Last August, TechCrunch broke the story of Shirley Hornstein, a Photoshopping fabricator who ingratiated herself into Silicon Valley circles by name-dropping nonexistent connections. Her behavior eventually prompted Founders Fund to file a complaint to stop her from claiming she worked for them.
Following that report, Betabeat published claims that Ms. Hornstein, a former roommate of TechCrunch community manager Elin Blesener, was also guilty of credit card fraud, duping at least one former employer (Giftiki) as well as personal friends. Billing statements–provided by a friend who urged Ms. Hornstein to seek help–showed that “Shirls” used a stolen credit card to buy a plane ticket twice.
This week, the world was introduced to Shirley Hornstein: an ersatz entrepreneur who Photoshopped and name-dropped her way through Silicon Valley. For at least a year and a half, Ms. Hornstein has been trading on flimsily fabricated connections to powerful tech investors, startups, and celebrities–always depending, as TechCrunch first reported, on the optimism of strangers.
“She told people she had the authority to approve up to a $1 million investment from Founders Fund. That was her line,” an investor from Los Angeles who recently moved to San Francisco told Betabeat, recounting the time Ms. Hornstein cajoled a pair of young entrepreneurs into pitching her on a Saturday, convincing them on Sunday that she had already heard back from the board with good news.
The fact that Ms. Hornstein’s roommate was TechCrunch community manager Elin Blesener also helped “legitimize her,” the same investor added.