Ms. Darabi, who has more than 429,000 followers on Twitter and a strong personal brand as a tech-savvy marketer, was brought on to get publicity for Foodspotting. And she did it well, evangelizing the service by word of mouth, on Twitter and through myriad interviews with outlets from Betabeat to Mashable (“How Soraya Darabi Put Foodspotting on the Map”) to New York magazine.
But Ms. Darabi had little input on product, sources close to Foodspotting told us, and she seemed less enthusiastic about Foodspotting as time went on and the service had trouble gaining traction in the face of threats from competitors as intimidating as Foursquare.
Now, Ms. Darabi is “taking a step back into the role of Senior Advisor and will continue to vest equity in this role,” she told Betabeat via email while on a flight to the West Coast. “This was a mutual decision we came to given the company’s shifting priorities (product and local outreach) and my strengths (national media and brand relationships), but we haven’t announced it publicly yet because we didn’t see an immediate reason to–we’re continuing to collaborate as we always have, just in a more focused way.”
Foodspotting co-founder Alexa Andrzejewski affirmed Ms. Darabi’s explanation. But at least half a dozen sources close to Foodspotting told Betabeat that founders and investors were frustrated that Ms. Darabi seemed distracted by other pursuits, continuing to serve as the public face for the company even as she was increasingly absent from daily work.
Losing Ms. Darabi is a blow to Foodspotting, most sources told Betabeat, considering her high profile. “Business people who have partnered with them before say that the space is completely inundated and Foodspotting was the one company that really had a brand,” one source told Betabeat. “She is a big name,” the source continued, speculating that Ms. Darabi could get half a percent in equity just for joining another start-up’s advisory board. “She is a promotional all-star.”
Ms. Darabi, who started her career as communications coordinator for Conde Nast before taking on social media marketing at the The New York Times, leapt into the start-up world with a six-month stint as Product Lead of Drop.io project PressLift, after which she jumped to Foodspotting. “She has a track record of someone who wants to leave before the show is over,” one source close to Drop.io told Betabeat. “She likes to work on the next hot thing. Foodspotting was the best deal early stage start-up you could be at when she started doing PR there. It was always weird to me that she joined as co-founder even though it was already launched.”
Most recently, Ms. Darabi has been appearing on-air and working on segments for ABC, where she’s been helping out for 10 months
started helping out last month. Regarding ABC, she said she’s “considering doing more now, but haven’t made any commitments as of late beyond chatting with a couple of projects about an advising role.”Ms. Darabi also recently became the first digital ambassador to The United Nation’s technology group “Global Pulse,” an was named a TechStars mentor in New York City as well as a member of the ‘Notables’ committee at Carnegie Hall.
Correction: This post mis-stated the time Ms. Darabi has been working at ABC. She has been working there for ten months. Betabeat regrets the error.