Yesterday, TechCrunch exposed a young woman named Shirley Hornstein for using photoshopped pictures with celebrities and made-up job titles to ingratiate herself with the Silicon Valley tech elite. Now, the newly notorious Silicon Valley fake has taken her act to the GOP convention. She's fitting right in, believe it or not.
Shirley Hornstein's story is a timeless classic of bullshit artistry. But it's also emblematic of the tech bubble hysteria frothing up in Silicon Valley, powered as much by boozy parties and celebrity worship as world-changing ideas. Hornstein, who describes herself as an "Angel Investor and (dare I say) Entrepreneur," embellished her bonafides to get herself invited to swanky tech parties and connections to investors, according to TechCrunch. Hornstein went so far as to photoshop herself into photos with geek celebrity crushes like Justin Timberlake and Andy Samberg. (The photoshopped picture with Samberg above was posted to her Facebook profile with the caption "one of my favs people ever".) She'd name drop her false connections constantly, broadcasting her connection on Twitter and eventually landed on a list of influential women in tech investing in Silicon Valley.
Hornstein may have overplayed her hand when she latched onto one of the biggest stars in the Valley, Sean Parker, falsely claiming to have worked at Parker's Founders Fund. Founder's Fund filed suit in December 2011 to stop Hornstein from exploiting the false connection. From the suit, via TechCrunch:
Beginning no later than July of 2011. Ms. Hornstein engaged in a pattern of conduct, which includes making false and misleading written and oral representations, designed to deceive potential business partners and employers into believing that she had prior and/or ongoing business and employment connections to Founders Fund and its partners. In fact, Ms. Hornstein is not now, nor has she ever been, an employee or business partner of Founders Fund or any Founders Fund Partner or executive.
Now geeks are coming out of the woodwork with their Hornstein horror stories. One commenter on the techie forum Hacker News offered a characteristic take:
I've meet Shirley a handful of times, through mutual friends and founders here in SF.
Every time we hungout, 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.
She mentioned she knew the founders at Dropbox, and even said that she had stock in Dropbox and sold it, and made quite a nice sum of money. Again, all the while I was super skeptical.
But having burned her bridges in Silicon Valley, it seems that Hornstein is trying her luck with the political world. Hornstein is currently cavorting around Tampa at the Republican National Convention with some powerful friends—if her social media accounts are to be believed. On Monday Hornstein tweeted from the exclusive "Nuestra Noche" party, where she would have rubbed elbows with GOP bigs like Marco Rubio and John Bolton. And yesterday she posted a photo to the social network Path from the restaurant where she was "celebrating Will's election to FL Speaker of the House!" "Will" is Republican Florida State Representative Will Weatherford. It makes sense. All these people bullshit for a living, too.