The Big One
A breakdown on the day’s biggest Inno story.
Dylan: For Laura Fitton, going on the record and publicly accusing a powerful venture capitalist of sexual misconduct was the last thing she wanted to do. But in the end, she felt she had to.
Back in December 2011, not long after Fitton sold her startup to HubSpot and became an executive there, Fitton met Shervin Pishevar, a well-known VC in Silicon Valley who also co-founded Hyperloop One, at a charity event in New York, where he allegedly forced her to kiss him and made unwanted advances. A few days later, Fitton had told Pishevar that what he did was inappropriate, a characterization he rejected.
Fitton first told her story to Axios last week, and Pishevar, through his lawyer, has denied there was any inappropriate behavior. On Thursday, Pishevar resigned from Sherpa Capital, the VC firm he co-founded that has backed big-name tech companies like Uber.
I talked to Fitton after her story came out last week, and you can read the full interview on our website. Some takeaways:
— Fitton for a while thought that Pishevar’s alleged transgression was an isolated incident and that after calling him out privately, she assumed he had learned his lesson and would act better.
— Seeing the sexual misconduct conduct allegations against VCs like Justin Caldbeck and Dave McClure over the summer made her start thinking about whether to tell her story.
— What pushed her further: Pishevar’s lawsuit against a Republican opposition research firm that claimed he was “an agent of the Russian government” and that he “paid money to settle a claim for sexual assault in London.”
— But what really propelled her was when Bloomberg published a story in late November about five women who told the publication they were sexually harassed or assaulted by Pishevar. Fitton realized that because those women declined to be named in the story for fear of retaliation, going on the record would start to turn the tide.
— Fitton considers herself privileged enough to make a decision like this because she has a large support network, a company that backs her, and she isn’t raising money for a startup — the latter of which she said could be the reason the other women didn’t go public.
“Every woman has a story like this and most of them are never going to get heard publicly, even if they speak up, and that’s deeply hard and unfair,” she said. Read more: Laura Fitton on Why She Spoke Out Against Sexual Misconduct