Look, I know we’ve all done some crazy things for a job. But nothing tops Shirley Hornstein, an erstwhile, according to her Twitter, “Angel Investor and (dare I say) Entrepreneur” (nice random capitalization there, Shirley). To give herself credibility in the tech industry, Hornstein posted several heavily doctored photos online, showing herself hanging with famous notables, including Justin Timberlake and Andy Samberg. On her blog, she boasted of working with tech players like iMeem, Nitro PDF and Dropbox.
And she probably would have gotten away with it, too, had she not boasted of working with the wrong guy.
In 2011, Hornstein told friends and colleagues that she was working on the Founders Fund, a new project from Napster creator Sean Parker. The only problem? Parker had never met her or worked with her. So he and his company issued a complaint against her, alleging that Hornstein was falsely representing her relationship with Parker and the company.
That’s when the cookie really started to crumble for Hornstein. Friends and colleagues began putting her stories together. “I’ve meet Shirley a handful of times, through mutual friends and founders here in San Francisco,” said one acquaintance. “Every time we hung-= out, she would tell elaborate stories of meeting so and so, or being friends with Sean Parker, or Justin Timberlake. Almost immediately, the first time I meet her, I was super skeptical; always felt like something was really off with her.”
It turns out, this guy was right. The original source photos for Hornstein’s doctored photos were discovered (you have to admit she’s pretty good at Photoshop).
“In short, my house of cards collapsed. After TechCrunch outed me as a liar and (ab)user of photoshop, I was subjected to the humiliation and judgement from people I have never met and probably never will. More articles surfaced, and my entire credibility was essentially erased. I lost my job. My friends. My life came crashing done on me. I was devastated, confused and ashamed of myself. Deep down I knew this would happen eventually because you can’t build your life based on lies, but what did I do to stop it? I told more lies, created more elaborate stories, abused trust that been given to me and pretended that everything was going to be okay. Fake it ‘til you make it, right? I was so lost.”