Laura Fitton, a HubSpot employee and local entrepreneur, has become the first woman to publicly accuse Silicon Valley venture capitalist Shervin Pishevar of sexual misconduct.
Fitton detailed her encounter with Pishevar, who is also a co-founder of Hyperloop One, in an interview with Axios. Fitton’s story came out Thursday after five women, who met Pishervar in a professional context and asked to not be identified for fear of retribution, told Bloomberg that Pishevar sexually assaulted or harassed them.
Pishevar’s attorney did not respond to a request for comment.
Pishevar, who took a leave of absence on Tuesday from his VC firm Sherpa Capital, said he denies any inappropriate behavior toward Fitton, according to a statement provided to Axios from Pishevar’s attorney. The VC has previously denied the allegations from the five other women. In the note to Axios, Pishevar’s attorney also claimed that continuing correspondence between Pishevar and Fitton is in favor of Pishevar’s denial.
Fitton, who is currently an inbound marketing evangelist at HubSpot, told Axios that Pishevar forcibly kissed her in a hotel elevator after the two met and interacted at a New York City fundraiser in December 2011, not long after she sold her startup, oneforty, to HubSpot. Fitton said she was on her way to Pishevar’s hotel room to order food after he told her that a group of people were going up with him. But none of the people showed up, and Fitton said Pishevar continued to make advances on her after the elevator incident, where Fitton pushed him off and told him to stop. Fitton said she eventually agreed to lay in bed with Pishevar fully clothed while he talked to her about himself in the third person.
Axios confirmed Fitton’s account of her encounter with Pishevar with a Boston entrepreneur who was told about the misconduct within days of it happening.
In the years following the incident, Fitton said she had kept correspondence with Pishevar, including a message she sent in 2015 apologizing for her “brittle response” to him. Fitton said “he wasn’t just a contact I wanted to keep, but maybe my most valuable contact. He was like a golden boy because he seemed to be connected to every hot startup in Silicon Valley. So I didn’t want to risk that when I was in the room with him, nor years later when I apologized… I felt it might soothe his ego a bit, and I’m a pretty obsequious person.”
When asked if Fitton has the support of her employer, a HubSpot spokeswoman offered a general statement in support of women and others who speak up against misconduct.
“At HubSpot, we believe in the importance of operating with transparency and treating others with respect. We stand with any individual who has the courage to speak out when those values aren’t honored,” the HubSpot statement read.