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Investigating Rippln, what does Rippln do? Who is behind Rippln? Is Rippln a Scam? Can You Make Money With Rippln?

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Rippln suddenly appeared on the scene in April 2013, with some pretty slick videos in a viral marketing campaign, leaving very vague messages about what it does, but promises to give money back to the people. What is it, and and who's behind it?

Please note that these are FACTS. If there are opinions, they will be CLEARLY LABELED AS OPINIONS.

NOTE: UPDATED for September 2013 with "CEO Apology"

This is a part of a series of Investigations on various internet companies and how to determine it is a scam or not. It is mean both as a how-to and results from the investigation.

What is Rippln?

The Original Rippln website has NO links, and thus NO info on what is Rippln supposed to do. The domain also has "private registration" turned on, thus NO info on who owns or runs Rippln is available. It was registered through GoDaddy in March 2013.

Almost all info available are contained in a series of "marker on whiteboard" videos (done quite professionally by available on Youtube. I will not link to them here as we are not interested in marketing speak, but rather real information. You can search for them on Youtube if you insist on viewing them yourself. However, at least one video have been pulled after critics pointed it it pays people on recruitment: i.e. pyramid scheme.

The following are screen caps from that no-longer-available video:


The plan basically says if you recruit 5 "fans" (and you're a "player" yourself), you gets $20, and your upline "team captain" also gets $20. In the second screenshot, for every "player" you recruit you get $80 or $240.

This video was removed / hidden on about April 23, 2013. It may be still available "but marked private".

There was no mention of cost to join anywhere in the video before it was pulled out of circulation.There are rumors that it costs $300 (domestic) and $900 (international) to join (and a $49 monthly fee). This cannot be confirmed.

Further internet searches brought up various "fan websites" with "rippl" or "ripple" or "ripp" in its name started by early joiners, who apparently signed some sort of non-disclosure statement that PREVENTS THEM FROM TELLING ANY ONE how much it costs to join. However, they are apparently holding invite-only seminars in hotel rooms all across the US, according to their own Facebook page.


However, we are still no closer to finding who was behind this alleged new opportunity, until a reader tipped me to this video (which I am NOT linking)... a recording of Google Hangout by Brian Underwood, Jonathan Budd, and Russell Brunson talking about Rippln.

Further search of Brian Underwood revealed that he was identified as CEO of Rippln on Rippln's Facebook page. This suggests Jonathan Budd and Russell Brunson hold senior positions in Rippln as well.


But What Does Rippln Actually Do?

Thus far, we have viral marketing campaign full of secrecy, with people apparently made to sign non-disclosure agreements just for showing up, but they are allowed to sign up people.

There are RUMORS of signup fee of $300 and $900 (domestic and international) plus $50 monthly fee. And this is from multiple disparate sources. Then a $49 monthly fee.

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However, Jonathan Budd, self-proclaimed co-founder of Rippln (on his own Blogspot blog), claimed that "prices have not been finalized". This was a quote from him on April 24th, 2013 posted to BehindMLM:

Right now the price points are not finalized. In addition, we may not have a global or domestic license at all. Rippln is constantly evaluating what model to bring to market, that equates to the best value proposition for our users who decide to participate in the rewards plan. We will be updating the market place as soon we have finalized it.

So what does Rippln actually do? Mr. Budd goes into fancy words, like "social graph", "monetize", and so on, Their official version says:

“Rippln is the first ever incentivized sharing technology platform. We allow users to track their ripple effect across the world and in future phases, users have the potential to be rewarded for the value they create.”

but basically that can be summarized down to:

Facebook and such makes money off your relationships with other people. We want to give some of that money back to you.

However, when pressed for details, Budd responded with:

The criticism so far for our model, is frankly something we cannot fathom to us because no one knows any details yet. After the model is fully released, we welcome criticism as we believe that will strengthen the model. However, at this stage, we recommend you wait until we release it. Then you’ll actually have something to analyze critically.

In later responses, Budd went on to cite an app success story and said they can tap into that revenue stream.

In app purchases are the model by which the largest app companies in the world, monetize their audiences. Now, most of these highly popular apps, which create billions in value together, are shared person to person to person.

Yet none of those in app purchases are tracked back to the people who shared them. The people who drive the marketing for these companies… do not get rewarded for the value they are creating in the marketplace.

This is where Rippln is different. Inside Rippln apps, we share a % of the in app purchases and transactions taking place within our apps… with the people who shared those technologies in the first place.

The allegations that the money made in our model is from people referring others to refer others… are FALSE. Money is earned in a variety of ways, including the in app purchases & transactions that will take place inside our apps as described above.

Our model is the first ever model to share the value taking place from within apps via in app purchases & customer transactions… back with the people who shared those apps to begin with.

That's marketing speak. Who's REALLY behind this? And what do they REALLY do? And can they do it?

Brian Underwood, from his own website

Brian Underwood, from his own website

Chasing Down Names: Brian Underwood

Above, we found the three names whom we suspect to be founders of Rippln. Who is Brian Underwood?

Brian Underwood's website is quite clear and lists his resume, albeit not in a table form. It does confirm he is CEO of Rippln, and formerly ran iZigg and 90210 mobile, both of which do "Text marketing". Strangely, CorporationWiki lists Brian Underwood as "VP of marketing", not CEO (as of 26-APR-2013).

There is a free blog on blogger at but it's a single page "quick bio" piece written by "Rippln" in March 2013.

Searching the Internet revealed some very unflattering comment about iZigg, and some allegations that Brian Underwood was involved in Burnlounge, a pyramid scheme closed by the FTC. There is also mention that Brian Underwood was involved in "LocalAdLink", an attempt to clone Groupon but with MLM elements that failed to take off. This also cannot be confirmed. However, it was repeated on several research websites.


Thus far Brian Underwood have neither confirmed or denied involvements in LocalAdCLick or Burnlounge. There was a statement issued by Rippln counsel Jenifer Grace that stated "the allegations of Brian Underwood being sued or investigated by the SEC or in another lawsuit are false". However, such statement doesn't mean much. A company that closed by itself would NOT be a part of any investigation. Furthermore, pyramid scheme frauds are usually investigated by the FTC, not the SEC. SEC goes after Ponzi schemes.

UPDATE: There are multiple reports that anyone who mentions Burnlounge or any other failed businesses by Underwood at Rippln Facebook page got banned.

The MLM Advocate Troy Dooly had this to say about Brian Underwood (as posted to BehindMLM):

Now when it comes to Johnathan Budd and Brian Underwood , yikes they clearly have made millions off the fringe of MLM for years as they both have been kicked out of companies for violating best practices. I mean do people not realize two of Brians companies where shut down? That is not a small thing to have happen.

Those who wish further research can Google "localAdlink scam" or "iZigg Scam" for yourself. Keep in mind that many of those statements cannot be further corroborated, and thus should be treated with healthy dose of skepticism.

Jonathan Budd, off his own website

Jonathan Budd, off his own website

Chasing Down the Names: Jonathan Budd

Jonathan Budd claims to have started marketing young, and seem to have some real enthusiasm about life. On his homepage he said all the world is his playground and he wants to bring prosperity to all people around him. What he does sell is a series of lessons, called 7-figure Mastermind, and his own story about how he got started from nothing to 7-figure income.

His own LinkedIn Page is relatively empty, only listed that he majored in psychology in college (Hofstra University) and founded "Empowered Entrepreneurs" in 2007 and helps people to get into network marketing, without mentioning any specific firms. His career appears to be one of a "coach", with no ties to any particular network marketing company, though he must have started somewhere.

There is also a free blog at blogger, as that is a single bio page, also posted by "rippln" blogger user. Doesn't say much.

According to "The MLM Advocate" Troy Dooly, when commenting on BehindMLM:

...they [Underwood and Budd] clearly have made millions off the fringe of MLM for years as they both have been kicked out of companies for violating best practices.

Dooly did not elaborate on which companies would those be.

Jonathan Budd, however, denied the charges, also on BehindMLM

Also, there were comments on here about myself getting removed from a company for violating policies & procedures… which is completely false. That simply never happened

It is unclear what is his role in Rippln. However, he definitely is a part of Rippln, and has identified himself being so. He is also the person who showed up at various spots and "debated" people who gave negative opinions about Rippln, which includes TechCrunch, Chriss Voss show, and BehindMLM.

When pressed for details on BehindMLM, his reply was:

And like I said… I’d love to see your suggestions for exactly how you would run the financial side as well since you seem to have so much experience.

Thank you for your time. Goodbye.

There was no further posting from Jonathan Budd on BehindMLM.

Similar story can be found on Chris Voss's website, where he answered one round of questions, then clammed up. On TechCrunch he answered 3 rounds of questions with marketing speak and buzzwords, then disappeared. (they are linked at the end)

Chris Voss had this to say about lack of answers:

UPDATE: Social Media FAIL. Its been nearly 48 hours of Rippln not answering my latest questions and instead people are personally attacking me on their Channels. For a company that claims to be the next social and open network, its not very open or social as we expect out of companies nowadays. What's to hide?

Jonathan Budd's answer (posted on TechCrunch) is:

Hey Chris,

Just look above you. All the answers are there, and since you fail to have anything to actually criticize us about that isn't your opinion, I'm going to get back to work. We've got a lot going on.

And I'm flattered that people on the Internet like to post my picture all over the place. Hopefully it gives them something to do with their lives.

Thanks for your time. Wish you the best!

Russell Brunson, current picture

Russell Brunson, current picture

Russell Brunson, few years back

Russell Brunson, few years back

Chasing Down the Names: Russell Brunson

Russell Brunson is arguable the best known to the general public. His main claim to fame was help popularize the "potato gun" around 2005 to the US. While a student at Boise State University (that's in Idaho, USA) he started to market a DVD that teaches people how to build their own "potato gun", that fires a potato for long distances using compressed air and quick release valve and some piping. When that got viral, he was interviewed on various national and local TV news programs. Brunson then built that exposure into various coaching products that claims to teach people how to leverage the power of the Internet.

There are some doubts whether he learned how to build a potato gun on his own, or had appropriated some other people's ideas. In any case, that was certainly his big success, though he had started network marketing before that at least a year before he started selling potato gun plans.

Further research shows that Russell Brunson may have been involved in some shady marketing schemes, that he was profiled by Salty Droid, an online scambuster. This is from one of Salty Droid's missives:

Brunson is currently pushing this stinking ball of waste :: MicroContinuity (link to Brunson's website) :: in it he explains his super secret method for creating Internet Millions …

1. Tell people your product is FREE {then you’re not “selling” :: because “selling” is hard}.

2. Start billing their credit card every month.

… that’s pretty much it. This gem of a program debuted at $2500. A scandalous fucking rip off. Now you can get it “free” on a “free” iPod shuffle :: and then Russell will bill you $97 per month until you die {or pretend to die}.

That scammy crap is bad enough. But it’s NOT really so much what Russell Brunson is about. Russell the Mormon has actual meat space offices in Boise Idaho with a “coaching floor” responsible for making hyper-agressive sales calls. Many of the top “gurus” dump leads into Brunson’s Boiler Room and let his people try to make the conversions. High level sources tell me that in order to stay profitable the feeding frenzy floor requires at least 1000 leads per day.

It is unclear what is Brunson's role in Rippln, if he is indeed in Rippln at all.

The Hidden Hand Behind Rippln: LaCore Enterprises

While the trio here are sort of entrepreneurs, the location of the business leads one to suspect that they are not the real "brains" behind the company. Indeed, a trademark search showed that the name Rippln belongs to Lacore Enterprises, despite multiple online claims that Rippln is a trademark of Rippln Inc. This was confirmed by a visit to the USPTO website.

According to "The MLM Advocate" Troy Dooly, Terry LaCore is a "major investor" in Rippln, as quoted in a comment he posted to BehindMLM.

Searching the webpages at shows that there are several pages that are present, but NO LINKED, one of which is terms and conditions, or tandc.html Inside, we finally find an address:

901 Sam Rayburn Hwy, Melissa, TX

Which is in the middle of nowhere, about 35 miles out of Dallas.

Google StreetView shows this to be a two-story "business center" that contains multiple businesses... As well as Lacore Enterprises.

Linking Rippln to LaCore Family #1: Location

While there seems to be no documented link between Rippln and the LaCores, there are several facts that suggests there is a deep connection between the two. The first of which is simply location.

As we have found above, Rippln's address is that Melissa TX address.

So is Lacore Enterprises. In fact, here's one statement that says Rippln is simply an alternate name for Lacore Enterprises (link no longer available). AND Terry LaCore works there.

Then there's Idaho Statesman reporter Robb Hicken who came right out and said Rippln is an advertising app owned by LaCore Enterprises (link no longer available).

Linking Rippln to LaCore Family #2: Common Lawyer

bHIP Global, the MLM operation owned by LaCore Enterprises, won a legal victory against Amway for distributor rights in early 2013. Note that their counsel is "Jenifer Grace", with only ONE N.

Screenshot of bHIPGlobal news release page announcing their victory against Amway regarding distributor rights. Their counsel is Jenifer Grace.

Screenshot of bHIPGlobal news release page announcing their victory against Amway regarding distributor rights. Their counsel is Jenifer Grace.

Care to guess who showed up as counsel for Rippln? Jenifer Grace, of course.

Rippln's unlinked "privacy" page states that their counsel is Jenifer Grace, same lawyer as bHIPGlobal.

Rippln's unlinked "privacy" page states that their counsel is Jenifer Grace, same lawyer as bHIPGlobal.

Linking Rippln to LaCore Family #3: Software

Further search for Jenifer Grace revealed she served as "secretary" for "Direct Sales Software Inc.", according to CorporationWiki.

Search of "Direct Sales Software Inc." shows that it is located in the SAME BUILDING as LaCore Enterprises, bHIP Global, AND Rippln.

And of course Ms. Grace served as general counsel for both Rippln and bHIP.

Then there's Jonathan Budd talking about Rippln, in a comment on BehindMLM:

Our platform is a 14 year old commerce & genealogy software that processes payments, handles international shipping & logistic information, tracks organization genealogies, plus a host of other features.
We have processed over $1 billion in transactions through this platform. It is currently the platform that handles all the shipping, logistics, & commerce in the 48 countries we do business in on a daily basis.
Not only do we rely on this platform for the companies we currently own… but MarketVision is the go to software for many other highly successful companies inside the networking industry.

Genealogy, in MLM speak, means the relation between you, your upline, and your downline. Thus, this "platform" that Mr. Budd referred to, "MarketVision", is probably something developed by Direct Sales Software Inc. (same building), and probably also used by bHIP and LaCore Enterprises (same building) to run their MLM business.

Linking Rippln to LaCore Family #4: Other people said so, then retracted?

If we search on Google for "Terry LaCore Rippln", we come across the following:


However, if you actually tried to visit the blog... You get

Blog has been removed

Sorry, the blog at has been removed. This address is not available for new blogs.

Fortunately, Google Cache has kept a copy... The blog was created by Rippln... so it was obviously REMOVED by Rippln as well. There are similar blogs created by Rippln for Brian Underwood, Jonathan Budd, and Jim Bunch. Those are still active, but this one's been removed.

Screenshot of blog designed as profile of Terry LaCore, co-founder of Rippln. This blog was created, then deleted by user "rippln".

Screenshot of blog designed as profile of Terry LaCore, co-founder of Rippln. This blog was created, then deleted by user "rippln".

The Rippln video, on the other hand, is still there:

Mark Fitzpatrick uploaded a copy of the Rippln video, then named Terry LaCore and Jim Bunch as co-founders of Rippln, along with Brian Underwood and Jonathan Budd.

Mark Fitzpatrick uploaded a copy of the Rippln video, then named Terry LaCore and Jim Bunch as co-founders of Rippln, along with Brian Underwood and Jonathan Budd.

Perhaps we didn't find all the people behind it after all.

It is also interesting that "The MLM Advocate" Troy Dooly commented that he knew that Terry LaCore had significant investments in Rippln. Dooly however did not say anything about Terry LaCore being a possible co-founder.

Let's now look into Terry LaCore and Jim Bunch.


Chasing Down the Names: Terry LaCore

LaCores run b:HIP, selling "wellness products". Founded around 2004, bHIP is NOT a member of DSA, though a note on Ted Nuyten's website said they are "pending" since 2011. Browsing the b:Hip website shows no less than FOUR LaCores among b:HIP "corporate team".


Searching the businesses at that Melissa TX address shows several other businesses such as "Enlightened Products", TouchSaver, Zaggify, GlobalNet Outdoors and Outfitters, Bach Rx, and Grace Family Holding (for Jenifer Grace, of course).

GlobalNet Outdoors is a MLM that seem to have died back in late 2012. No information are found regarding the other entities. If you have linkable proof to other entities feel free to add them in the comments.

Search for Terry Lacore turned up this bit of a bombshell... a consent decree from the Securities Exchange Commission dated 4-SEP-2008, where Terry LaCore and a co-defendent settled charges again them.

Apparently in 2003-2004, Terry LaCore was CEO of a subsidiary for Natural Health Trends, a MLM health supplement company, and he actively helped then President of Natural Health Trends, Mark Woodburn, cover up a 265K loan Woodburn made from NHT to a company controlled by the Woodburn family. They both also received approximately 2.5 million in undisclosed compensation from the top affiliates for purposes unknown. This was not revealed in company audit 2004. When the company found out, both Woodburn and LaCore were immediately suspended, then fired, and the company stock dropped 25%, leading to SEC investigation and the sanction:

Quoting from the press release (linked above):

Woodburn and LaCore agreed to settle the SEC's charges without admitting or denying the allegations of the complaint. Woodburn agreed to settle charges that he violated Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933 ("Securities Act") and Sections 10(b) and 14(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 ("Exchange Act") and Rules 10b-5, 13a-14, 13b2-2, 14a-3, and 14a-9, and aided and abetted NHT's violations of Section 13(a), 13(b)(2)(A) and 13(b)(2)(B) of the Exchange Act and Rules 12b-20, 13a-1, and 13a-13. LaCore agreed to settle charges that he violated Section 17(a) of the Securities Act and Sections 10(b) and 14(a) of the Exchange Act and Rules 10b-5, 13b2-2, 14a-3, and 14a-9 and aided and abetted Woodburn's violations of Sections 10(b) and 14(a) of the Exchange Act and Rules 10b-5, 14a-3 and 14a-9. Each agreed to be permanently enjoined from violations of the specified statutes and to a five-year officer and director bar. Woodburn agreed to pay a $60,000 civil penalty, and LaCore agreed to pay a $50,000 civil penalty.

Remember earlier, Rippln Counsel Jenifer Grace issued a statement denying for Brian Underwood that he was NOT under investigation by the SEC? Sure Underwood was not investigated by the SEC. Some OTHER co-founder was investigated, and PUNISHED by the SEC.

Furthermore, later Natural Health Trends filed a lawsuit against LaCore and b:HIP and obtained a temporary injunction, claiming that LaCore, after his termination, used his knowledge of confidential NHT information such as employee and affiliate member rolls, to solicit them to join his company bHIP Global instead, among other ethically dubious actions.

That lawsuit eventually fizzled, according to MLMWatchDog Rod Cook, when NHT didn't pay their lawyers to continue the lawsuit. It is worth noting that Terry LaCore is viewed positively among MLM advocates because he stood up for "affiliate rights", and had sued Amway and won when Amway tried to prevent some of its reps from switching (which goes back to Jenifer Grace above).


Chasing Down the Names: Jim Bunch

Jim Bunch is another guy in the "coaching" and "entrepreneur" business. Back in 1999 he founded "" which makes virtual tours when it was new. It was bought out by and then he turned his success into a bunch of coaching and gamification work, including "Ultimate Game of Life" and Coach Genie.

He generally portrays himself as more "life coach" than network marketing.

Jim Bunch's role in Rippln is unknown. However, he was posting the following at TechCrunch in support of Jonathan Budd:


The "3 stages of truth" is false logic. It basically states the following:

a) All "truths" goes through 3 stages
b) My belief is going through the first stage: laughter and ridicule
c) My belief must be "truth".

This is bogus logic because there are plenty of truths that did NOT go through the three stages.

Here's a better quote that explains the fallacy:

But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright Brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.
- Carl Sagan

Jim Bunch is also using "bandwagon fallacy", as in "280000 people must have saw something".

UPDATE MAY 2013: Rippln Training and Rippln Huddle

Rippln has recently announced that they have some big announcements to make over at Las Vegas, in conjunction of "No Excuses" Seminar which charges $495 May 17-19th for some "exclusive training". Two co-founders of Rippln will be there to talk about their venture, no details.

Apparently this is too rich for people, so Rippln quickly sent out another announcement for "Rippln Huddle", which charges $9.50 instead, but it will STILL be held in Las Vegas. It was specifically announced that at this "huddle" you will "Learn more about the Rewards System for Players"

The bottom line is if you don't go to Las Vegas and pony up that $9.50 you will NOT find out how Rippln will make you ANY money.

NOTE: Since the huddle announcement, there has been several "HQ Calls" announced (dates and times are all mixed up) coming this week May 14 to 19, 2013, no idea what will be in those calls.

Rippln homepage as of June 2013, no details on what it was supposed to do, just refer people!

Rippln homepage as of June 2013, no details on what it was supposed to do, just refer people!

Rippln Blog, as of June 2013. Seems they can't even spell "its" properly.There are no useful details.

Rippln Blog, as of June 2013. Seems they can't even spell "its" properly.There are no useful details.

Official Rippln "training tip" is all about recruiting... 5 ripples deep of 5 each ripple at least, officially.

Official Rippln "training tip" is all about recruiting... 5 ripples deep of 5 each ripple at least, officially.

4 Step rollout, from Jonathan Budd himself... they got NOTHING to deliver yet!

4 Step rollout, from Jonathan Budd himself... they got NOTHING to deliver yet!

UPDATE JUNE 2013: New Compensation Plan Released?

A new round of viral videos released by Rippln claims that their compensation plan had been finalized, even though searching their "new" homepage revealed absolutely NO SIGN of such an announcement.

Checking their "blog" page revealed some slick HTML5 updates. However, there are no written announcement anywhere. It seems all information from Rippln had been released through video or audio recordings.

What's also interesting is their own blog highlighted that even they fell prey to a very common grammar mistake... using it's instead of its. You'd think Rippln would hire better copywriters than that.

Again, there are NO LINKS to their privacy policy, terms and conditions, compensation plan... absolutely NOTHING. Rippln referred to itself as "Rippln Money Revolution", but there's nothing in the website about money. Every bit of the blog refers to recruit more and more people. Indeed, one of those links was to a PDF where they told members to recruit 5, and have each of them recruit 5. And apparently you'll get a personal call from one of the co-founders if you can achieve 5th level ripple.

What will that "ripple" do for you? Good question.

There is a link to a FAQ, outsourced to a platform called which contains no links to additional concrete info either. Just claims that nothing's finalized.

However, there are reports that you pay $69.95 to join, then pay $25 a month. There has been no details on what are those costs for exactly.

Supposedly you will get paid for purchases by people in your "ripple" (why can't they just say "downlines") Purchases of what? According to insiders, it'll be "training products" (about what?) and "loyalty offers" (to what?)

UPDATE August 2013: Banned from Facebook for spamming, new costs announced

In July 2013, Rippln decided to change the "limited invitations" model where each affiliate is max of 5 invitation codes at a time, to a "blitz" where one code can be used to invite unlimited number of people. This resulted unfortunately, in a flood of "spam comments" where the affiliates plastered their invitation codes in wherever they can reach, which in turn triggered a Facebook review and resulted in a ban on any further Rippln referrals on Facebook. Any posting about Rippln referrals are now automatically blocked on Facebook starting in August 2013.

Rippln claims they have requested Facebook to reconsider.

In other Rippln updates, Rippln updated their costs again.

Rippln originally rolled out a set of costs back in June 2013, which amount to $70 a year for tracking, and $25 a month to stay in "Rippln Rewards". That amounts to roughly $370 a year.

In August 2013, Rippln rolled out a new set of costs... $95 to activate the "tracking" (one-time fee), and $30 a month to stay in Rippln Rewards. That amounts to $455 first year and 360 second year.

No idea how much you can expect to make back, since so far they have yet to deliver anything. But basically, you need to pay 125 before you can even think about earning anything.

How much can you expect to earn? Good question.

UPDATE August 2013: CEO Underwood Public Apology

Rippln announced multiple products in past few months of 2013, but all of them failed to generate any momentum on the market despite all the excite it had generated in its "ripplers".

Underwhelming Offer of Martian Passport Smartwatch

In June/July 2013 Rippln offered "Martian Passport Watch". Ripplers touted "Rippln beats Apple to market with James Bond style Voice activated smart watch'". However, here's what they didn't tell you. Martian had been trying to get the watches funded through Kickstarter since 2012 and demo'ed the watch at CES2013. Third-party reviews such as those from USA Today and PCMag called it "pricey product with limited mainstream appeal", and "too expensive and too limited... feels like... from the late 1990s". When compared with more popular choices such as Pebble at less than half the price, Martian Passport is overpriced and under-powered. Rippln basically backed the wrong horse.

Underwhelming Launch of Photoguessaroo

Rippln's first app, where they promised to share revenue (even though it's free to play), was Photoguessaroo, with name borrowed from a Dr. Seuss game. After maybe one week or two of buzz, it had faded from the scene. Furthermore, it appears that this app was not a Rippln app at all, but instead came from "Surya Rising", an "app incubator" which charges $20K and half of all proceeds in exchange for heavy promotion of the app. In this case, apparently Surya Rising merely gave the app for Rippln to promote.

Other Questionable (not fair to called them failed yet) Launches

Rippln's "Communicator" is not yet launched yet... though it's been promised for five months.

Right now the next big product to be pushed was co-founder Jim Bunch's "ultimate game of life", which supposedly is a $500 90-day course where you turn your life's goals into a game and rewards you for your progress. There are some reports that some people have complained on Facebook that they don't have $500 for a course, and supposedly Bunch had made a response similar to "If you are serious about your life you'll find the money and it'll be worth it."

Net Effect on Rippln participants

Rippln participants ("ripplers"?) are apparently abandoning the enterprise in droves, having made little to NO money while paying the $30 a month and that $95 "activation" one-time fee. According to one participant Wes Wyatt, with 3581 in his ripples, he made... $32.95 a month, and that barely broke even. Vast majority of participants are hemorrhaging money. He quit Rippln, and he wrote a LONG blog post why. And he dropped a couple more interesting tidbits... This wasn't Brian Underwood's first broken promise.

Brian Underwood's Broken Promises

Previously we've identified Brian Underwood as founder of iZigg among other questionable ventures. (Scroll back up and read that section) However, Wes Wyatt revealed that iZigg was originally going to have a new feature called AppCraze, where you download apps, share it, and get rewarded for it. And this was back in 2012, and it will be a part of iZigg. AppCraze never launched. It instead, became Rippln, with its own genealogy and its own fees.

Brian Underwood Apologizes for Broken Promises

As the first checks went out, and the top marketers (those with thousands of "downlines") found they are earning peanuts, apparently some are selling their "top positions" on Facebook. This, with the aforementioned potential mass exodus of Ripplers, has lead to a two part video apology from Brian Underwood, which apparently had very few viewers. Basically Underwood apologized for all sorts of things that they *could* have gone better, and promised to do better in the future.

Can Rippln Do What They Promised?

Rippln Exec Jonathan Budd had stated on BehindMLM:

...none of those in app purchases are tracked back to the people who shared them. The people who drive the marketing for these companies… do not get rewarded for the value they are creating in the marketplace.

This is where Rippln is different. Inside Rippln apps, we share a % of the in app purchases and transactions taking place within our apps… with the people who shared those technologies in the first place.

This suggests that Rippln will be developing their own apps and their own in-app purchase mechanism, so they can track the purchases and give rebates to the uplines (of the purchasers).

What are In-App Purchases, and are they profitable?

The actual model is called "freemium", an acronym of free and premium. In a quick survey of the top 50 games in iTunes app store, vast majority are "freemium", where you download the app for free and buy in-game unlocks and/or items if you want them. SuperCell's "Clash of Clans" was indeed pulling in 1.4 Million a day as of March 2013 through the in-app purchases.

However, there are also plenty of failures with in-app purchases. EA's "Real Racing 3" was widely regarded as "too tight", where almost every activity requires some sort of in-app purchase (or wait a long time) Square Enix's Final Fantasy titles on iOS has you pay money for a RANDOM PREMIUM character, as well as extra lives. On the other side of the scale, RocketCat's game "Punch Quest" was "too loose" with the game itself that few people make in-app purchases, thus they are making little if any money.

Also keep in mind that SuperCell has close to 100 employees, most of whom have TEN YEARS of experience each developing commercial games (according to a profile in

It requires several months and a LOT of game design expertise to design a game that properly leverages the in-app purchase power.

Does Rippln have the experience to leverage in-app purchases?

So far, the only expertise that Jonathan Budd can refer to is some vague references to "14-year old technology used to run major network marketing companies". This seems to point to expertise in making MLM backoffice software, (see section about "Direct Sales Software").

What have Rippln demonstrated by Photoguessaroo?

Thus far, introduction of Photoguessaroo, an iOS app that borrowed its name from a Dr. Seuss game, has generated little if any profit for the participants. Furthermore, it was not even developed by Rippln (either by themselves or by contract), but rather by another marketing firm called Surya Rising who charges a huge amount plus 50% profit for marketing surge, and apparently Rippln is that marketing surge. (See section above). That means they really have no expertise in this area at all.

CONCLUSION: There is NO data on whether Rippln can deliver on their promise. They have not shown any indication that they have the staff, experience, or mindset to create such. And the sole example for evaluation is below average app not even contracted or developed by them.

What Have We Learned So far?

Here are facts about Rippln:

  • Rippln's current staff is unknown, but it is known to include Internet Marketers and various "success coaches" and "life coaches", as well as MLMer: Brian Underwood, Jonathan Budd, Terry LaCore, and Jim Bunch
  • There are some unpleasantness in the history of all except Jim Bunch
  • Rippln's counsel, Jenifer Grace, is also counsel for LaCore Enterprises and bHIP
  • Rippln, the trademarked name, belongs to LaCore Enterprises
  • Rippln is located in the same building as LaCore Enterprises
  • Rippln is getting a lot of buzz, both positive and negative
  • Founder of LaCore enterprises and Co-Founder of Rippln, Terry LaCore was involved in a prior company's scandal, possibly covering up misappropriation of funds.
  • Terry LaCore's name was apparently deliberately omitted/deleted from marketing material except in some limited instances, perhaps early versions of the material.
  • Every one of Rippln's products offered thus far is not a success. They are not failures, but they are not the runaway successes that had been implied by prior marketing speeches.
  • Rippln's profit sharing thus far, after FOUR MONTHS of talking, turns out to be so small it doesn't even cover the monthly fee it charged for vast majority of the participants.

What can be inferred from these facts, however, is subject to some interpretation, depending on which way you are leaning, i.e. it is legit or is it scam?

What do we NOT know about Rippln?

Here's some questions Rippln has yet to answer (or answered so vaguely that it's worthless):

What exactly do the users have to do to get paid?

So far, it seems you have to join as a "player" (both a joining fee AND a monthly fee), and you have to "share" various offers to people in your "ripple", and you can recruit more members (make bigger ripples). As there's no official details, this question remains unanswered. They claim they are at the "acquiring eyeballs" stage. However, it is unclear how would acquiring eyeballs help if they have NO APP and sell nothing.

As of August 2013, there is still no Rippln app on Google or iTunes, despite launch of this "opportunity" in April 2013. There's ONE below average iOS app called PhotoGuessaroo, and that's it. So far, Rippln has offered:

  • Overpriced and underpowered smartwatch called "Martian Passport" at $300
  • An underwhelming Puzzle app called Photoguessaroo (that has no Rippln name on it) (NOTE: Photoguessaroo is no longer on iTunes)
  • Jim Bunch's "Ultimate Game of Life" at $497 for 90-days to "gamify" your life

How much does it REALLY cost to join Rippln?

Current official information states that there is a one-time fee of $95 (to activate tracking), and $30 a month to stay a member of "Rippln Rewards".

How much can you make from Rippln?

So far, there are NO official information detailing the potential income, as none of the offers have been publicized. However, the video seem to have used logos of Coca-Cola, Nike, Home Depot, and one other company. It is not known if that was used with or without permission.

Social media experts are commentators speculated that at best, you'll make pennies per month from the offers shared. (Typical in-app purchases are usually a few dollars at a time, which limits the amount of commission paid out to referers) And thus far, the social media experts are right: most Ripplers are paying $30 a month, and earning pennies a month.

Rippln's Best Case and Worst Case?

With so little information available from Rippln themselves, it is VERY difficult to project a best case and a worst case with any sort of certainty.

The company claims to be able to track purchases "recommended" by its users and pay out commission accordingly.

This is nothing new. When Quixtar (i.e. Amway) was hot they were advertising deals with Office Depot and whatnot. And this was MORE THAN TEN YEARS AGO (1999 or so). Shop from home, they said, and get money back, and if you can refer others to do so, you get a portion of THEIR purchases too! So much so, there were BOOKS written on how to use Quixtar (hey, the Internet was kinda new back then)

In reality, Quixtar quickly died and was absorbed back into Amway soon after, having made people very little money. You get like maybe 1% of other people's purchases. It's more like a shopping loyalty program (albeit you get OTHER people's incentives, instead of your own). (The confusing part is Amway for a few years used the Quixtar name for itself, then one day switched back to Amway, causing massive amount of confusion for researchers)

With that, one must also recall the sad case of YTBI, i.e. "Your Travel Biz", which tried to dodge its bad rap by renaming itself Zamzuu, only to finally expire in 2013 by declaring bankruptcy. YTBI was supposed to be a way for anybody to tap into the travel industry... Just pay them this setup fee (was $495, later reduced to $149), and a monthly fee of $50 to maintain this online portal, and anybody, with little training, can sell cruises, plane tickets, hotels... and be a travel agent! That's why it's called "Your Travel Biz"! In reality, the reps made a few dollars selling the travels, and most never made back any money from actually selling travel. Those that did make money did so by recruiting other reps into YTB. So much so, California (and later, Illinois and Rhode Island) sued YTB as a pyramid scheme and forced them to reform and paid a huge fine.

There's also serious questions on WHERE the loyalty offers will be when Rippln finally reveal them, as they are trying to recruit in multiple countries. In fact, their sample screen highlights "countries".

What good your Ripple would do if it's mostly outside of the US, if the loyalty offer is for US members only? And vice versa?

Loyalty offers are generally geographically limited. If there's a special coupon at Tesco, would you even know what Tesco is? (It's a UK supermarket chain) How about Safeway? (US supermarket chain, mainly West Coast) Or Kroger? (US supermarket chain, mainly southern US)

Even if they have 10000 loyalty offers, it's doubtful that 1 in 10000 will actually buy any of them. Remember, there's Groupon, Facebook Offers, Google Offers, LivingSocial, FourSquare, and bazillion others already in the loyalty offer space.

So what if Rippln have a million members? (as of September 2013, they claim to have 1.4M members signed up). How much commission do you think they will generate? And how much can you expect to share, as you are 1 in a million?

Can you expect to make enough to cover that $30 (was $25) monthly cost, much less that $95 (was $70) initial investment? My opinion is no. And the first paychecks prove that only people who have 3K to 4K downstream ripplers will make enough to cover that monthly cost, much less make PROFIT.

So is Rippln a Scam or Not?

There is no sign that Rippln is a scam thus far... but that would depend on what your definition of a "scam" is.

Rippln's marketing campaign initially relies on a sense of mystery, by involving elements such as a placeholder website, non-disclosure agreement signed by the "inner circle", and invite-only events held across the country. And it is generating a bit of buzz, but it is all based on empty promises, "potentials", and such instead of a genuinely exciting product or service.

Ripplin's marketing plan is in a state of flux, as it had to remove at least one of its various videos explaining the company. It also relies on telling half-truths, by leaving out ANY involvement by the LaCores... or any mention of the words "MLM" and "Network Marketing". Instead of "levels", it used "ripples". Instead of customers and affiliates, it used "fans" and "players". Instead of uplines, it used "coaches". Instead of network marketing, it used "ripple effect".

Ripplin's marketing plan also involved a lot of buzzwords, such as "social graph", "monetization", "app market", "in-app purchase", and so on. And it's very easy to talk up the jargon and make people believe what you said even when it made no sense.

Rippln has just promised a lot of things, but has yet to deliver ANYTHING. There is no app to evaluate. If this is software it'd be "vaporware". When you add the various "neglect to mention" factors, you should be suspicious of this "opportunity".

Let us now apply how to evaluate a company (due diligence).

Q1: Are facts about Rippln easy to come by?

A1: No. Company has published a FAQ (was merely a PDF, now a part of support website) Although it does not answer questions that a good due diligence check would include. Instead, it's mostly about how to join and what to say to get people to join. Most of the information about the company is marketing hype and unsupported statements. Other information required a lot of research and extrapolation to corroborate.

Though Since May 2013 the company has switched to somewhat more open role, granting interviews and such to sympathetic ears such as MLM advocate Troy Dooly on his MLMHelpDesk website. It is unknown if this is an actual change in openness, or merely a Public Relations spin campaign.

Q2: What about the company's background info, like address, history, etc.?

A2: Company address was hidden on unlinked pages, and was found to be co-located with MLM and its supporting structure. Its relationship with that MLM is uncertain but other evidence suggests a tight integration. Thus far, there has been no official explanation of the alleged link.

Q3: Any history about the company's founders and executive team?

A3: All co-founders have some questionable parts in their past, even among MLM advocates and participants, except Jim Bunch, who's a motivation coach.

Since then, the company execs went on a PR tour, releasing various statements trying to explain their side of the story, without explaining why they did not release this information in the first place.

Q4: What does the company sell, and who are their competitors?

A4: According to the Rippln exec Jonathan Budd, Rippln's main product is its members, much like Facebook or Google's products are its members (to be sold to advertisers). The main difference is the members can expect to share in the profits as part of a "reward program" for their ripples of purchases they "caused" (in a "ripple effect").

In Budd's example, they hope to tap into the app sales and in-app purchases revenue, and share that back to the buyers, who currently gets nothing from the micropayment purchases (a few dollars here and there) made by friends and family. They eventually hope to also make their app into a shopping app where physical products can be recommended and sold.

This sort of "revenue share back" is hardly new. Many new businesses claiming network marketing ties promised to share back any profit generated. A recent example was "Wazzub", which wants to share back money from a search engine and social network they will operate but you need to recruit a lot of people to qualify for this share back. It generated tremendous buzz around the world for a few months in 2012, claiming MILLIONS of signups. However, there is no documented proof that any profit was actually shared a year later, after multiple failed launches, re-launches, and profit-sharing deadlines.

As an odd deja vu, Wazzub was also banned from Facebook for spamming by its affiliates, also for passing out referral codes.

Rippln's main competitor is Google, Apple, Amazon, and Facebook, as per their own description.

However, all this is pre speculation and empty promises, because so far Rippln has nothing to show except presentations. There is no app, no in-app purchase, and such to study. It's vaporware, nothing more.

Q5: What is the comp plan like