In yet another reminder of how 2020 is a surreal, hellish fever dream that we’re doomed to be trapped inside forever, it looks like Kanye West — Grammy winner, sneaker connoisseur, and political underdog — is being sued for pulling the tried-and-true Silicon Valley tactic of allegedly stealing trade tech secrets.
First spotted by TMZ, the suit is being spearheaded by small, Pennsylvania-based ecommerce company MyChannel (MYC, for short). MYC allege that after pouring millions of dollars and half a year’s worth of work into mocking up a spiffy new site for Ye’s online clothing store, the rapper stepped out on their contract. According to the lawsuit, West then took the company’s ideas for himself, and from the sound of things, just… ghosted them — breaking multiple promises, violating NDAs, and acting like a huge tool in the process.
But that’s not the half of it. The full 30+ pages of MYC’s complaint — which you can read at the bottom of this article — are, as the kids would say, pretty cringe. According to the docket, West initially contracted MYC back in the spring of 2018 with the promise that if the company created a juiced-up video platform for his e-commerce site, he’d not only, y’know, pay the company for its services, but would invest a hefty $US10 ($14) million into the business. MYC also had West sign an NDA just to make sure that the company’s proprietary video tech wouldn’t be “ripped off” without any payment.
Probably assuming that Kanye would keep his word, MYC says its team spent the next six months clocking 80 hour workweeks on the project, spending tens of thousands on the proposed video software in the process. Not only that, but because Kanye “demanded” that the team move its HQ from its home in Philly over to California, and later Chicago, living expenses sunk them even deeper into the hole. All told, MYC claims to have spent spent $US7 ($10) million of its own funds before confronting West and telling him to make good on his end of the deal.
This might be a good time to mention that while MYC seems to have gotten rid of its website, the company’s page on the investment hub Crunchbase notes that to date it received around $US1.4 ($2) million in investments — and only lists three staffers working at the company at all.
Instead of fulfilling his side of the bargain, the suit describes how West — who it’s worth pointing out is a literal billionaire — came up with some “untrue perceived slight,” and cut all ties with MYC’s team, leaving them stranded and in a mountain of debt. Meanwhile, West spent the months immediately afterward using what MYC describes as a near-carbon copy of their platform as part of the promotion for “Sunday Service,” West’s so-called pop-up church experience.
A faux-gospel-themed-ecommerce-platform is a batshit idea, but it’s also one that’s been very, very profitable. Back in March, Kanye bragged on his Instagram account that the ecommerce sales off the backs of these events were netting him a good one million dollars per night — or, a good $US350 ($484) million annually from the pilfered software alone.
MYC might be smaller potatoes than the high-profile NDA-busting cases we’ve seen brought to court by the likes of say, Google, and Kanye is unlikely to face anything close to the same wrath — or prison sentence — that Anthony Levandowski was struck with when the California courts found him guilty of pawning off that company’s proprietary tech. Nor is West being accused of ripping off small-time tech firms on the scale of Amazon.
Much of that distinction is likely owed to the fact that Kanye West, a musician by trade, isn’t a name that makes most of his living through tech products. But the case still smacks of the same business-side shenanigans that always seems to happen whenever someone with money and power takes advantage of people who don’t.