Newchip Accelerator Bait-and-switch Exposed

Jun 19, 2022
By Jesse Nickles

I reached out to Ryan Rafols before publishing this article, and he offered to speak on the phone, but did not respond to questions via email. If he does respond in writing, I will update this article with his reply (or he can comment below).

Hucksters can exclusively reveal a large part of the illegal email spam and fraudulent bait-and-switch scheme run by Newchip, a “veteran owned” company based in Austin, Texas, that claims to be a “venture capital” firm offering funding to small businesses — but is in fact primarily focused on selling on online “accelerator” course to young entrepreneurs — along with “leadgen” spamming services.

The company, founded and managed by Ryan Rafols (who recently started going by “Andrew Ryan”), was started back in 2016 with a focus on institutional brokerage services (they’ve been slowly rebranding to Astralabs, which is how they are currently listed in the SEC directory) but has been getting more attention in the last few years due to their incredible amount of spam they generate for their latest project, Newchip Accelerator.

Ryan Rafols The Christian Conman?

Rafols served in the U.S. Army from 2008-2012, after which he attended University of Texas (Austin) and majored in political science, while participating in the fraternity . While the few years immediately after that are murkey, eventually Rafols looks to have launched a brief consulting business with his gal pal from China, Gege Grace, called R2G2 that offered Christianity-inspired business advice, despite his only apparent management experience having been volunteering in the University Area Partners neighborhood association in Austin.

It’s around the same time, 2016, that Rafols claims on various online profiles to have “co-founded” (a tracking app for first responders that was previously called Campus Watch), before launching Equity Genesis which would become a precursor to his later companies, Newchip and Sofos (which are now all rebranding to ASTRALABS after merging with a third-party company called Journey Venture Partners). In fact, the only reason that Newchip/Astralabs registered with the SEC appears to be because Rafols planned on offering stock broker services, and not because they have any significant private equity funding operation, which usually triggers federal attention. For the record, there was never any corporation entity registered with the name “R2G2” or “Equity Genesis” in the State of Texas.

Now, if you’re wondering how an Army veteran shifts from graduating college, to being a business advisor, to becoming a stock broker, to becoming an expert on tech startups and venture capital funding over the course of just a few years, you’re not alone. After all, despite Rafols repeatedly claiming on social media and various podcasts that he started his first company “at 17 years old” and has founded and sold 4 different companies, the only public information about his business dealings we could find — going all the way back to 1999 — were these R2G2 and Equity Genesis brands that he briefly ran after college, but never incorporated and do not seem to have lasted more than several months. Literally, that’s it, unless he considers changing the name of his Equity Genesis company 4 times to justify marketing himself as a “4x founder”  — or unless he’s talking about that one time in high school when he resold energy drinks to his friends.

But what about Safer Technologies? Ryan claims to have launched a “top 100 mobile app” in reference to that brand.

Well, those few other companies that Rafols has tried to attach himself too appear to be run by other people entirely. For example, both Rafols and Grace claim in various online profiles to be “co-founders” of the Campus Watch app (now called Safer Technologies), but current executives there say it’s totally bogus. Reached via email, a Safer Tech exec, who asked to remain anonymous, confirmed, “[Rafols] was never any part of Safer Tech, and in the early days relinquished his role as a “cofounder” at Campus Watch years ago — prior to any investment, or MVP, and holds zero interest or position with either company… [Rafols and Grace] were co-founders [for about a month] but he did not “exit”… we bought his [Campus Watch] shares and hers out due to internal conflict.”

In other words, Rafols had zero involvement with growing the Safer Tech company, developing the mobile app, or selling the company to Avast, the current parent company.

Rafols also previously claimed to be the CEO of Workspace on an older Linkedin profile (scraped by Datanyze) by again, that appears to be completely fabricated. We are in touch with employees at that company, and will update this article if we hear back.

 

Sofos owned by Ryan, spun out of Traction Academy program under Newchip

https://99designs.com/logo-design/contests/design-logo-cthulhu-would-be-proud-bring-kraken-1099463

Journey Venture Partners

General Partner

He also has repeatedly referred to himself as a “missile defense engineer” during his time in the Army, but such a title/position doesn’t even exist; an older ZoomInfo profile reveals that he was in fact an enlisted solder, and a “tactical assistant” (most likely Tactical Director Assistant a.k.a. TDA), which is merely a prerequisite to being an AMD Systems Tactician (140K), a position that he doesn’t appear to have achieved. Surely, most Americans who join the military deserve some level of respect, but inflating your military resume to sound like some type of rocket science engineer is shameful and absurd, especially when the only degree you hold is in political science, and you have no engineering experience.

But if Rafols never actually launched a tech startup before, and his only other significant experience was volunteering for the City of Austin and a neighbord association, where in the hell does he get off claiming to be a VC and startup expert? And therein lies the problem of Newchip.

The Newchip (Astralabs) Bait-and-Switch

While the last several years has seen email spam reach incredible new levels — as the industry rebrands to being called “lead generation” — some players like Newchip have taken the crime to a whole new level of fraud by targeting businesses looking for financial investments.

How the scam works is that Newchip brings on professional email spammers like Anthony Garibay (who also runs a fake investment firm called Garibay Ventures), who then illlegaly spam thousands and thousands of website owners, offering them “venture capital” and/or “investment” for their business. Like so many American spammers, this approach directly violates not only the CAN SPAM ACT of 2003, but likely an array of other consumer protection and anti-fraud laws and regulations… and yet, such crimes are rarely prosecuted in the U.S. until they garner enough public attention and/or reach a level where federal agents finally decide to get involved.

Here’s an example email Newchip partners send out:

Hi! I am the founder of Garibay Ventures an investment firm based out of Austin, TX. I focus on investing and providing companies with the highest lead generation opportunities while a maintaining the best cost effective strategies. Have worked with multiple Fortune 500 companies including Mark Cuban directly for 6 years. Feel free to reach out to me chat!

I saw your company on LinkedIn and thought it would be great to connect! Seems very exciting what you’re working on and I’d like to connect to see if we are fit for an investment in your company.

My fund Garibay Ventures recently came off a raise and we are evaluating investments for the upcoming QT.

I’ve recently partnered with Newchip’s accelerator to help dig a little deeper into companies with our scout team while also offering the chance to get extra exposure to their investors(which I am apart of).

I’d like to talk to you about your fundraising goals. If you have some time to chat soon let me know and if you don’t mind prior to a call filling out this application so I can learn more about you/your company(save us both a ton of time)

https://launch.newchip.com/apply-now/ .

Ping me if you put an application in so I can have it forwarded to my team.

Thanks!

Anthony Garibay
CEO/Founder, Garibay Ventures

What Anthony and the other marketing channels (social media, etc) fail to explain to business owners is that Newchip is not actually a venture capital firm, nor does their company have even one single employee that qualifies as a financial investor as defined by the SEC, despite all of their marketing materials claiming to be “investors” looking to “invest” in the businesses that they reach out to… in other words, the entire thing is fraudulent.

We were also able to goad Matthew Bell (who ironically uses the handle @sellout217) into aggressively defending the Newchip scam on Reddit, where he runs an account promoting various NFTs and related “investment” oriented services. Of course, his relationship with Newchip is even more questionable since he writes illegal glowing reviews of their program without disclosing the fact that he is a business partner of Newchip (he claimed anonymously on Reddit that Newchip connects him with investment opportunities, oops!), or the fact that his brother Samuel Bell is in charge of Newchip’s “Partnership program” — a fancy name for affiliate marketing email spam program.

It gets worse.

According to an anonymous participant of the Newchip Accelerator program, their so-called “Pitch Week” which they market as your opportunity to pitch your startup to investors, in fact doesn’t even happen. He explains:

But Newchip doesn’t only scam young entrepeneurs — they also scam people looking for a job.

Another person who applied for a job at Newchip claims that after applying for an open position, Newchip “accepted” him into their team but asked him to work for free, saying “Newchip Accelerator does a bait and switch on its job applicants. After you apply for a job online, they ask volunteer for their company before they will consider you for a job application. The job application is just a front for them to recruit people to voluntarily work without pay for them.” Which, if true, is consumer fraud, and highly illegal behavior.

Any of these experiences on their own might be considered unreliable, but added together they show a pattern:

In Newchip’s defense, there are over 100+ reviews on Glassdoor, and many of them are positive, esp. in the past 6 months. But it appears that perhaps Ryan is having many of his “students” or other people who participated in his various coaching programs to leave reviews as if they were employees, when they’re not. The parent company, ASTRALABS, only has 28 employees listed on LinkedIn at the time of writing this, so there is something strange going on with the Glassdoor reviews.

Lies, Threats, Bullying, and Jesus

As it stands, it appears that Newchip relies heavily on bullying participates into accepting their broken promises (and hoping they are too embarassed to sue?), and aggressively attacking anyone online who questions or criticizes their tactics. In the past few weeks alone, I have seen them successfully delete several Reddit pages from the Google index by contacting Reddit employees and community moderators. Ryan Rafols has also stopped by Hucksters, and posted on Reddit, to slander me with false claims like I was rejected from their program, and that I’ve been criticizing Newchip “for years” when in fact I only found out about their scam a few months ago when Anthony Garibay began spamming me.

I’m not sure which Bible that Ryan reads, but apparently his form of Christian business mentorship comes from an alternative universe where Jesus Christ scams people and steals their hard-earned money while engaging in self-worship on social media. When his latest scheme inevitably falls apart, he may have a promising future as a televangelist for a Texas megachurch…



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