My startup hell – a cautionary tale for new businesses: Counter-statement


Since publishing the article ‘My startup hell – a cautionary tale for new businesses‘, we’ve been contacted by Cornelius Huber – representing Audiogent GmbH – who has requested we attach a counter-statement. We at VentureVillage do not affiliate ourselves with these counter-claim comments, but are legally obliged to publish them in their entirety.

1. Article quote: So, when entrepreneurial guru Marcus Tonndorf hit rock bottom last year after the downfall of a promising startup, he sought to warn the tech community of the possibilities of failure – and how best to avoid it.

Counter-claim: True is in fact, that Audiogent was a promising startup prior to the contact with Marcus Tonndorf and is continuing to be such to this day. Untrue on the other hand is the claim that the company has “collapsed”.

2. Article quote: In an exclusive interview with VentureVillage, Tonndorf talks about what went wrong at the now-sedated ‘choose your own adventure’ app Audiogent, losing out on an estimated €80,000 worth of owed wages, and the hard lessons learned.

Counter-claim: As it turns out Tonndorf has not made any claims of said amount towards Audiogent. Up to this date, neither he nor his legal representative have brought demands of fees in a verifiable invoice towards Audiogent, despite the fact that both of them have been requested by Audiogent to assert claimed contributions in a billable manner. Also, the company Audiogent is not an “App”, as above-mentioned pretension is trying to suggest. The Audiogent GmbH is not incapable of action nor is it unable to fulfill payments. It is not

3. Article quote: As the then-CEO and consulting managing director of Audiogent, Tonndorf joined the Magdeburg based firm in mid-2010 to form a trio with CFO Robert Lübke and CTO and initial founder Cornelius Huber who’d already been working on the product for several years.

Counter-claim: A contract with Tonndorf entitling him to the Function of CEO of Audiogent did in fact never exist, hence the terminus “CEO” was falsely used by the author. The sole agreement on which Tonndorf became active for the company was success based. Had Tonndorf delivered as promised, he could and most certainly would have claimed successful contributions in a billable manner. Subsequently this answers the company’s question if Tonndorf is actually eligible to claim any fees and if so of which sum

4. Article quote: In the article Marcus Tonndorf claims that:“Robert and I had to set a deadline and say (to Huber) ‘you have to transfer the rights before the auction otherwise we have to quit the company or be legally responsible for fraud – for communicating something that’s not true.’ So he waited while we continually persisted, I fought like crazy to keep it alive but he wanted the security of having the rights, even though he owned 60% of the company.

Counter-claim: The claim of Marcus Tonndorf, which is cited by venturevillage, is not true. The current CEO of Audiogent does not hold 60% but 70% company shares. It never was any different. Marcus Tonndorf speaks of fraud and claims that, concerning software rights “something not true“ has been communicated to third parties. These statements are both false. A fraud or even the remote threat of a fraud never existed, which would have been absolutely comprehendible to the average legal philosophy of an actual “entrepreneurial guru”. He would also be aware of the fact that neither of Audiogent´s founders nor its employees at that time communicated any untrue facts concerning software rights at any given time in any way. Inherently the statement of Marcus Tonndorf concerning software rights not actually being in the company is false. All software rights were – and are to this date – without any restrictions available to the company, as they were prior to contact with Marcus Tonndorf. However, it is in fact true that Tonndorf, without further announcement or attempted talks that could have dispelled legal concerns – should he have had any – took things into his own hands: Not only did he inform potential investors about his intention to not contribute anything to the company. He also communicated other internal company matters that did not have any actual connection to his decision, but certainly had a serious impact on the four hard laboring years that had been put into the company prior to his presence.

5. Article quote: However, without the team’s expertise to market and publicly announce the new product, its release subsequently fell on deaf ears.

Counter-claim: As we know today, Tonndorf’s presence or absence does not correspond to the company’s expertise to market and publicly announce products. Also the new product’s release did not ‘fall on deaf ears’, as falsely claimed by the article’s author. In fact there is no connection between Marcus Tonndorf and the marketing success.

6. Article quote: Following the resignations, crisis talks and significant investment pull-outs, Tonndorf hired a lawyer with the intent of suing Huber in the hope of retrieving some of the €80,000 he would’ve acquired in wages over the year and a half of developing the company’s marketing, management and business strategy.“ And this concerning Marcus Tonndorf claims:“But I decided not to in the end. Plain and simple: the company has no money and I would have to spend a lot to put the company through court.

Counter-claim: As established above, Tonndorf is actually not entitled to claims of said amount. The allegation that Tonndorf may refrain from pursuing further legal steps was brought to the company’s attention for the first time through his statement in this article. Nonetheless can Mr. Tonndorf rest assured that the company is not in the slightest reluctant to engage in a legal dispute over the asserted amount, however it is taken notice of him avoiding such.