Back in 2006, when Wi-Fi was all the rage, we saw many startups paint a future in which we’d be able to hop from one hot spot to another seamlessly, sharing the bandwidth for free when we could and buying it when we had to. Well, the future turned out to be entirely different.
Whisher, a Wi-Fi company that launched with much fanfare at DEMO in January 2007, sold itself to WiFi.com, a hot-spot services company, sometime earlier this year, according to founder and Chief Technology Officer Mike Puchol. The sale came close on the heels of the firing of CEO Ferran Moreno in October 2008. Now while for most companies, such a sale would signal the end of the story, with Whisher it was the start of a new one. As part of its preparation to merge operations with WiFi.com, Whisher launched an internal audit that turned up certain irregularities, which in turn led to a full-blown investigative audit. What it discovered wasn’t good. From a company statement sent to us by Puchol:
“Whisher announces that after a thorough investigation, on April 23rd 2009, it filed a criminal lawsuit against its founder and former CEO Ferran Moreno Blanca, for the alleged offenses of embezzlement, disloyal administration, and falseness in mercantile documents. The lawsuit is also filed against Jesús Roy Solanas for his alleged intervention in the offenses. Whisher confirms that no other party connected with the company was involved in the case, and that the lawsuit has been accepted by the Spanish courts in Barcelona. Ferran Moreno will declare before the courts as defendant on July 1st.”
Wow, what an interesting turn of events for Ferran, who got into an argument with Martin Varsavsky, founder of FON and his former boss, around the time Whisher was launched. Ferran, who was a longtime employee of the Swiss phone company, Swisscom, had championed the idea to his employers, who ended up seed funding the project. But somewhere along the line things got murky, and fake invoices were submitted, first to Swisscom and then to Whisher, Puchol alleges in his email.
I bet we haven’t heard the last of this saga.