As most of you know, Threeding.com is a small startup company, and like any young startup, we are looking for ways to grow. For this reason, a few months ago we decided to try to raise money by finding an angel investor or a Venture Capital Fund which would be interested in investing in our company. We learned of a 3D Printing Conference in Berlin on March 3-4 organized by Inside3dprinting.de. Part of the conference was a 3D printing venture capital matching forum. For us, this sounding like an exciting opportunity.
The organizer of the venture capital forum was a company called WorldResourceVentures and its CEO was Mr. Ulf Leonhard. You can read more about it here: http://worldresourceventures.com/about
The conference was in Europe and the price was reasonable. So on January 23rd, 2015 we registered, paid the participation fee of EUR 700.00 (USD 770.00) and booked flights (Sofia-Berlin-Sofia and Nice-Berlin-Nice). Our total cost would be EUR 992.84 (USD 1100).
Our team at Threeding.com were very excited and immediately started preparing a pitch deck, business plan, financial model, etc. As this was our first participation in a venture capital forum, we contacted Mr. Leonhard at World Resource Ventures to ask him for some advice on the proper length of the presentation, the proper dress attire, the success rate, and similar questions.
To our surprise, a week later I got an email:
We have merged the 3D Printing Forum with our general resource technology forum in Berlin on March 26th. Instead we are offering a 3D cluster, which also provides opportunities regarding investors. Maybe we can schedule a phone call next Thursday afternoon?
We were all confused. What happened to the conference to which we had registered? Why had no one contacted us about the change? The banner of the forum was still on the website at Inside3Dprinting.de so we were not sure whether the forum had been canceled or not. At this point we also began to become a bit suspicious? Was this some sort of scam?
So, I called Ulf Leonhard. Unfortunately, he was not picking up the phone. It took more than a week when we finally managed to speak to him on February 13th. He told us that there were not enough participants so he had to cancel the forum. That sounded reasonable. This could happen to anyone. Ulf offered to have me participate in another forum scheduled on March 26th. Unfortunately, we could not attend on that date, so we agreed that WorldVentureResources would refund our participation fee and reimburse us for our flights.
We were disappointed, of course, but that’s life. End of story….or so we thought.
A week later the money had not yet been refunded. I calling Mr. Leonhard again, and he very politely promised to forward the refund within a few days.
On March 1st, nearly a month after story began, we got another email:
We are now scheduling you for a 3D Printing Venture Capital Forum on June 4th in Berlin.
My suggestion is that you stay in the loop. We will keep your registration fee from the original forum of March 2nd, and offer you more time to present (12 minutes) and give you a priority presentation in the first presentation session!
Furthermore your travel costs will be paid.
Do you agree?
Beste Grüsse aus Berlin
By this point we were convinced that we didn't want to get involved with this program. Despite my frustration, I politely declined his offer and asked for a refund.
Time passed, but the money was not wired. I called Leonhard three times in March and each time, I got the same promise: “You will get the money in couple of days. Don’t worry”. The final communication came on March 25th:
Refund is going to be done on Monday.
Here is what I replied:
I have been hearing this for almost a month. You have promised me every week that you would refund our expenses. So far, I have been patient but my patience is over:. If I don't get the refund by Monday, I will be forced to get my lawyer involved. I will also try make sure that the incident comes to the attention of as many people in the industry as possible.
Monday March 30th came. Take a guess… Did we get our money back? NO! We didn’t get the money and have not heard from Ulf since.
So, why I am writing this story? Of course I am disappointed and disillusioned. 992 euros (USD $1100) may not be a huge sum of money, but for a small startup company, every penny is important. We were cheated by Mr. Ulf Leonhard and want you all to know the details.
The moral of the story: Beware of World Resource Ventures and its founder and CEO Ulf Leonhard. Perhaps other venture capital outfits are more honest. I hope so.
Please share this story in your social media pages, and tell your buddies not to let this happen to them.