For a time, people truly believed in Fast, a startup looking to expedite online purchases. The company attracted investments of over $120 million, with the CEO, Domm Holland, playing a vital role. His gift for gab and ability to get people excited pulled investors in, including Stripe, which led Fast’s largest funding round. To many, it was a destined unicorn company with a bright future ahead of it.
But others couldn’t believe it. Back in Australia, the name Domm Holland carried a different reputation.
In 2010, the Australian entrepreneur turned his sights on the country’s largest airline, Qantas Airways. Holland bought the domain Qant.as, waving it in the airline’s face as something a competitor could use to damage its business. Then he proved it, redirecting visitors to Virgin Blue, a rival airline.
Holland went on to sell the domain for $1.3 million, demonstrating what he would do to make a buck. And that was only the start for the entrepreneur, who jumped into the world of towing next.
The startup, Tow.com.au, wanted to be “the Uber of towing” by making it easy for people to get in touch with towing contractors when a vehicle violated reckless driving laws. And it was a success, with the company snagging a contract with the Queensland police. At its peak, it even took care of towing around 100 vehicles per day.
If it stopped there, it might be a resounding success. One might even believe it was with how Holland talked about it on social media and Fast’s website. In truth, it ended in a multimillion-dollar dispute with the Australian state government.
The issue occurred because many of the towed vehicles weren’t worth much, so owners refused to pick them up. That caused unpaid impounding fees, and neither party wanted the debt to fall on them. Holland even accused Australian officials of “the nation’s most horrific case of wage theft.”
But failure is forgivable, especially in Silicon Valley. The problem is the manner in which he failed. The legal battle drained the company to the point of bankruptcy, and when he started running out of funds, Domm Holland said he planned to sell the personal data of over 21,000 people obtained through the towing app.
While the Australian government forced him to stop and hand over the data, it left him with a bad reputation.
Holland moved on, but towing contractors were left with owed payments and no way to collect. While Holland never hid his past and what happened with the towing startup, he certainly did nothing to rectify it.
Then came Fast, which encountered trouble when it tried to raise the funding to become a unicorn.
Like his towing startup, Fast experienced a meteoric rise initially, at least in buzz. The company hired hundreds of employees and poured significant resources into marketing to gain attention, including partnerships with sports teams.
However, Fast’s revenue didn’t match up, with the company hemorrhaging cash at an alarming rate. It was reported that Fast burned through $10 million a month while only making around $50,000 in monthly sales.
The lack of revenue was not the only problem, either. Fast’s product was not up to standard, and some of the merchants it claimed to be its biggest partners didn’t use it at all. With stiff competition that included PayPal and Apple, the shortcomings were deadly.
While a majority of startups fail, Holland’s role in Fast’s failure seems to be significant, with frivolous spending and poor decisions plaguing the unicorn hopeful until it closed its doors for good.
Spencer Hulse is a news desk editor at Grit Daily News. He covers startups, affiliate, viral, and marketing news.