On December 18, 2018, the FBI and a bunch of Russian fraudsters cost our business more than $150,000

Goodbye 3VE:

“The first rule of 3VE is we don’t talk about Textivia,” David Christopher tapped away on his keyboard into the night. He was fueled by his reignited passion, something only recently rediscovered after nearly a decade of empty drudgery and endless scramble. As a new email alert chimed, he didn’t suspect that the innocuous “ding” would be the herald of doom. Google had sent an email to all of its display partners and the subject line showed brightly in the notification preview: “...Goodbye 3VE…”

David blinked at the notification in shock, simultaneously clicking the “OPEN” and scrambling to unlock his cell phone. That night, David Christopher informed his business partners, Chris Baumgarden and Neal Maier, how the FBI and some Russian hackers had destroyed their blood-sweat-and-tear-fueled brand and business just two weeks before launch. Somewhere in the distance, the angel of irony herself, Alanis Morissette, laughed maniacally as she penned another verse to her famous song.

the FBI and some Russian hackers had destroyed their blood-sweat-and-tear-fueled brand and business

More than a decade earlier, Chris and David had an idea to offer a trivia game over text, and the company named after a portmanteau, “Textivia,” was born.  Neal joined the company to help maximize its potential.  Textivia eventually found itself offering websites, then digital marketing, followed by traditional marketing, branding, strategy, and business consulting.  This growth took more than ten years, tons of painful lessons, and an endless amount of support from friends, families, and dedicated employees.  

A bit older, a lot wiser, and a ton grayer, the three guys extrapolated a cognitive thought process from their general approach: Solve Move Evolve. Within that process, they placed all the logical components of a business growth model. Research, branding, strategy, tactics, measurements, revisions, and enhancements--repeat forever. It was introduced to the rest of the company and we tried the model on a few willing clients. It worked.

we tried the model on a few willing clients. it worked.

We retained a trademark attorney and began the process of applying for a trademark but decided that wasn’t going to be enough.  Our modest agency needed a fresh start as the Solve Move Evolve ethos marked such a pivot from where we started that we weren’t “Textivia” any longer… we were 3VE, extracting the “VE” from Solve Move Evolve.  

That email from Google on December 18 killed our brand before it even began.

We slowly rediscovered our world-consuming passions for business and marketing as we entwined Solve Move Evolve into our universe and laboriously birthed a brand. The furious drum of progress climbed to its epic crescendo as Christmas neared. We were finally close to our launch date of January 3 (postponed from November 3). That email from Google on December 18 killed our brand before it even began.

For two years, the FBI had been investigating Russian fraudsters under the internal operation name, “3VE.” That was made public on November 27, 2018. We had missed that. But we didn’t miss the email. And the Google white paper titled “The Hunt for 3VE.And the endless WhiteOps writers.

We loved 3VE to an unhealthy level, it was our fresh start… It wasn’t a rebrand, it was a new company. We had done everything but get the tattoos (and that was mere weeks away from happening). We had our federal EIN acquired, gotten our DBA license in order, acquired a very expensive 3-letter domain, 3ve.com, built a brand, and designed a website.

The permanent association with a federal fraud investigation, authority of “.gov” domains and official Google websites means that we would be facing a future of explaining to every single client, lead, and partner we meet with a story of why our company name is associated with internet fraud, hacking rings, and the FBI. That’s not... The fresh start we needed. Not at all.

That's not... The fresh start we needed. Not at all.

So here we sit, our grand launch day upon us, back to where we started. Exasperated, resources depleted, hearts broken, we are putting our boxing gloves back on to conquer yet another branding challenge. This is our Cinderella Story. What we learned in all of this process was that the name is important, but the heart and the spirit that define the brand doesn’t change with the name. In fact, we are letting the public choose our name.

Because name be damned, our hearts are still in love with our work. All of the expensive assets, domain names, and dreadfully pricey trademark attorneys don’t matter. We’ll make it through this and be stronger because of it… even if we have to fight the FBI, Google, and the Russian hackers.

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