Earth.com is in a world of hurt.
The website, which is headquartered in Telluride, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last week, along with its offshoot company and its founder, Telluride resident Eric Ralls.
Earth.com said it employs 10 writers and an editor to cover news about science and nature, including “a page for almost every living species on the planet.” It launched in 2016.
Last year, Earth.com created EarthSnap. When users take photos of plants or animals with the app, it provides details about the species, such as its habitat and history on Earth.
On April 19, Earth.com and EarthSnap both filed for bankruptcy, revealing they are millions of dollars in debt. Chapter 11 allows companies to reorganize and remain in business.
The bankruptcy filings for both companies are scant, offering little explanation for their financial troubles, but show that Earth.com owes $5 million for its memorable domain name due to a rent-to-own sale agreement. The domain is owned by Innovation HQ on the island of Antigua, the bankruptcy filings say.
Both Earth.com and EarthSnap have more than $10 million in assets, though their bankruptcy paperwork does not list what those assets are, and both owe between $1 million and $10 million. Ralls likewise has $10 million to $50 million in assets and $1 million to $10 million in debts himself.
Ralls and his attorney, Jeffrey Brinen with the Kutner Brinen Dickey Riley law firm in Denver, did not respond to multiple requests to discuss the companies’ finances and future.
Both companies and Ralls have unpaid legal bills and court judgments stemming from lawsuits that were filed against them in recent years. Those court costs total $254,000.
On Jan. 31, they were sued in Denver by an advertising company called Adnimation, which said it gave Ralls $50,000 in exchange for Adnimation software being installed at Earth.com and on the EarthSnap app, but Ralls reneged and simply kept the $50,000.
Four days earlier, the Colorado Department of Revenue had filed a court judgment ordering Ralls to pay $26,340 in back taxes. Last year, two similar judgments ordered Ralls to pay the state $5,657 in January and $3,850 in June. None have been paid, court records show.
In September 2022, Earth.com was sued by Content IQ, a digital publishing company. It claimed that Ralls, on behalf of Earth.com, agreed to pay Content IQ to drive internet traffic to Earth.com but couldn’t pay and now owes $374,000. Earth.com denies owing the money.
In 2021, Earth.com and Ralls were sued by PlantSnap, a company Ralls founded in 2016 that allows users to identify plants by taking a photo with their phone. The lawsuit said that Ralls defaulted on seed funding, which caused him to lose PlantSnap to its lender. PlantSnap then sued Ralls, accusing him of moving PlantSnap funds to Earth.com.
After two years of litigation, a judge in San Miguel County ordered Ralls to pay about $85,000 to PlantSnap in February. That judgment has not been paid, court records show.
Earth.com and EarthSnap are both headquartered in Ralls’ home at 473 W. Colorado Ave. in Telluride. It is worth $2.8 million, according to county property records.