Dean Gary Quinlivan dissolved a partnership between the McKenna school and an internet marketing agency after discovering online articles that portrayed the company’s chief technology officer as a scammer and after a student dropped out of Saint Vincent to work for the company.
The company’s name is BlitzMetrics, which according to its chief technology officer, Dennis Yu, is focused on training young adults to be entrepreneurs. BlitzMetrics was integrated into the Saint Vincent business course Internet Marketing (BA-335) until ties were cut a week before spring break. However, materials acquired from BlitzMetrics are still used in the course.
Bo Liang, assistant professor of business administration, is the course’s instructor. She said she reached out to BlitzMetrics about three years ago and started to learn their material herself last October. The material was integrated into the course this semester.
“I thought, ‘students need to learn this to get real, practical skills,’” she said.
The course started using online information from BlitzMetrics, which Liang said is free to college students, in addition to projects which Yu and other BlitzMetrics team members were involved with.
Before implementing BlitzMetrics, students had to spend one hundred dollars for the Internet Marketing course, according to Liang, to cover textbook and software costs. Liang explained that this cost has been eliminated since these materials are no longer needed.
Students formed differing opinions about the program after a lecture on Feb. 16 presented by Yu and Eliot Drake, director of personal branding at BlitzMetrics.
Three Internet Marketing students: Alexandra DeMarco, a junior marketing major; Samantha Sluger, a senior communication major and one other student who asked to be anonymous, said Yu seemed untrustworthy based on the lecture.
“It was just something about him that we didn’t think felt right,” DeMarco said. “You know when you meet someone and you’re like ‘this is kind of weird?’”
“He was very cocky and flaunted his money more than anything,” said the anonymous student, continuing to say that Yu appeared sexist as well.
The three students each said that Yu bragged about scamming people in the past.
DeMarco said Yu admitted to doing things which may be morally wrong, like making ads that charged internet users whenever they clicked on them, unbeknownst to the users.
“When he said [that] I looked over at the kid next to me and I was like ‘What? Did he really just say that? Was he proud of that?’” Sluger said.
These students said that they began discussing their discomfort with Yu between each other and other students in the course, and researched Yu online.
Demarco and Sluger said this group of students met with Quinlivan and presented three articles they found.
The first was from shoemoney.com, a marketing blog, written by the blog’s creator Jeremy Shoemaker and titled “Dennis Yu – Rise and Fall of a Con Man in the Affiliate Industry.”
The second was from ripoffreport.com filed under report number 1014186, which called Yu a sociopath and accused him of being “all talk.”
The third was from dennis-yu.com, with the title “Confessions of an Affiliate Marketer” and written by Dennis Yu in 2008.
Both DeMarco and Sluger referenced a quote from this third article that reads, “If you’re dumb enough to fall for these marketing tricks, then you deserve to have your money taken from you.”
According to DeMarco and Sluger, Quinlivan said he reached out to Yu about a Saint Vincent student named Tanner Laycock who dropped out of school to work for BlitzMetrics, but Yu was hesitant to respond, causing Quinlivan to cut ties with the company.
Not all Internet Marketing students had negative things to say, however.
Laycock and Jacob Morrow, two students from the course who were also roommates and worked together on small business ventures, drove Yu from an airport to campus. Laycock, a former sophomore marketing major, dropped out a few days later.
Morrow, a sophomore marketing major, said that Laycock contacted Yu to network before picking him up, and that the two talked personally about their aspirations during the drive.
“I found that [Yu] was brilliant - traveling, and at the level of business I wanted to be at,” Laycock said.
After this encounter, Laycock said he accepted an invitation from Yu to travel with him to Orange County, California for what Morrow described as a workshop.
About four days later, Morrow said that he also accepted an invitation from Yu to a different workshop in Phoenix, Arizona. Taking a flight that Yu paid for, Morrow said he stayed a week at the BlitzMetrics headquarters along with Yu, other employees and Laycock.
Morrow said that Tuesday through Friday he spent eight hours at the workshop followed by dining out. On the weekend he said he hiked with the BlitzMetrics team and relaxed.
According to him, about 30 business people paid to attend the four-day workshop.
“It was interesting to see all those successful people just drooling at what BlitzMetrics was saying – they hadn’t heard any of these techniques before,” Morrow said.
Morrow returned to campus after this; Laycock, however, did not.
According to Morrow and Liang, Laycock dropped out and began working for BlitzMetrics without consulting with his parents. Laycock did not mention his parents to The Review.
He explained that he “made such an abrupt decision” to join BlitzMetrics because of the opportunity for mentorship, the ability to skip years of failure, and to be a part of a new wave of business that is both for-profit and charitable.
Liang and Morrow also said that Laycock’s departure caused Quinlivan’s decision.
According to Morrow, Laycock’s mother, who had not heard that her son dropped out and was working for BlitzMetrics in Arizona, called Saint Vincent, which the school “did not know how to handle.” Around this time, Morrow said people had found negative information about Yu online.
“The media was too much for Dr. Quinlivan,” Morrow said, “so he was forced to take it out, for now.”
According to Morrow, who also had a meeting with Quinlivan, the dean wanted BlitzMetrics incorporated into Saint Vincent again and believes it has very good information for students.
However, Sluger said that Quinlivan thought differently.
“I think he would say that our suspicions were legitimate,” she said. “I think he understood that he should not incorporate [Yu.]”
Quinlivan told The Review that he decided to drop BlitzMetrics “when the articles surfaced.”
He declined to comment further.
The Review will further cover BlitzMetrics, the differing opinions of students as well as information provided by BlitzMetrics team members in later issues.
Photos: SVC Flickr, Youtube