Cory Booker Ditches Terrible Startup Before Ramping Up Senate Bid

Less than a month after winning a special U.S. Senate primary election in New Jersey, Newark Mayor Cory Booker is cutting ties with his miserable failure of a startup, Waywire, a company he founded last year whose purpose is unclear at best. You may remember Waywire—whose scandals are detailed below—as the outfit that put a rich little boy on its advisory board and may have used Booker's influence to raise more than $1 million for its murky mission. Waywire also lost its CEO last month.

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Cory Booker Steps Down From Waywire Amid Controversy, But Which One?

Cory Booker Steps Down From Waywire Amid Controversy, But Which One?S

Wall Street Journal reporter Heather Haddon says Senate candidate Cory Booker is stepping down from the video startup Waywire "amid controversy," and will donate all his shares to charity. But which controversy forced him to resign?

Was it because Booker gave CNN president Jeff Zucker's 14-year-old son equity in the company in exchange for a vague role contributing (his 14-years of wisdom) to Waywire's advisory board? Probably not since Andrew Zucker quit his "job" shortly after.

More likely it's because of the ethics questions around whether Booker used his tweetfluencer status to raise $1.75 million for the startup, which has yet to launch, from investors like Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors and Lady Gaga’s manager Troy Carter.

Last month, ABC News noted:
"Booker’s stake in the site, whose mission is murky but deals with online video discovery, accounts for between $1 million and $5 million of Booker’s personal net worth, according to financial disclosure forms."
That prompted TPM and others to ask if the Newark mayor had cashed in on his public office for a "ridiculous tech start-up."

Here’s how Booker described Waywire co-founder Sarah Ross pitching him on the role he should take with the company: “‘You know what? You should do it, found the company. Obviously you don’t have to be involved — you’ve got a full-time job. But found the company.’”

According to the Times, Booker wound up with a larger percentage of the company than either Ross or the company’s other co-founder, Nathan Richardson, even though Ross and Richardson manage the company’s operations,

Richardson stepped down as CEO at Waywire last month. But "pro-entrepreneur" news site TechCrunch still sees a silver lining behind the stealth mode:

Other good news for Waywire: the company has secured an extension of its seed round from four new investors, although it’s not yet ready to announce how much was raised or who participated. (Those details will probably come out at the same time that it announces the new CEO.) [...]

All that said, Waywire has its work cut out for it, as it’s still in private beta 18 months after Booker, Richardson, and Ross founded the company together. That’s partly the result of a change in strategy at Waywire. Originally, the company had hoped to challenge traditional media outlets by creating and distributing its own videos and those of its users. But it’s pivoted to become more of a platform for collecting and curating videos from multiple sources.

Sounds like Booker pivoted away from Waywire just in time.

We've reached out to Waywire and will update the post when we hear back.

To contact the author of this post, please email nitasha@gawker.com.

[Image via Associated Press]

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