I need a better team in the US. The Canadian team has done really well, we’ve done deals with Rogers and Telus and SaskTel and we’re announcing another one shortly; you’ll find us owning all of the carriers in Canada, that’s a real testament to my team up there. In Latin America, we’ve got 13 deals. You begin to question one or two things – either our business model isn’t right in the US, or the team wasn’t right. We’ve taken the approach of, replace the team, we let about eight people go. It’s not easy to make those decisions – we build companies with people, letting people go is the worst part of my job.”

Can you clarify the recent headcount issues?: “We’ve hired in Latin America, in India, Canada is doing very well for us. Our US strategic partnerships are working well, whether it be with voicemail vendors or others; we continue to invest in the team there. When it comes to our wireless carrier team, we’ve seen some turnover and we are currently recruiting, so it’s not a matter of downsizing, it’s a matter of rightsizing or finding the right people for that challenge. When you look at, we have over 30 carrier contracts worldwide and only two of them are in the US, it kind of questions the ability of that team and whether or not I made the right hiring decisions in the past; we have positions available in the United States right now. Back here at base (Marlow, England), we continue to invest in development and operational skills. In the US, in the last 60 days we had several layoffs; in the UK, we generally see an attrition rate of about 15 percent annually, usually through performance management; we do strive to keep the best of the best here. Headcount now is just under 300.”

Some ex-employees have blamed the financial position on lavish spending: Claims sports cars were bought for senior staff, the Race Across America charity bike ride was a waste of money, flying every employee to London for a party and a private cruise down the Thames. “About 20 percent of employees do have a car as part of their package; these are all leased cars from our existing budget, it’s an agreed-upon budget that we’ve always had. We do believe in getting our team together on an annual basis for a summer party, it’s an important part of the culture, we happened to do it on a river boat last year which was very unique and good for people and also their families. I think there are some jealous and angry people who were no longer part of that and who were upset.

“The business didn’t pay for the Race Across America – the business got all the benefit of the branding, but actually we had tons of sponsorship for it. For me, it was a personal goal – I can’t tell you how many meetings I have with strategic partners, where the first thing they say to me is ‘I can’t believe you rode across America, how’s your bottom?’

“Leadership is about taking the good with the bad. It’s all within budget; building a global business is not cheap at all. I don’t think our business would continue growing – we’ve got 30 carrier contracts and are growing year after year as it is – if management were so poor. I don’t think we’d have such a great product or go from 30 million to nearly 100 million customers this year or have such a great technology team delivering such high rates of automation.”

In part two on Wednesday, Domecq explains human-helped voicemail transcription, organising for the recession and why the future looks bright

45 Comments

another ex sver

spinvox insider jr – well said. It does not bode well to have a head of hr (the girl) who is in need of anger management training who is also married to the head of legal. Isn't that a conflict of interest at some level?

worried but ready to take acti

can anyone tell me where SpinVox, Inc is incorporated in the U.S., in case any of us need to pursue legal action. Is it in Georgia or NYC? And what is the structure of the U.S. entity, and how does it relate to SpinVox, LTD in the UK? And who are the officers and BOD? Is this public info? Also CD actionable in the U.S.? Does she hold assets there?

connor sweetman

Spinvoxers,

Please listen to me and get CHECKS! Believe me, get your pay immediately, the OLD FASHIONED WAY! Demand Checks for your expenses, demand Checks for your pay. That way you have PROOF signed by an officer of the company and will have legal recourse.

If the checks clear and you get your money, you will have lost nothing.

IF the checks don't clear, you have PROOF and can press criminal charges, and believe me, you will eventually get your money after many, many years of hard work. . . but at least you have a chance to get it.

If all Spinvoxer demand checks together, there cannot be serious reprecussions against ALL OF YOU.

Think this through, at this point it seems you have very little to lose.

The TWO people at New Horizons who got checks were very glad they did that.

To BillyBob, Yeah, the last charge on those credit cards will be a one way ticket out of the country. . . that is what they did in New York. Well, I don't know how they paid for their tickets. .. but they were GONE! Only to re-emerge embroiled in the same kind of situation but on a much larger scale.

As Been There wrote, this brings up so much emotional pain and suffering for all the Ex-New Horizons People, that this is really difficult for us to be watching over again. SpinVoxers, we know exactly what you are all feeling right now. .. . Dammed if you do. . . .Dammed if you don't. . . . what to do. … what to do. . ..

We unfortunately decided to stick with CD and ride it out. What a horrible mistake that was! And each of us in our own different ways paid a dear price.

For me, I just never thought that I would ever be fooled so thoroughly by anybody. My ability to fully trust a business associate doesn't exist. And if you knew me, you would know what a shame and what a loss that is.

The GOOD THING that is coming out of this. .. . Many of the old New Horizons Employees who lost contact have found each other again and are catching up with each other. To see those old familiar names in my inbox brings tears to my eyes and joy to my heart. We are scattered all over and now, without the stinging pain of what we experienced, we can talk to one another again.

And we are all worried about what you Spinvoxers could potentially be about to go through. Yeah, people you have never met, people you will NEVER meet are worrying about your futures. And other than posting on these boards, sending links, sending clues. . . .. .we are helpless in any other way to try to protect you.

You are all in a live mine field and we are simply trying to guide you out with the least damage, because we were in that same mine field and some of us picked one way out, and some of us picked another way out.. . but we were all damaged. The only difference was to the degree of damage.

Why do we care? You may not know us, but we know you! WE were you.

Roger Doger

I am so popular and busy and I get so many voice-mails that I can't even keep up!
Eureka Spin Vox is born…
Typists in far flung areas of the world tranlate your message so you can save time and inflate your ego at the same time! Its genius!
It was probably creditors and lawyers leaving all those messages for CD.
I can't believe someone actually gave the woman money for this.

anon

Christina blythely blames her U.S. commercial team for failure to win Teir 1 deals, but she changed out the whole team within the past year and the new team has done no better.

She also changed out the entire finance department, as there is not a single finance professional who did not move on to greener pastures during the past 12 months.

So to went the whole Marlow HQ product marketing and product management organization. Only one person remains from last summer. I remember the then-head of the group bragging last year about the 40 people he brought on board… none left, except for one person who handles the side business of corporate Unified Comms…. all new faces now.

Christina and Daniel can continually blame the teams they created, but at some point they might want to look in the mirror and question the company's leadership.

Secret Squirrel

How appropriate that the URL for this article begins with 419 – SpinVox sounds like a 419 scam on a massive scale :-)

BillyBob

What a great investment opportunity! I want to capitolize sychophants who will melt the coprorate credit card out of a need to self medicate their insecurity.
Must be a wonderful place to work! The parties sound fabulous, and the culture delightfully rotten to the core.
SpinVox, a comedy now and a tradgedy in the near futre.
Steel yourselves, the executives last charge on the corporate card will be plane ticket out of the EU.
I hear Mustique is lovely this time of year.

Spinvox Insider Jr.

(continued from above)

* Other lies:

1. The only reason Christina can say that 40% of the company is owned by employees is because she is including herself and Daniel Doulton in that number, and they own most of the 40% she is referring to!!

2. When Christina says over 50% of employees have taken up shares, it is again dishonest because she makes it sound as though they have done so as part of the latest proposal made by SpinVox to replace salary with stock. In fact, most have done so as part of the standard share ownership scheme. Almost no-one has done so under this initiative, because it would be crazy to do so: the stock is worthless, the company is going bust, no-one is going to give her anymore money!

3. Goldman Sachs are not looking to put anymore money into the company – in fact they have reported Christina Domecq to the DTI for fraud.

4. They do not have 30 million users – this is the total subscriber base of all the carriers they have signed contracts with. They have very limited penetration of the subscriber bases (usually 0.5% to 3%), because the product is too expensive, not good enough quality, and not that useful for most consumers… It usually leaves SpinVox with the prosumer market, who guess what, use more messages than anyone else. As SpinVox has moved to All You Can Eat bundles, guess what? They lose even more money as for these to be cost effective they need a much lower level of message use per user than you get from a prosumer offering!!

5. The credit crunch is impacting the company. It is not! The company had burned through the bulk of the £100m in September, due to her reckless and irresponsible spending!! There have been fresh cash injections since then which you have not heard about – notably GLG ploughed in an additional £10-£20m in the first half of this year!!

6. They don’t need the money to fund expansion: the money previously raised was meant to do just that. They need it for 2 reasons: the business model doesn’t work, their product can’t be offered profitably AS THERE IS NO AUTOMATION; and secondly, they have zero ability to implement cost control (and indeed have sacked any Finance professional who has dared to challenge them on their growth and spend plans).

7. "They repay expenses in a timely manner and have never missed a payroll date." They missed both January and February payroll dates. They continuously delay repaying expenses, as this is seen as a normal way of controlling cashflow, despite the impact on employees!

8. The summer party was not on a river boat last year: the river boat (with drinks and canapés) was merely the start of the lavish expense, which included dinner at Gaucho’s for everyone, and tickets to see Kylie Minogue. In addition, because the party was so expensive, it exceeded Inland Revenue guidelines and cost the company an additional 40% in tax on top!! Party sounds great though, why is this wrong?:

8a. The company is not EBITDA, let alone cash positive. This party was funded with investor money which is needed to fund the business. Serious capital expenditure requirements were delayed in that time frame because the company did not have sufficient funds!

8b. Employees, in general (outside of Christina’s inner circle who received pay rises of up to 45% last year), have not received pay rises in 18 months or indeed bonuses. Most would have preferred this rather than having a £185 spent on their behalf on steak and Kylie…

Christina is lying – please don’t fall for her lies in this interview. She has made a huge amount of profit out of this company, basically from redistributing wealth from investor into her own pocket. She does not care about her employees, and is more interested in her own image than in SpinVox: the PR department costs SpinVox over £500k a year, a big number even for much larger, profitable companies, and their remit is first to promote her own self image and second that of SpinVox’s…. think about that…

Spinvox Insider Jr.

(Posted in two parts on behalf of a colleague who needs to remain anonymous, for now)

The sordid truth about SpinVox from an insider:

* Christina Domecq is incompetent: do not put her running the company into the ground down to youthful immaturity and ignorance. She is stubborn and arrogant, which offsets all her desirable personality traits (inspirational, charismatic, super smart).

* She was given advice time and again that she needed to rein in spending, be it on growing the company, on hiring resource or indeed on her personal expenditure… she ignored it all.

* She is engaged in at best unethical at worst illegal activities. To name but a few of her offences:

1. She has awarded herself and her inner circle huge bonuses, even as the company has struggled to pay others. In January/February, when SpinVox was desperately short of cash, she was told that if she paid out the planned significant bonuses to her interim Financial Controller, to her Head of HR (the girl not the guy) and to the Head of Legal, then she would miss paying Canadian payroll… she opted for the bonuses.

2. She has taken huge slices of money for her other businesses (termed loosely the “SpinVox family of businesses” even though they have nothing to do with SpinVox), including a potential brewery deal, a healthcare business (run by an ex-boyfriend), and a charity.

She even bought a €400k racing yacht to sail the Atlantic (she did not take part) with SpinVox money, to raise awareness for her new charity. There is an employee on Spinvox’s books whose sole real job is to work on the charity, nothing to do with SpinVox.

This is illegal: the people who put money into the company to fund SpinVox did not agree to fund these other ventures.

3. She has taken huge slices of money to fund her lifestyle: be it the personal chauffeur, the personal trainer, the flights for friends and family (including flying 28 people first class from round the world for her wedding at Xmas).

SpinVox paid over £100k for Skycar sponsorship, which if you look at the website carries no mention of the company… coincidentally however, her husband was the flying cameraman for the event…

The company is all smoke-and-mirrors!

When people wonder quite rightly why the company makes no money and has burned through its cash so far, these are the key reasons:

* There is no real automation. All messages, bar those which are actually hang-ups, or too poor audio quality to bother with, are passed on to a human agent… this is incredibly expensive, and with ever lower prices SpinVox offer their product out at, they can never make money! It’s simple maths – if it costs 5p to convert the message (using an agent) and each message only generates 3p of revenue: they lose 2p per message, so the more deals they sign, the more customers they get, the more they lose money!

* They give the product away for free – at key times, notably when trying to impress funders or potential investors with their performance, and continued sales trajectory, they offer mass market free monthly subscriptions to all or significant parts of a carrier’s customer base. No revenue, all the costs, leads to huge losses.

* They waste millions on recruitment and termination fees. Don’t be fooled by Christina’s 15% turnover figure. Even if that were true (and it’s not) in terms of changes in the size of the company (they have actually retrenched over 100 roles or 35% of the company in the last 6 months), it ignores the fact that within the remainder the average lifespan of a SpinVox employee is just 8 months.

This is because they change their route to market or business model every month and decide they no longer need the person they have just hired (usually a very senior person with an excellent track record elsewhere, who gives up a great job, comes in at great expense in recruitment fees and big salaries, and are then shunted out after 2-3 months with a big pay-off).

The Head of HR believes it is her role to continuously “refresh” the company with new heads, and is continually looking to replace people – sometimes for personal/vindictive reasons. She has been known to lie when reporting on people in order to oust them, and to make vindictive comments confirming she is out to get certain people.

* They lie about their financial performance in order to draw in more investors. Christina did it again in this interview – they did not increase their revenues by 5-fold last year. The auditors will not sign off on this because they literally INVENTED revenues they had not earned and stuck them in the accounts (the auditors have also not signed off on the accounts because there is a major going concern issue: i.e. the company is going bust!).

(continued)

Been there

I think a difficult piece to all of this is that it is very hard to prove a negative. For example, how do people prove they are not being paid?

Another piece to this, is that unfortunately, the investors and carriers who you would think would care are not concerned about how staff is treated, they are concerned with the bottom line. The questions I am most curious about are:

1) What did Goldman Sachs get in return for their $100M investment? Did they really invest $100M? Was it a briefcase full of cash or credit or . . .?
2) Does Goldman own a percentage of Spinvox? What percentage? What about the other investors?
3) If Christina is claiming that the employees own 40% of Spinvox, who owns the other 60%? What percentage does she personally own?
4) Does enough stock in the company equal a seat on the Board? Is there a BOD?

CFO's past and present are the people with the story – if you can interview them (either here on in court), you will get a lot further with this.

SV employees, good luck with this. Frankly, this brings up far too many emotions from my past experiences at New Horizons/TriTekNix. Keep looking for work and jump at anything you find, even though you will be unpaid for some work you did, that will happen if the company crumbles anyway. To guess, I would say the average lost wages at NHWC was five weeks. CD, DD, and people like them do not understand the plight of the middle class – they come from too much money. "Let them eat cake" and all that.

Mr. Andrews, thanks for covering this story and giving people a voice.

connor sweetman

Dear Mr. Andrews,

Thanks and keep trying. Believe you me, you can get to the bottom of this.

Robert Andrews

"This is not an interview – it is an advertorial! Terrible journalism".
"Let’s not make this a *soft ball interview*".
"Another interview with some tougher questions is in order!!!"

Ahem, thanks, flattery will get you everywhere.

Look, this wasn't a soft-ball interview. This one was an opportunity for me to put to her a lot of the claims that you guys have raised in the last week or so. And I did so – questions about sports cars, spending, expenses and salaries, management effectiveness etc etc. Her answers are her answers.

We're not done with the story. Your intensity of feeling absolutely suggests it merits closer inspection. I'm reading through everything you've been bringing and I'm in contact with some of you as we speak. Hopefully that will continue, and I believe our line of communication with the company will remain open, too.

Thanks again.

Not Even Close

Yes, claritynot, that is exactly how SpinVox defines "customers"- I was forced to give presentations to carriers of 'reaching' many millions of non-existent customers while working for this lovely company.

Tomorrow Never Comes

This is not an interview – it is an advertorial! Terrible journalism. Come on folks ask a challenging question or 2!

claritynot

Clarity, so that means that if I pay for SpinVox on my voicemail and 20 different people have left me messages, then SpinVox reports this as having 21 customers. That's great spin, SpinVox.

That would be like Audi counting every passenger who ever rides in my Audi as a customer.

That clarification kinda dilutes the value and meaning of a "customer"

clarity

Observer, it does make sense when the 30-100M customers are defined as a combination of the A-party callers leaving the voicemail as they normally would (i.e. not actual SV customer) and B-party, the person actually paying for SV service.

name

"If there’s an unpaid expense, I can only assume the expense hasn’t been signed off or it’s a potential leaver."

I have expense claims that have been approved and are awaiting payment, and the company has not paid them and refuses to tell me when they will be paid. I sent my contact information to Robert Andrews (the author of this post) and I will be willing to provide documentary evidence if he responds to me privately.

Observer

I can't get the maths to add up …

Christina says above 30 million to 100 million customers. Lets say 30 million, lets say they all get on average 1 voicemail per week (most people that take up the service do so because they get a lot more than that), say you charge 10p per message – which is reasonable wholesale, their retail platform is a lot more than that.

That is £3 million coming in per week.

Yet they have burnt through what, £30+ million in the last 12 months?

That is a lot of wages and datacenters…or is it?

500 staff, costing £100K each – £50 million…

Hmmm £3 million x 52 => £156 million …

So £106 million for datacenters, offices, insurance, travel, expenses, parties, etc … still doesn't add up…

I don't see how they aren't making a killing. I can't see how they haven't been snapped up by Nuance, Microsoft, Google or IBM if all this really gels.

And they must have been talking to UK Carriers since the Car Phone Warehouse thing in 2005, why no deals? In a market where every edge is desperately taken to get ahead of the competition – 4 years is a long time even for a Tier 1 Telco.

connor sweetman

jLo,

Way back in 2002, that was Daniel's purpose in New Horizons, White Plains! And look what happened with that! Yeah, he was the one who was coming in and straightening everything out.

Yeah, he was supposed to get New Horizons on the correct path. . .HA! Just look what happened there.

As far as this first part of the interview that has been presented, David Dickinson from Bargain Hunt asked tougher questions from the competitors and the appraisers than this interview. And she really did skirt around a few of the basic questions that were directly asked with no follow up questions to make her answer the original question.

Let's hope the second part of the interview really gets to the heart of what has been going on 'inside SpinVox'. . . . and believe you me, it isn't just all Domecq's fault! Are all the other executives and BoD asleep at the switch?

I do have to disagree with you about Christina's lack of knowledge, she knows what she did last time and how she caused the demise of New Horizons. . .. . yet, she is repeating the same exact behavour. Spending money that belongs to a corporation is WRONG! Plain and simple, WRONG.

It appears to me that she treated corporate funds in the NY business as her own, and it could be she is doing the same exact thing with the money people have put into SpinVox.

You write that being CEO is a point of fashion for her. Well Said! And I feel that if she had any money left of her own she wouldn't be putting it to the staff to take shares instead of pay.

Has anybody stopped to think that she could have been using the investment money to support her life style?

With a driver and a personal trainer on the SpinVox payroll, as reported in other posts on this and the previous blog, don't you think this could be the case? I haven't seen the books, so I don't know. . .only what has been reported on the blogs regarding the driver and the personal trainer. ..but if I were an investor or employee asking to take shares instead of pay, I sure would be asking to see the books. The Real Books!

I am sure that there is some kind of governmental auditing proceedures that may warrant being called into play in this situation, I really do. Even though this is a privately held company, there are still things that must be adhered to by law.

From my understanding, in the United States, and employer CAN NOT include the FICA, (Social Security & Medicaid) in bankruptcy. I am not a bankruptcy lawyer, but since half that money is deducted from the employees pay before they get it, I don't think it is allowed. I could be wrong because I pay those things faithfully every quarter for my employees, so I haven't given it much thought.

Wonder if she had any plans to pay the employees Social Security, Unemployment Benfits and Medicaid for when they are old, before they all get old enough to collect.

Is she going to re-imburse the employees at SpinVox for their loss of Dental Insurance?

Where did all that money go? That is what I would be asking if I was asked to take shares instead of pay.

Jlo

Here’s the scoop:

On employee equity: Most peeps have very little or no equity in SpinVox. By employees, Christina means her, Daniel and the senior executive team own most of the stock. But again, mainly her and Daniel. When asked about it, she would often wonder out loud why she had to give stock to people she was paying.

On funding: While she may have access to additional monies, the $100M investment is gone. And sadly, it was mostly gone back in February. Most of it went to subsidizing the COGS. You see, when something costs 2 cents and you sell it for 1 cent, you can’t make it up on volume. And Christina is a victim of her own success in that regard. She has artificially lowered her costs to penetrate the market quickly, but can’t dig herself out of the hole she’s created.

On salary and expenses: Christina herself has told the staff that unless they took a portion of their salary in stock, payroll would be delayed for up to 10 days. Before the 100M funding came in from Goldman, SpinVox was on vapor and couldn’t cover UK payroll. Payroll has been delayed in the UK on many occasions, ask the developers who walked out over it. One-time while the staff was still sub-30, Christina famously dug into her own pocket to cover payroll.

There are MANY persons with unpaid expenses: I’m sure 2 or 3 dozen are reading this post now. Christina began her last company meeting by refusing to talk about expenses. And being that Christina herself must sign-off on all expenses since the cash crisis began, it is amusing that she feigns ignorance. Also, of the 5 or so people that Christina employs in the US, all had their healthcare coverage cancelled by Blue Cross on June 1st because of non-payment. The head of HR had a melt-down in Marlow last week as she argued to put the past due premiums on a credit card to no avail.

On the New York office: The New York office was closed by the landlord for non-payment. All employee information and confidential records were taken to the home of the part-time office manager who has been feverishly trying to get rid of them. On a personal note, this feels all kinds of wrong. In a time of identity theft, I can’t believe SpinVox would let this happen. I feel really bad for the US employees.

On the performance of the US team: Christina seems to be rewriting history on her US business. I know these blokes. They’re good — probably the best in the world. She has many more than 2 deals in the US. Until the cash crisis, she had many more on the line too. It is also probably worth adding a footnote that none of the deals she has in Canada were done by her Canadian team. They were all done by her original US team two years ago. And again, in fairness, even though she criticizes her US team, she has no major deals in the UK at all. And if she herself can't close a deal in a market where her entire management team and the bulk of her staff are based what does that say about SpinVox? It is easy to use people who you’ve laid-off as scapegoats, but she’s not being straight.

On turnover in the US: In the last 13 months more than 50 people have left or been let go in the US. Most with less than a year of service and most who were recruited at high cost. Maybe Christina is right and they were all bad. Seems hard to believe considering most have gone on to better firms.

In the last 12 months: because of the financial chaos of her business she has turned over her entire finance team and two CFOs. This speaks volumes. And they too have gone on to better firms.

On the issue of cars: This is parsing words – while it is true a number of salespeople have a car allowance, only one received a 100K BMW for closing a deal that ultimately failed. Everyone knows who he is.

Party, party, party: Christina actually flies the entire staff into the UK twice a year for the summer party and for the Christmas party / annual sales conference. She is right and they are wonderful events. She also paid regular bonuses (when she had the money). She stays in five-star hotels and travels everywhere first class. She has a car and driver. This is all great fun, but to this day she still has no idea that other start-ups don’t do this kind of thing with investor money. Much less before they’re profitable.

If SpinVox still has funding options and investors who wish to back it, they should insist that Christina step out of her current role as CEO. She’s 32 and very immature. She’s never had to work in a real business. Moreover, she’s never had a real boss. She doesn’t know what she doesn’t know. It is unfair to keep attacking her because she is genuinely doing the best she can, but being a CEO is a point of fashion for her. Her track record is one of business failure and with 250 employees hanging in the balance we need someone who can actually make this fly.

connor sweetman

Dear Doesitmatteranymore,

You asked "Had CD ever given a truthful interview before?"

Well, I don't think this one was very truthful and the answer to your question is quite simple:
NOT TO MY KNOWLEDGE!

What really stood out to me in this interview is the way buried into her comments is the statement that if an employee buys stocks in lieu of salarty, that they LOSE the equity if they are made redundant or leave SpinVox. What the heck does that mean?

If you buy stocks or shares, you buy stocks or shares and you are a stock holder of a share holder with no strings attached. Why should a dedicated employee, sticking by her, lose equity if she decides she can't keep them on or if they leave?

What would stop her from reeling in the employees right now to give up their pay and monies owed for shares and then fire all of them at a later day so they would loose their equity?

What is that about? I don't think that is how it works over here, so this is all strange to me.

doesitmatteranymore

In this article http://www.allbusiness.com/government/government-bodies-offices-regional/10618338-1.html

CD states "She said she was able to overcome their skepticism with her education background, which included three degrees, a solid business plan and the fact that she was able to r aise and borrow an investment of $1.4 million. She said she has almost completely repaid all of her loans for the business."

But court filings in 2002 http://www.allbusiness.com/government/government-bodies-offices-law-courts-tribunals/10602370-1.html

states :

"According to papers filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in White Plains, New Horizons of Westchester grossed $184,206 between January and August of this year, less than the $230,340 recorded last year and $373,458 generated in 2000.

New Horizons of Westchester also owes the U.S. Internal Revenue Service $271,109.76, as well as $40,836.39 in state unemployment insurance payments
and $25,645.66 in state taxes."

How do you pay back $1.4m when your gross revenues for the year equals $373,458? Teh franchise was opened in Nov 1998 "who opened her New Horizons Computer Learning Center of Westchester franchise in White Plains in November 1998, when she was 21"

So they did a couple of million in 1999 after costs? then suddenly tanked in 2000? which was if my math is correct before 9/11 when the economy tanked.

How does that work?

Has CD ever given a truthful interview before?

RJ

And what about the failure to pay the call centres in Pakistan and the Philippines???

Hundreds of employees and all of their dependents have been screwed over by Domecq's purposeful delinquency.

Just because people live in a developing nation without easy access to the media doesn't mean that they should be screwed over or forgotten.

Another interview with some tougher questions is in order!!!

connor sweetman

It would also be a good idea to check out who was running/owning the Dragon Yacht business before Ms. Domecq entered the picture and managed to sell it in a "private sale" for a nice profit? And why not ask her where this business was located too? And how she became associated with it?

I know the answer.. . .let's see how truthful she really is.

And where is Daniel Daulton? Why wasn't he interviewed. He knows *exactly* what went on with New Horizons, TriTecNics & the Yacht Business, and probably knows a lot more about SpinVox too.

Let's not make this a *soft ball interview* when there is so much at stake for the employees & shareholders of SpinVox.

Connor Sweetman

concernedsvemployee

Mr Andrews,

Can you follow up with some further clarification questions?

1) "but actually we had tons of sponsorship for it." Who did sponsor the race then, and why do their names not appear anywhere? Can you tell us, coz I'd love something for nothing as well.

2) 20% cars, means 60 cars. 60 Exotic cars is probably £60,000 a month

3) As the UK employees the last time they got their expenses? April I believe. Ask them if they have dental coverage as of this week?

4) Define several? According to Miss Domecq in Oct 2008 there were approx 400 employees. At present it is closer to 250 – 300, how is that 15% http://www.growingbusiness.co.uk/spinvox-christina-domecq.html

5) According to this interview in Jan 09, CD says "turnover in excess of $14m before she sold the business in August 2002".

http://www.entrepreneurcountry.net/articles/entrepreneur-interviews/19-christina-domecq-spinvox

but the links to the court records paint a completely different picture

http://www.allbusiness.com/government/government-bodies-offices-law-courts-tribunals/10602370-1.html

6) Why did she feel she had to lie about her past?
7) Why is a lease on a car OK? Leases are nearly impossible to get out of, so not such a good thing if you have leased expensive cars for people.

8) Does new new commitment to investment mean that CD will lose her majority share ownership in the company?

and finally

If the Senior Management Team agree to pay up all employees, all expenses, and owed benefits this month I woudl imagine that all of this commenting woul dstop.

People are not as dumb as they would like to believe. If they play fair by us, the employees will play fair by them.

No one wants to see Spinvox named in the same sentence as Enron etc. I wish CD well, but when you mess with people livelihoods and impact those who depend upon them, you step over the line.

Remember 'Men and women of integrity are people of their word. As their word is, so is their action."

You have made statements in public above that are in the public record, they are your word!

connor sweetman

Dear Jack,

Oh, how I wish I could talk to you. Please calm down. Calling names isn't going to solve anything. We have to get the truth out, and I know that it is very frustrating for you. Normally you have been very leveled headed and measured in your posts.

So, I would like to take this opportunity to "pull you back from the ledge" as they say over here across the pond.

Sure wish I could reach you privately, but I don't think there is any way to do this. If you like you can e-mail me at clsweetman at yahoo.com. Send me your phone number including country code, I have free calls to England & most of Europe because I have business interests there.

Connor Sweetman

connor sweetman

Anywhere in the interview has Ms. Domecq been asked about the Bankruptcy in White Plains, NY? Or how she left the employees in the lurch for back pay and health insurance? And how she emerges in England claiming to be a sucessful business woman from the United States with the history she has?

These are all provable facts. Did you ask these questions, or is this just yet another PR release for CD?

Connor Sweetman

JACK

Domecq you are without conscious…spin, baby, spin!

You are running on fumes and access to any legitimate funding source will vaporize upon due diligence.

The expense reimbursement statement is a blatant, unadulterated lie. The lack of payment of vendors including health insurance…what is your BS response?
Vendors worldwide are owed!

Bottom line: You are narcissistic crook!

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