The chief executive and co-founder of a US business-to-business (B2B) startup was forced to resign this week after a newspaper investigation found his academic credentials to be bogus.
Farid Khoujinian, of Luna Information Systems, which numbers FedEx among its customers, admitted that he "misrepresented" his educational background. He claimed he received a degree in applied mathematics from Harvard University, and masters and doctorate degrees in electrical engineering from Columbia University.
A probe by the San Francisco Chronicle revealed that Harvard had never heard of Khoujinian, and that he only attended Columbia for one semester.
In a statement, Khoujinian said: "I am deeply sorry for misrepresenting my educational background, and I extend my most sincere apology to Luna, its customers and business partners."
When initially confronted with the allegations, Khoujinian claimed that he failed to graduate because he didn't have enough money to complete his tuition. He said he felt comfortable claiming the degrees because he continued to study and engage in research at the institutes informally. "The course work was completed. The fact that it has not been paid for is a technicality," he said.
Founded in 1997, Luna helps companies manage their business relationships over the internet. Its Electronic Agreements platform enables companies to personalise complex B2B relationships.
Khoujinian co-founded the company with Mark Christiansen, who now assumes the role of interim chief executive along with his existing post as chief technology officer.
The company had raised a total of $26m in venture funding, and David Parker, managing principal at investor Interprise Technology Partners, said: "The recent educational discrepancy admission of its departing chief executive is regrettable and inconsistent with the principle of full disclosure [which] the board and management team strive for. Luna is an exciting, well-funded company in a great market space, and it is led by an experienced and effective senior management group."
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