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Dealing With A Shifty Client

Failing a project is a hard blow to take. Fortunately, there hasn’t been a lot of those in the lifetime of our company. The projects that we messed up though, we take full responsibility for and try to make up for it any way we can. Perhaps someday we’ll share that too, but today, it’s the Ultimate Ditch Story. Behold…

Dealing With A Scammer Client Hero Image

The Shifty Client Story

In the bestiary of a good Witcher, there is an article on many creatures, however, not all of them. Every once in awhile you come across a new beast that you know nothing about. What separates a good slayer from a bad one is pattern recognition, in other words, the more you know – the more likely you’ll figure out the new variables and GTFO to save your business.

We create websites and apps. This means we get deeply involved with our clients’ vision to understand the idea behind every startup, make it our own, invest more than just hourly rates, but also passion, hopes, and our hearts. But before we even get there, there has to be some chemistry established between our team and a product owner.

It is very subtle, almost intuitive, but it somehow never fails. Perhaps, trusting your gut is not a bad idea. But it’s all business, right? So we tend to reluctantly follow the lucrative opportunities with dim perspectives only to find ourselves tangled in a bullshit project that is too late to jump off.

Not Another Food Delivery App Idea

This was the case with an app startup that we developed. Somewhere around fall 2014, we were approached by a client who had a great food delivery app idea. The whole thing was revolving around the beach hunger issue. The service would provide prepared, fixed-content baskets with different food and deliver them to anywhere in the city, specifically to the beach. Users would be able to track their orders on the map, meet the delivery guy, pay, and enjoy the basket with no hassle.

The app would eventually grow past just food and beach, expanding the basket delivery service further, to technology, beauty, and all sorts of spheres of everyday life.

So the client contacted us, we arranged a meeting, he drove up a nice convertible and we talked. This is where it got a bit sketchy.

Here are some things that might help you identify the “slippery road” client:

  • They operate on long and verbose stories, rather than statements and points.
  • They provide no design preferences, or only give vague ones, expecting things to align somehow.
  • When things do align due to the hours of work put in, they don’t accept it, as it turns out, they implied a totally different thing.
  • They tell you are a partner and share aspirations with you while keeping the startup ownership to themselves.
  • They have a specific understanding of “agile” having nothing in common with the methodology itself but demanding results before they even pay for the process.
  • They eventually ditch you and their project which is now your project and flee to steal someone else’s time and money.

A Good App Falling On Sleep

Sometimes you have to shove your feeling away and live a little. I mean, earn a little. Our big mistake here was to trust and get inspired by the app idea to the point where we started designing it before things had been settled completely.

We made the app. It works great, looks good, does everything it was supposed to do. I mean look at it:

Dealing With A Scammer Client | Shakuro

Dealing With A Scammer Client | Shakuro

Basket selection screen & Basket receipt screen


We got on board with this project and followed our ethical approach to building it in all stages of development. We reported the intermediate results. The communication was good, the client was very enthusiastic and excited about the startup to the point where it got contagious and we just kept on working.

As you know, the app design cost consists of multiple variables. So does the development. And gluing it all together is the PM’s labor. Well… not all of these we got paid for. We did get payed for the initial work and it was all somewhat trustworthy, so we kept on working. 90% of the unfinished and failed projects come from the budget shortage. It’s either goofing around with investor’s money until it’s all gone or the actual calculations error. None of these scenarios have to be fatal for the project. We can postpone the bill, we can shift dates and work around the problem. It’s the Hary Houdini escape tricks that kill the projects. This was the case, unfortunately. 

The Final Pay That Never Came

One day we just stopped receiving responses. Ghost Protocol style. The client never returned an email, a call or whatever. We moved on to our other projects, leaving this 90%-finished application kind of hanging in the air.

A few month after this mysterious disappearance, the client came back with a lot of good reasons for why he did it. We had no reason to disbelieve and even though no payment was yet processed, we revived the project and finished the thing, hoping that this time it’d work.

It didn’t. We got dumped again, and with a total debt of over $10K, we’ve never heard of the client again. We are not getting into the legal part of the story here, just saying that we had our reasons to let this one go and be thankful for the lessons we’ve learned from this. The lessons are the following:

  • Trust the gut feeling.
  • Don’t be fooled by someone’s personality.
  • Be street-cautious of sketchy dudes.
  • Have the papers signed beforehand.
  • Charge extra for the bad karma.
  • Charge less for the good karma.
  • Walk away from the projects taking it to muddy waters ASAP.

App Auction, Anybody?

For the record, we didn’t launch the app or give him access to the source code or any of the design files. They are still archived and ready to be restored once the demand is there. We are only calling him a scammer because of the time and effort that we wasted dealing with his bullshit.

For this reason, we are ready to refurbish the app, refresh the design, and auction it to a startup enthusiast involved in the same type of business. If you are interested, hit us up at or just tweet at us!  

A Quick Morality Tale

In 2010 Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov founded a company to start massive production of the first Russian hybrid electric car called Yo-Mobile.

Dealing With A Scammer Client | Shakuro

Yo-Mobile concept

It was supposed to become a cheap and environmentally-friendly alternative to city cars for big cities. The economic crisis crashed the project, they said. The plants have been sold and the entire package of Yo-Mobile technologies have been sold to the government-owned research institute for €1 in 2014.

Business radar has to be on point is the ever-changing world of high tech. The sharper you are with deciphering the signals you get from the industry, audience, or just your apprehension, the more likely you’ll be able to avoid the Scilla and Charybdis and navigate your company to the safe haven of financial stability.

Shed the weight of redundant projects/features/dates/sketchy dudes that drop out of your radar.

What we’ve learned from our ditched experience might even be greater than what a successful project could teach. The pattern recognition ability is an important skill to have and you can only get it out there in the fields. The best way to save yourself from the future scam is to have the first-hand experience with it. We ate our bread of affliction and we’re not getting there again. Hopefully…
In all seriousness, this made us appreciate our friends in loyal clients and our trustworthy partners, and push harder towards reaching our goals with them.

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Written by Moses Kim

June 06, 2017

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