David Aronchick
David Aronchick

The story of Hark — a Seattle startup that was attempting to build the YouTube of audio clips and once claimed more than 45 million unique visitors — is a strange one. As we reported back in July, most of the audio clips, including famous sound bites from movies and TV shows, were quietly removed leaving the site as a shell of its former self.

That’s still the status of the bare-bones site, which now shows just a few audio clips from President Barack Obama. But now new details have emerged about the six-year-old company, formerly known as Entertonement and Right Sized Media. Back in July, Hark co-founder and CEO David Aronchick asked us to follow up with him in a couple months when we had questions about the business.

Now, we’ve learned Aronchick has taken a job at Amazon.com, working as a product manager for the Amazon Local business.

Aronchick’s social media profiles still list him as CEO of Hark, though he confirmed in a Tweet to us this week that he’s now at Amazon. He declined to comment on the status of Hark, though several signs continue to point to stresses on the business and indicate it may no longer be a going concern.

Delaware corporate records list void status for Hark and an outstanding tax bill of more than $400,000.

Delaware corporation records indicate that Hark last filed an annual report in 2010, listing an outstanding tax balance of $407,252. Its status is also posted as “void” — which occurs when a company neglects to pay franchise taxes or fails to file complete annual franchise tax reports. Failure to pay results in the charter of the corporation being voided and “all powers conferred by law upon the corporation are declared inoperative.” (More on what that means here).

A representative for Corporation Service Company said a void status means the company is no longer in good standing, and no longer incorporated under the laws of Delaware.

In addition to Aronchick, several other employees have moved on to new positions, including vice president of business development Jeremy Laws who is now at Microsoft and vice president of engineering Wes Maldonado who is now at INRIX. Co-founder and board member Fouad EINaggar is listed on his LinkedIn page as the chief strategy officer at CBS Interactive.

What’s particularly unusual here is how quickly Hark fell on tough times, given that a number of key employees were recruited last year and Aronchick had made several positive comments about how well the business was doing. The silence from Aronchick, a well known member of the startup community, also is somewhat baffling.

Earlier this year, the company employed 21 people, and the company said it planned to move into new offices to grow to as many as 30 people. A spokesperson for Hark also told us in February that the company did more in profit in 2012 than revenue in 2011.

As I mentioned in my last post, the whole thing is kind of bizarre.

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  • http://frugalmechanic.com/ Eric Peters

    Amazon Local is eating up a lot of startups, first Dave Schappell and then David Aronchick…then again maybe they’re just eating up the Dave(id)s in our startup scene.

    • Startup Math

      Two equals a lot? That’s math worthy of a Hark accountant.

      • http://blog.CascadeSoft.net @CascadeRam

        Good one :)
        I’d add that Amazon didn’t “eat” this “startup”. Hundreds of thousands of dollars of unpaid bills “ate this startup”

        • http://barryhurd.com/ barryhurd

          While I could go into details, @CascadeRam is right: Amazon had nothing to do with this #startupfail

  • guest

    No more bizzarre than what happened to Discovery Bay, and Contour.

  • Suspicious

    Something still doesn’t add up. Keep digging, GeekWire.

    • StartupMagician

      I agree with Suspicious, GeekWire sure had a lot of time invested in Hark’s progress over the years to simply let this go. After all, David Aronchick didn’t exactly fall off the grid, maybe a visit to Amazon is in order or should we just “Get Jesse” and uncover the truth?

      • johnhcook

        Thanks for reading. I will continue to keep digging into this story, and I will not “just let it go.” That’s one of the reasons why you are reading these updates here on GeekWire.

        I did bump into David Aronchick at the recent TechStars event in Seattle, and he continues to be unable to comment on the record about what’s occurring. He knows I am interested in getting the full story as soon as it comes to light. In the meantime, please keep me posted as you hear more.

        No need to get Jesse. I am on the case.

  • http://blog.CascadeSoft.net @CascadeRam

    >> What’s particularly unusual here is how quickly Hark fell on tough times, given that a number of key employees were recruited last year and Aronchick had made several positive comments about how well the business was doing

    Is this really unusual ?
    IMO it is just a good reminder that reporters, readers and potential-recruits shouldn’t rely solely on a founder’s statements to make conclusions about a company’s health.

    It is remarkable that the company had an unpaid tax balance of $407K in 2010 and yet, everyone assumed that the business was doing great.

  • Thomas R.

    Very strange indeed. In this TechCrunch article, Aronchick even states that Hark is profitable…http://techcrunch.com/2012/06/07/hark-universal-deal/

    It’s people making misleading public statements like this that may lead the SEC to change general solicitation rules. If Aronchick was not being honest, there should be legal repercussions.

    • Snowbound

      Of course he wasn’t being honest!!! I hope all the talent he recruited from legitimate, reputable agencies landed on their feet after this fiasco. Makes me wonder why Amazon wants to invest in Aronchick…

  • StartupMagician

    Has anyone thought to question Hark’s PR guy, Reid Wegley, about anything?

  • 12Man

    Any updates on Hark’s silent, secret demise? Did Aronchick chat anyone up at the Gala event last month?

  • Veronica L.

    You were way too soft on this Aronchick character. He duped you. He duped us. Talked big and now he is hiding. Weak journalism is letting him get away with it.

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