Ate Group breakaway start up emerges, name clashes with Hong Kong web design firm

Umami CollectiveThe identity has emerged of a breakaway agency formed from staff of Singapore lifestyle PR firm Ate Group in controversial circumstances last year.

Ate Group’s co-founder Aun Koh ignited a row on Mumbrella’s comment thread in October, when he identified the departing trio as “foreigners” in an angry Facebook post in which he threatened to take legal action for alleged client poaching.

The breakaway lifestyle PR agency is called The Umami Collective, and has been launched by a group including Daniel White, Ate Group’s former business development director, and Suzy Goulding, who was director of PR while at Ate, Mumbrella understands. Neither Goulding or White have responded to requests for comment nor confirmed their involvement with the start up, but White’s LinkedIn profile suggests he is part of the set up.

Among the credentials on its website, Umami Collective states it has launched celebrity restaurants – referring to Jamie’s Italian Singapore, which Ate Group handled the launch publicity for last July.

The start up, which offers brand strategy, social media, media relations and crisis management, claims: “We do things differently, we do things right” on its website.

The other Umami Collective

The other Umami Collective

A complication of the now 10 month-old agency is that it shares its name with a Hong Kong-based web and mobile design firm Umami Collective, which launched in 2010. However, the firm’s director has said that is was not concerned by the clash of names, since there was no overlap in the services the agencies offer.

News of the Ate breakaway agency’s launch emerged late last year when Koh, who is son of famous local lawyer and diplomat Professor Tommy Koh, stated on Facebook:

I have been completely disgusted by the unprofessional and possibly criminal actions by three former employees (coincidentally, all foreigners).

From what I have been told, these three, over a period of time and while actually under our employment, allegedly worked to divert business away from us and to their new agency.

Allegedly, they lied to my business partners, misrepresented our agency, and even lied to clients.

Allegedly, they were, while still drawing salaries from us, selling their own services and poaching Ate’s clients.

The story proved to the most commented on story on Mumbrella Asia to date, with debate switching from client poaching to tensions between foreign and local workers in Singapore.


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