Artesian Builds: how a custom PC company crashed and burned at the expense of a viral giveaway

By Francesca Johnson

Published Apr 2, 2022 at 08:56 AM

Reading time: 4 minutes

On another one of my infinite scrolls through social media, I came across some complaints—from Twitch streamers this time. Now, as someone who’s not part of the hardcore gaming community or very clued up on the nature of PC building, I almost skipped past the rabbit hole entirely. However, discourse about tax evasion, missing PCs and a Twitch as well as a Twitter reckoning caught my eye. And the cherry on top? A CEO letting go of over 50 employees altogether. Needless to say, I was hooked. So let me take you through the rapid rise and equally fast downfall of a little PC builder company called Artesian Builds.

Going down in flames bigger than the Fyre Festival, Artesian Builds now joins the elite ring of failed companies with terrible CEOs at their helm. The writing was on the wall for some, but many were in the dark about the malpractices of this slightly shady company, which was all brought to light by netizens—in a dragging only topped by Zoe Kravitz’s on Twitter last month. But how did a small startup PC-building company get here? Well, the answer actually lies in an unsatisfactory giveaway. Let’s dive in, shall we?

What is Artesian Builds?

Artesian Builds is a custom PC-building service, brought to you by its not-so-hot founder—for reasons that will become oh-so-clear later—Noah Katz. For those of you who are wondering, a custom-built PC is an alternative many opt for instead of the conventional models you can buy in stores.

WIRED, on the other hand, suggests that assembling a computer yourself is a better option. One possible reason is because OEM (original equipment manufacturer) computer parts are usually lower in quality compared to third-party parts that can be bought separately. Often, these OEM “pre-builds” will consist of your usual office desktop models, but with far more powerful CPUs (central processing units) and GPUs (graphics processing units). Simply put, they’re a better choice for your bucks.

With a DIY approach to construction, many computer enthusiasts agree with this idea and decide to take matters into their own hands by building their own computers. Those who are not as confident in their skills choose to use services to build systems for them. These services in question make computers using third-party parts to perfectly cater to their tech needs, be it gaming or video editing, for example.

PC-building companies have also soared in popularity as of late due to the graphics card shortage being overtaken by resellers—very similar to the current state of the sneaker industry. If you’ve ever lost out on a pair of Nike Dunks, you know the frustration. Well, in comes PC builders to save the day, with prices closer to official retailers than scheming scalpers. Sounds too good to be true, right?

It’s no wonder Artesian Builds garnered such a large fanbase so quickly, after its founding under Artesian Future Technology in 2018, according to the North Carolina Secretary of State registry database. But alas, what comes up must eventually go down, and boy did Artesian Builds fall.

Katz versus Kiapiaa

What started the car crash of a computer scandal was a simple giveaway gone extremely wrong. Disclaimer: CEO condescension ahead.

Artesian Builds frequently live-streamed their PC-building process for their audience online. This made gamers on platforms like Twitch the perfect candidates for promoting their high-end computers. Conceptualising this idea, Artesian announced a small-time affiliate streamer named Kiapiaa as the winner of one of its PC giveaway competitions. However, CEO Katz chose not to reward Kiapiaa with her hard-earned winnings, based entirely on her Twitch and social media follower count.

In a clip reposted by Kiapiaa on 1 March, founder Katz is heard saying “2K followers is under my threshold,” and later adding: “Here’s the reason. This person has had three months of ambassadorship and not a single click.” The CEO then went on to “purge” Kiapiaa from the competition. Not a good move, Katz.

Rather than taking the beating, Kiapiaa responded to Katz’s actions with a Twitter post to her now over 24,000 followers. “If you haven’t heard, @ArtesianBuilds do not care about their small streamer ambassadors. They have monthly PC giveaways for their ambassadors—great, right? Except they don’t care for small streamers.” She publicly condemned Katz and his company for changing the giveaway’s rules “last minute.”

Her thread went on to say: “You hear this man’s voice? He’s belittling me. It’s slander and defamation of my stream and me as a person. I won that PC fair and square.”

Continuing, she stated that the criteria for entrants only necessitated them to have the Artesian Builds panel in the ‘About’ section of their Twitch page—which she claimed she did. “The rules say that you need the Artesian panel in your twitch About, and I do have it. So what’s the issue @ArtesianBuilds,” she tweeted in this regard, directly mentioning the company. So why not just give the girl her reward?

The series of tweets received thousands of likes upon posting and, according to Game Industry, Intel (affiliated with Artesian Builds) released a statement addressing the custom PC company’s actions. “We strive towards welcoming streamers of all sizes to our programs and do not agree with recent negative comments directed toward small streamers. We are reaching out to relevant parties to address the situation,” the company said.

To save (some) face, Katz then issued an apology to Kiapiaa via Artesian Builds’ Twitter account. The startup also extended a weak attempt at an olive branch for the entire ordeal by reoffering the prize to Kiapiaa, which she declined.

The internet uprising

On 5 March, Artesian Builds announced on Twitter that it was examining “a potential employee-led buyout of the company,” and thanked its audience for the support. Well, Twitter did not agree with that switch of narrative and had something to say about it, much like Twitter always does. And, in the reckoning of the year (so far), Artesian Builds was subsequently dragged for filth as much of the internet cheered its impending demise.

Katz, collapse and (indefinite) closure

En masse, the internet blew up with Twitter think pieces, article headlines and YouTube commentary galore goldmines in evaluating the destruction of the startup and its founder. One popular creator and commentator, Linus Sebastian from the YouTube channel Linus Tech Tips, also covered the fallout extensively.

Former employees spoke at length to Inverse on Artesian Builds’ catastrophe, detailing all the pitfalls and problems from reckless leadership to the company’s eventual collapse last month. Artesian Builds was obliterated and confirmed that Katz fired—well, indefinitely “furloughed”—his 40 to 60 employees via Slack and email. The nail in the confirmation coffin? The company’s official channels. You’ll have a hard time finding anything of use since the link to purchase computers from Artesian is officially dead. Cue the fake sad faces, people.

Dextero further noted that, among a myriad of controversies, Katz has also been accused of tax evasion, “after the company’s business licence in California was forfeited,” with information obtained by an online database.

“I thought we were doing amazing things, I thought we were going places,” Eric Ashmore, a former customer support representative at Artesian Builds, told Inverse. “I thought I was going to retire and work here for the rest of my life,” he continued.

In order to have an official (and legal) comeback, the company’s board members must “file all tax returns, pay all dues, and also pay an $800 fee to ‘revive’ their business,” according to Dextero. Failure to do so will mean that Artesian Builds “legally cannot do business in the state.” Yikes.

Either way, the PC-building company has been well and truly burned alive by the internet and tossed into the void. At least Kiapiaa thrived unscathed from the ashes.

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