SINGAPORE: On Sep 18, 2020, an episode of CNA’s On The Red Dot on young entrepreneurs and their start-ups featured Harsh Dalal and his start-up Team Labs.
This was followed by an online article and video clip in the first week of January 2021. CNA based its reporting largely on interviews with Dalal and publicly available information.
In early May 2021, an investigative report by Tech in Asia, an online tech publication based in Singapore, raised questions over several of the claims made by Dalal, who recently turned 20 and graduated from Singapore Polytechnic this month. This prompted CNA to conduct an editorial review of its own reporting on Dalal and Team Labs.
Despite further investigations over a week and fresh interviews with Dalal, CNA has been unable to verify certain key pieces of information. CNA has, therefore, decided to take down the television episode, article and related video across all platforms. CNA is looking into how this editorial lapse occurred and will be taking steps to tighten its verification processes.
During the review, Dalal showed CNA a document he signed in September 2019 with an American venture capital firm called Grand Canyon Capital.
CNA has tried, unsuccessfully, to reach this investor behind Team Labs – using three email addresses and a US telephone number provided by Dalal as well as scouring corporate databases and social networking platforms. CNA discovered there are many companies with the same or similar names listed.
CNA managed to contact a GC Capital located close to San Francisco, the location given for Team Labs’ headquarters. However, one of the partners of this private investment firm said it has no connection to Team Labs. “There must be another GC Capital,” the partner said in an email. “I’m not Grand Canyon Capital.”
Dalal showed CNA several emails he sent to the investor this year as well as emails from the company’s CTO and a “Chris” from Grand Canyon Capital. Dalal says he “doesn’t know why” these individuals have not replied to CNA and that he is “frustrated” at the lack of response from his investor – who contacted him after he had sent hundreds of emails seeking funds from venture capital firms.
While he was named as Team Labs’ chief executive officer, it was the investor who did the hiring, and he had no access to the money that had been committed, he said, adding that he does not even have control over the company’s website. In his emails to the investor that CNA saw, Dalal also voiced concern that he had "not been involved in the (product) trials".
During the filming of the television episode last year, CNA had asked to speak to other Team Labs staff and to film Dalal’s video calls with them, but this was declined at the time.
As part of its review, CNA used the services of the National Student Clearinghouse in the US to check the educational qualifications of two Team Labs employees listed on LinkedIn. But their degrees as stated on LinkedIn — from Carnegie Mellon University and New York University respectively — could not be verified. Emails and messages to the employees elicited no reply.
As part of the review, CNA also contacted clients listed on Team Labs’ website. None has been able to verify the use of Team Labs’ products.
Dalal says that he considers himself “definitely” gullible and he is filled with “regret” about his lack of business acumen and how much he “trusted” the investor.
In his parting words at the end of the latest round of interviews, he said: “I didn’t go into this looking for attention, fame or money. I was seeking attention for the products, and not myself.”