Close friends of deceased Kiwi millionaire Jake Miller say he was “beaten, harassed and threatened”, calling his death a “wake call”.
WARNING: This story mentions suicide
From teenage wonderkind to Gucci loafer-clad failure. These were some of the polarizing phrases used to describe the late Kiwi entrepreneur and former teen millionaire Jake Miller.
On Sunday, the Christchurch native’s body was found at his cottage in the affluent Kenyan suburb of Karen. Local police and New Zealand officials confirmed that he took his own life.
While the exact reason for his moving from New Zealand to Africa is still unknown, some of his friends have claimed that he was “out of town” by the Kiwi media.
Mr Miller’s death has sent shock waves through his home country’s business and entrepreneurial community, with prominent members raising their voices against the public backlash that preceded it.
The Omphar co-founder faced severe criticism in February of this year after he sold his company Unfiltered to Crimson Education for $84,000. This was a fraction of the $11.47 million at which vocational education start-ups were at their peak.
At the time, media reports suggested that Mr Miller had struck the deal without consulting his shareholders, who were some of New Zealand’s wealthiest investors.
Speaking to News.com.au, Janine Crosson, a fellow entrepreneur and friend of Mr Miller, said his tragic death had resonated deeply with New Zealand entrepreneurs.
“In the past week, literally hundreds of founders have reached out to me and Jake’s story resonates deeply with him and there are so many others who are hurting and relate to what he is doing,” she said.
Ms Crosson said it was a major “wake-up call” and highlighted the need for greater accountability for the well-being of founders and people working in the start-up and entrepreneurship sectors.
On Monday, Flossie’s founder took to the online publishing platform medium and shared details about Mr. Miller’s Headspace after news of the sale of Unfiltered came in.
Ms Crosson claimed she was being “chased, harassed, bullied and bullied” by the ‘media and commentators’, which left the then 25-year-old in a dark place.
“They chased her, harassed her, threatened her, sent her bully messages,” she wrote.
“I have seen them with my own eyes, he shared them with me. He was desperate for help, to stop it and they wouldn’t.
“We begged them to see that they were playing a dangerous game with a fragile child. And yet, it still happened.
“Without taking away the belief that Jake was invested in telling me where he was emotionally (a dark place with no way out), I tried in the background to stem the media storm.”
However, his messages were ignored.
She said Mr Miller eventually “begged” her not to “continue to try to interfere” because “he was scared”.
After his death, Sir Raymond Avery, a close friend of Mr Miller, also spoke of his “trial by the media”.
Mr Miller, sharing some email correspondence between himself and his wife, kiwi scientist and social entrepreneur, said it was sent after Mr Miller left New Zealand.
Mr Miller wrote, “Thank you for taking care of me while I was actively trying to die because of the media tsunami in New Zealand.”
“New Zealand media can be so bad and being away from NZ I am starting to feel more optimistic about the future.”
Mr Avery has since shared several posts revealing Mr Miller’s mental health upon leaving New Zealand.
“Jake’s major offense (was) he was a charismatic tall poppy and New Zealand doesn’t tolerate tall poppies and the NZ media literally kicked Jake out of town,” he wrote in a post he shared on Monday.
“Left alone with only ‘tested by media’ comments, Jake takes the final step to relieve the pain.”
One of the emails sent to Mr Miller as seen by news.com.au read: “Our members are requesting you to join us. Take a cement pill and move on, boy.”
“You will be judged by how you share your inclinations, but it is clear to me that you have received this advice before,” the email said.
“I believe you ain’t using your ears anymore man. It’s time to grow up!”
“Say, you failed.”
Mr Beaton – who was on Unfiltered’s board of directors before buying the business – has since called on people to celebrate the lives of the young rich and end “divisive” discourse.
“At this point I wish we could use this moment to move on; Be better and kinder to each other as Kiwis build a supportive culture for future entrepreneurs and people in this tech ecosystem, Jake no doubt wrote in a post on LinkedIn.
Ms Crosson shared a similar wish.
“Entrepreneurship is a very lonely journey and Jake came to me because I was very open about my experience,” she told news.com.au.
“Now Jake is providing the same beacon to other people who have probably been keeping a lot of things to themselves because of how hard it has been.”
In Mr Miller’s last public interview, published in March 2021, eight months before his death, the entrepreneur told spinoff He said Unfiltered’s coverage of Undoing was a “character assassination” and described the facts as “inaccurate” and “outrageous”.
“I have no agenda here other than the right to stand up for myself and my human values,” shared journalist, Jihee Jun, citing his email correspondence with Mr. Miller.
“As a young entrepreneur, some would probably accuse me of having a fairly strong defense mechanism,” he wrote.
“I have always stood up for those I have believed in and against those whom I have wronged, even though they may have been wiser and more successful than me.
“When I consider my journey, I think it’s one of the reasons why I, unknowingly, became more controversial than I ever set out to be.”