The co-founder of a now defunct Tyneside web development firm has won an employment tribunal hearing over his unfair dismissal from the business.
Forty-year-old Tony Olanipekun co-founded AYO Digital but was sacked before the firm entered liquidation in October.
Mr Olanipekun brought a case of unfair dismissal against the firm and his co-founders Rob Mathieson and Kevin Reece.
The claim dates back to March 2014 when Mr Olanipekun was told by the chair of Gateshead-based AYO’s board that his services were no longer required.
At the time he had been working on the development of a spin-out company, Columbus CPD Ltd, a web platform providing continual personal development (CPD) materials specifically to the legal sector.
AYO had been developing the platform on behalf of another client in return for shares in the company. AYO ultimately acquired the intellectual property rights to market the product itself – creating the separate Columbus business.
Mr Olanipekun moved away from the day-to-day running of AYO’s other business to devote all of his time to the Columbus CPD business but remained on AYO’s payroll.
As he worked on the project Mr Olanipekun was asked to submit invoices for his pay in order to give the impression to an outside provider of capital that he was a consultant rather than an employee.
AYO responded to Mr Olanipekun’s claim of unfair dismissal saying he had ceased to be an employee before the alleged dismissal.
In judgement of the case, held at Newcastle Employment Tribunal, Judge Garnon said Mr Olanipekun’s claim was “well founded” and it was clear he was still considered an employee under Section 230 of the Employment Rights Act 1996. He was awarded compensation of £17,668.18.
Speaking to The Journal after the judgement, Mr Olanipekun said: “It was very weird for me to be removed from this business which I had put so much into helping to build. Me and the co-founders were responsible for growing the firm to employ 30 people. Suddenly this business that I had grown was closed to me.”
Mr Olanipekun has since gone on to become the commercial director of Newcastle-based Boxmodel Digital Media.
AYO Digital entered liquidation in October 2014, just over a year after it secured a £400,000 venture capital investment from Newcastle venture capital firm FW Capital.
Since its inception AYO had serviced a number of high-profile clients including Renault, Gentoo and AAF, creating digital products for them.
The firm’s work with Renault helped to launch the new Clio model on to the consumer market in the UK, with a purpose-built website for invitation-only customers who could login with a unique code to be the first to book a test-drive.
The Journal could not contact anyone from AYO Digital for comment.