A former employee of L5 Labs has told TechCabal that the startup incubator is using tough tactics that infringe his intellectual property rights in a bid to further their own venture, after declining to invest in his.
The individual, Tolulope Oladimeji, says that while he was in the employ of L5 Labs, he had approached the managers with an idea for a video curation website with a view to securing investment to fund its execution.
Tolulope registered the domain “wawo.tv” in 2013, and had created a Devour.com-like website that aggregates and categorises videos from YouTube.
In his account, Tolulope pitched wawo.tv to L5 Labs early in 2014, along with business model propositions and distribution strategies that would be uniquely suited to L5 Labs’ strong connections to telcos and other strategic media players via its affiliate VAS concerns. L5 Labs declined to invest.
In October, Tolulope left L5 Labs for Interswitch. On the 10th of November, L5 Labs got in touch to say they liked the wawo.tv domain and wanted to buy it off him. The negotiations, led by Emmanuel Malaka, stalled when Tolulope rejected their offer to acquire wawo.tv for the sum of N50,000.
Tolulope says that soon after, he learned from one of the managers that L5 Labs had gone on to acquire domain names that are more or less identical to wawo.tv. The domains that he discovered are wawotv.com, wawotv.net and wawotv.org.
The whois information lists the domains which as registered to Chika Nwobi, managing partner at L5 Labs, via Whogohost on the 25th of November, 2014.
Tolulope further learned of another website; www.seemefinish.tv, which also turns out to have been registered to Chika Nwobi in October. According to Tolu, he understands that Seemefinish will serve media content for MTN, one of L5 Labs’ strategic partners.
He also says Seemefinish has the same features and categories that he discussed with his boss, Chika Nwobi, while he was with L5 Labs. Citing an internal source, he says the Seemefinish name apparently “did not gel” with the partners, leading L5 Labs to consider acquiring wawo.tv, his domain name.
Tolulope says he does not have a problem with L5 Labs’ decision to execute on his original idea, but is dismayed that the people he held in high esteem would go as far as to use near identical domains to compel him to relinquish his domain name.
“To me, this is just intellectual property theft”, he said in an email to TechCabal.
Wawo.tv is not an incorporated company, and has no registered trademarks, rendering legal recourse unlikely.
TechCabal has reached out to L5 Labs, Chika Nwobi and Emeka Malaka. L5 Labs has not responded to our request for comment as of the time of this writing.
UPDATE, Nov. 28, 05:17 PM: Chika Nwobi has responded to Tolu’s allegations in the comments. The response has been posted here.
L5 Labs is a Nigerian technology startup incubator which is best known for its investment and nurturing of Jobberman till it received million dollar funding from Tiger Global. L5 Labs is currently in a joint venture with 88mph on an accelerator venture called 440.