Posted on January 27, 2012 in Xtagged
I first became aware of Xtagged through a club owner in Salt Lake City. I owned all the nightlife websites in the state at the time and Andy had approached this club owner about his social media website hoping to persuade him to give Andy special access which he could use to look like a big-shot and pick up girls. Andy tried this ploy in several nightclubs in Utah including Skybar, Allure, and eventually Playground, which (according to Andy) went so far as to give him a percentage of the club in exchange for ownership of the club in exchange for licensing rights to the Xtagged.com website. The club owner in Salt Lake suggested that Andy meet with me, since I was already dominant in the nightlife social media space and a friend of his, and called to recommend I speak to Andy.
When I met Andy, he gave me an elaborate pitch about a dating website that used license plates to authenticate users and blue-tooth technology. He told me that MySpace was offering to buy him out for $100 million dollars and that everything was patented. The idea didn’t sound very marketable to me (the MySpace buyout claim was downright ridiculous) and I doubted it would ever go anywhere, but I continued to listen to Andy because he had been recommended by a friend and because his claims about patents seemed plausible and if so would have indicated that there was in fact some legitimate intellectual property behind what he was saying. I wouldn’t find out until much later that his patent claims were absolute garbage.
I told Andy that I would post his Xtagged logo on my website’s homepage (it actually rotated with other partner logos) and that I’d introduce him to some technology investors in Park City who could flush out whether he had anything worth funding. My wife objected to me working with Andy because she thought he was full of crap, but I said that there was no risk since it wasn’t really costing me anything except my time and I owed it to my friend to at least hear him out.
I later introduced Andy to my mother, who was out of work and living with me at the time, to see if she would be able to pick up some business consulting hours for helping him get his story straight. Andy claimed to have funding and I figured if he was for real, then he and my mother could mutually benefit one another.
I eventually took Andy to meet with some investor friends in Park City, but the meeting came to nothing. They later told me that they didn’t believe Andy’s idea was worth their time and they doubted he had any really proprietary technology under the hood. My wife and I drove Andy and his companion Allen Brady home after the meeting and spend three hours with them stuck in a snowstorm on the freeway listening to Andy rant about his technology and ideas. It was then that my wife realized that not only was Andy Esquivel completely full of crap, but he was probably insane as well. I was too busy fighting traffic to notice and my wife would spend the next several months trying to convince me to stay as far away from Andy as possible.
Andy eventually convinced a club owner to let him “hang out” with his friends and promote his “Xtagged” brand in their vanue. The club was Playground in Park City and Andy invited me up to take pictures of his events and to meet the club’s owners. The events was a total bust with only Andy’s invited friends and Allen Brady attending, but I used the time to introduce myself to the owners in the hopes that I could leverage the relationship later during Sundance as a way to expand my website’s reach into Park City. It was during that event that I started gettign red flags which suggested Andy was not at all what he claimed to be.
First, Andy pulled me aside and complained that I’d talked independently to the owners about working with my website to promote their events. Andy claimed that he’d “already hooked [me] up with them bro” and that I’d “embarrassed him” by going over his head. I pretty much blew Andy off and told him that under no circumstances would I allow him to speak for my website or to be an intermediary between me and nightclubs in the area. My website sold itself and the last thing I needed was some small-time upstart interfering with my operations.
Later that same night Allen Brady gave me my second red flag when he approached me at the clubs back bar and confessed that he was beginning to think that Andy was a scam and completely full of crap. I didn’t share with him at the time that I had come to the same conclusion. Instead I reassured him that many early stage ventures seem shifty at first and that he should keep a healthy skepticism and keep his eyes open, but that I was sure Andy was probably an alright guy. In short, I lied!
Andy and I continued to speak occasionally over the phone for several weeks after the failed Playground event. I managed to talk to his patent attorney at one point about some unrelated business, but Andy told me not to call him again because he was trying to steal the company from him (a recurring theme over the years). My mother continued to meet with Andy and even had my uncle talk to him about his ventures. Apparently Andy gave him a sob story about his lawyers trying to steal his business from him and my uncle bought into it, offering to help. I’m frankly not completely convinced that my uncle isn’t a con-artist as well.
I continued to tolerate Andy even though I was increasingly convinced that he was full of crap because I believed that with some professional help he might be able to turn his wild ideas into a viable concern. I kept his logo on my website to add variety and my mother continued to work with him even though, except for a few dollars Andy asked me to give to her once at Playground, she wasn’t getting paid. Eventually my mother moved away and I lost touch with Andy. Looking back, it was a huge mistake to deal with Andy for as long as I did. The red flags were all over the place, but like many I was too busy to pay them much attention. Most of the time I would humor Andy and listen to his rants simply to avoid an uncomfortable conversation in which I confessed I didn’t believe a word he was telling me anymore. I was probably numb to Andy’s garbage because I dealt with so many promoters who were just like him on a weekly basis.
In the end, the only person I have to blame for my involvement with this dirt-bag is myself. My wife continues to tell me ‘I told you so!’