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Tampa CEO accused of utilizing startup funds on escorts, journeys and strip membership visits

TAMPA – The CEO of a medical technology startup is accused of misusing more than $ 400,000 in corporate funds for escorts, strip clubs, and personal gifts of gifts to Uber Eats. This emerges from a lawsuit filed by one of the company’s minority shareholders.

Ecover Global, which runs an app that doctors use to share pre- and post-surgery messages with patients, was accepted into a mentoring program by the nonprofit startup Tampa Bay Wave last year. The 28-year-old CEO Raymond “Ben” Sever was looking for funding for investors earlier this year. During a pitch night hosted by Tampa Bay Wave in January, he announced to potential investors that the company had already raised $ 700,000 and was valued at $ 35 million.

Sever’s former best friend and business partner Brandon Bowen, 28, filed a lawsuit late last month alleging the CEO misused hundreds of thousands of dollars from June 2019 to June 2020.

“Sever used Ecover as his personal piggy bank to make a living from,” Bowen wrote to the Board of Directors in June.

Bowen, the former vice president of Ecover, encouraged board members to look into Sever’s spending habits, which according to legal proceedings the board never did. Bowen, who has a 10 percent stake in the company, has made it his business to open an investigation with a lawyer, the lawsuit said.

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Bowen’s attorney declined to speak on behalf of his client when he was reached by a reporter. A Tampa Bay Wave spokesman said the company had completed its accelerator program and no longer had direct links with the nonprofit.

“Ecover’s corporate values ​​are above all important,” Sever’s attorney Sarah Glaser said in a statement. “You have full faith in the court system and look forward to the truth that comes out in court.”

The lawsuit – one of two Bowen filed against Sever – says the two were blown up in May. Bowen says he confronted Sever about his spending habits. The next day, the lawsuit said Bowen left the company.

Bowen’s lawsuit contains a number of expense reports and text messages that Sever said depicts the startup’s regular misuse of funds, such as:

  • Almost $ 30,000 was paid to nine different women, including one that received a total of $ 12,000
  • $ 17,000 value of ATM withdrawals used to cover alcohol and visits to Thee Dollhouse Strip Club
  • More than $ 12,000 went into his personal rent
  • $ 64,000 in off-company spending, including thousands for Uber, Uber Eats, Postmates, and Lyft
  • More than $ 5,000 was used to buy gifts for family members

Bowen is suing for more than $ 400,000 in damages on behalf of minority shareholders in the company. Sever has an 80 percent stake in the company, according to the lawsuit.

Bowen wrote in his letter to the board that he believed the transaction records he received showed only a “small portion of Sever’s wrongdoing”.

Sever recently joined the Board of Directors of the AdventHealth Carrollwood Foundation and markets himself as an industry disruptor providing public speaking, performance coaching, and advice to new businesses.

Ecover announced its advisory board in July, which includes a Tampa Bay Wave cohort leader and a Harvard researcher.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect Tampa Bay’s Wave relationship with Ecover.