Emotion Mining Company / Thomas / Jennifer Snyder take investment, do not issue share certificates, run a sham company

Wellesley Hills, MA, United States
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This all took place over a decade ago, so I’m missing certain details, but the ones I can remember, coupled with my overall impressions from that experience, all clearly point to Tom Snyder as a huge detriment to Emotion Mining as a business. While credit is certainly due to his brilliance in developing the EM concept and methodology, in my view it is simply not possible to overstate that Tom’s involvement in operations has adversely affected Emotion Mining’s past performance and constrains its future prospects.

I learned about Emotion Mining in late 2003 through someone I met at a professional networking group. Shortly after, I was introduced to Tom and Liam and became very excited about EM’s potential in a field I’d worked in for nearly 20 years at the time: consumer marketing and brand strategy. Soon I was swept up in a wave of meetings, covering everything from technology and prospects to discussions of potential office space. It was my first experience with what felt like a startup—except this was no startup. It had been started years ago, with bright prospects and big clients (Coca-Cola, American Express’s investment division IDS, and more).

The fact that nothing had actually happened in many years should have tipped me off that something was amiss. But I was too enchanted with the potential and the idea of being in on the ground floor of something big. This was an idea that mattered deeply to me both personally and professionally. On the personal side, I come from a family of psychology professors: my stepfather, Silvan Tomkins, was a pioneer in the field of emotions, and my mother, Rae Carlson, had worked to bring his ideas to mainstream psychology. So I was both uncommonly well grounded in the underlying psychological issues (for a marketer) and intrigued by advancing this family legacy. Professionally, I saw tremendous potential for EM within a wide range of application areas. Within consumer marketing alone, I thought EM could revolutionize the field and perhaps even lead to a dream career for me.

Swept up in the startup vibe, I spent enormous amounts of time with EM. Mostly meetings with Tom and Liam, but I also volunteered lots of my time on other things. I can recall taking initiative to write promotional copy, draft a Power Point presentation aimed at consumer marketing companies, and network with potential prospects. My role wasn’t clearly defined, which was naive on my part, but I was treated as a trusted insider and assured that I was a vital member of the team who would be rewarded when the company succeeded.

Within a few months I brought in a client: a partner at a leading consulting firm who was interested in using EM on a larger engagement with a client of the firm. It was an interesting project, and a time for all hands on deck. We dropped everything, did the project, and pulled together a presentation that was extremely well received by both our consulting firm client and his firm’s client. It also resulted in a small follow-on project ($20K). To my knowledge, these were the first paid projects Emotion Mining had had in at least five years.

Over the course of these projects, though, I began to experience instances of extraordinarily unprofessional, even bizarre, behavior by Tom. I can recall the following, though there were many more instances:
• Repeatedly belittling and harassing a hardworking and talented colleague (Liliana).
• Contradicting himself repeatedly, then responding with outrage and derision when asked about the inconsistency between opposing positions he’d expressed with equal fervor. This behavior directly affected the quality of client work, in areas like coding responses and developing the project presentation, as well as breeding frustration and sapping morale.
• Telling odd stories at inappropriate times with clients, to the point where the remaining team members would have to strategize about how to redirect and salvage the moment.

In my own case, I recall a time when we were working on the presentation for the first project. We’d been working nonstop for many long days. I was expressing a perspective grounded in the context of the client (a B2C company), and in my own expertise as a consumer marketer. While I forget his exact wording, I can never forget how Tom dismissed my perspective as having no value whatsoever. The only thing that mattered was the EM methodology. Claiming to have contextual knowledge and insight was absurd, in his view, and added nothing. Essentially: how dare I? Not only was this extremely strange and insulting, it showed no regard for either me--or for the best interests of the client. It took all I could do to continue working on the project, but I rallied as a professional invested in delivering for the client, and for the team.

And then there was the money issue. As I recall, I was paid promptly for the first project: a small commission, though I received no compensation whatsoever for my time on the project. On the second project I was promised a 20% commission ($4, 000). In the early months after the project finished I was continually assured that I’d be paid soon. Eventually, sometime within the first year, I think, I was paid $1, 000 at Liam’s insistence. It would be four years before I was finally paid in full. Again, it was at Liam’s insistence.

As a result of my experience with Tom, I stopped working on Emotion Mining later in 2004. Though I believed strongly in its potential (and still do to this day), I could no longer work with someone who treated me with disrespect, nor with someone who wasted my time without compensating me. Moreover, my doubts about Tom made me strongly question EM’s viability. However, I thought it might be possible that someone with strong skills but a different temperament might be able to hang in there long enough to help create the kind of change needed to make Emotion Mining a success. And I very much hoped that would be possible, so I introduced Liam to my friend Dirk Coburn. Unfortunately, I understand Dirk's experience was hauntingly similar, and he eventually left Emotion Mining. Though the details of his experience undoubtedly differ slightly from mine, at the core is the sad, but all too familiar story of a founder who can’t get out of his own way.

Tracy Carlson

Aug 06, 2016

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