In today’s investment industry, it’s not rare for new startups to borrow ideas from rival companies, but occasionally the mimicry irks rival founders. Eco’s CEO, Andy Bromberg, claims that Pebble, a different fintech firm that emerged from stealth this morning, “plagiarized” Eco’s contents and business plan. Pebble is financed by a16z. This afternoon, Bromberg said on Twitter that Pebble was guilty of “copy-and-pasting, immaturity, lying, and spying.” Bromberg explained the context for his statements in the forum, and he also discussed them with TechCrunch.
According to Bromberg, the co-founders of Pebble, CTO Sahil Phadnis and CEO Aaron Bai, impersonated Y Combinator investors to gain access to Eco’s waitlist. He further asserts that Phadnis asked in-depth inquiries regarding Eco’s backend while pretending to be searching for work and that Pebble’s marketing and product language borrows heavily from Eco in several places. Pebble, a participant in Y Combinator’s winter 2022 cohort, raised $6.2 million in seed funding from Y Combinator itself as well as LightShed Ventures, Eniac Ventures, Global Founders Capital, Montage Ventures, Soma Capital, and angel investors, according to a report published earlier today by TechCrunch.
Pebble, which was established just a year ago, describes itself as “the first app that rewards you to save, spend, and send your money – all in one balance” on its website. According to Pebble CEO Aaron Bai, it debuted with two key products: a 5 percent annual percentage yield (APY) interest offer for client cash deposits and a 5 percent cash back offer for purchases made at partner businesses including Uber, Amazon, and Chipotle. According to Bai at the time, the model for the earlier product is to accept consumer funds, convert them to stablecoins, and then lend the funds to institutions.
Following that, Bromberg revealed to TechCrunch that both key products were built on two of Eco’s primary services. Eco advertises itself as “one easy balance that enables you spend, send, save, and create money,” according to its website. According to a March 2018 TechCrunch article, Eco, a 2018 startup that has attracted over $95 million from investors such as Activant Capital, L Catterton, Lightspeed Venture Partners, and a16z, has offered up to 5% rates on consumer deposits and 5% cash back through its app since launch. According to Bromberg, although its yield product has temporarily stopped lending stablecoins because of the state of the market, its service has always been built upon doing precisely that.
“At this point, it’s simply become so ridiculous that we feel the need to call it out and emphasize that, at the end of the day, everyone gets inspiration from other businesses. Although it’s true that we’re all standing on the shoulders of giants, there comes a point where copying so blatantly becomes unacceptable. And I would be delighted to speak with them if they wanted to. But at this point, I don’t really feel comfortable going and contacting them until I make some public remarks,” Bromberg said in a phone conversation with TechCrunch.
According to Bromberg’s Twitter thread, claimed images of internal customer data demonstrate repeated attempts by the Pebble co-founders to access Eco. Because these submissions were “repeated submissions with overlapping information,” according to Bromberg, Eco was able to connect them to Bai and Phadnis. Examples of this include the same phone number and email being used repeatedly under different names, including Bromberg’s own name as well as “Andy Bro Burger” and “Poopy Bromberg.”