‘No smoke and mirrors’: Multi-level marketing company looks for unusual fresh start in Seattle region

The company formerly known as DubLi, Inc. has a new name, a new executive team and an entirely new board of directors. And now it’s opening a new headquarters in Bellevue, Wash., to go along with it.

Ivan Braiker

It’s an unusual way to wipe the slate clean for the 12-year-old multi-level marketing company, which until recently called Fort Lauderdale, Fla., home. The company now goes by Ominto and bills itself as the “pioneer of online cash back shopping.”

Ominto CEO Ivan Braiker — who left the top job at Bellevue-based Hipcricket seven months before that company filed for bankruptcy — says in an interview with GeekWire that it’s a different kind of multi-level marketing company, but he offers familiar assurances: “It really is that good,” “No smoke and mirrors,” “[We] follow the law exactly the way it’s supposed to be followed.”

Ominto says it directs shoppers to e-commerce sites and then returns some of the marketing money paid by those sites back to the shoppers themselves in the form of discounts. Users who buy a $99 per year VIP membership get greater discounts, the company says.

If you sign up and maintain a network of 20 other members, you become a “business associate” and get a “small percentage” of the cash back your enrollees earn.

“It sounds too good to be true, but it really is true,” Braiker said, adding that he doubled his savings in about two months when he first signed up.

It’s a controversial business model, reminiscent of Solavei, the Seattle cellular service startup that employed multi-level marketing tactics until it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in June 2014 and merged with a Netherlands-based firm in March of this year.

The new headquarters is part of an ongoing effort by Ominto to rebuild itself.

“We believe Seattle is an ideal setting to establish our new global headquarters, which will support us as we aggressively pursue the next stage of growth for our robust and fast-expanding Cash Back rewards platform,” Braiker said in a press release.

The company’s previous CEO, Michael Hansen, stepped down in May, taking a seat on the company’s board. An SEC filing from two months prior to his departure showed that he owned more than 79 million shares of the company’s pink sheet stock. Today, that would be worth about $8.7 million.

“It sounds to good to be true, but it is true.”

DubLi CFO Eric Nelson stepped down at the same time.

Braiker was brought on as the new chief, after 10 years as co-founder and CEO at Hipcricket. He left the mobile marketing company in June 2014, and it filed for bankruptcy protection in January 2015.

Thomas Virgin, the CFO of Hipcricket from 2007 to 2014, was brought on as DubLi’s new CFO with Braiker.

One month later, the company replaced its entire board of directors with six new members, according to an SEC filing. Those new members include former Fisher-Price Toys President Gary Baughman, former U.S. ambassador to Sweden Gregory Newell, former President and CFO of Buy.com Mitch Hill. They each are being paid $3,000 per month to serve on the board, according to the filing.

On June 26, the company changed its name to Ominto, Inc., and today Omnito capped it all off by announcing plans to move its headquarters to Bellevue from Florida.

Braiker said the company has leased more than 3,000 square feet of office space and plans to hire 24 people in Bellevue, while keeping the Fort Lauderdale office, as well.

“With both a new headquarters and a new name that reflects our growth and business opportunities, Seattle will give our highly capable management team a launching pad to embrace growth opportunities, access potential business partners and continue to educate consumers on the value of the Ominto shopping platform,” Braiker said in the release.


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