Steve Jurvetson, who started his career in Silicon Valley as a wunderkind founder of one of its marquee venture capital firms, has become one of its highest-profile investors, palling around with its most flamboyant tech superstars and backing its edgiest startups.
But on Monday, he crashed to earth way more swiftly than his career had rocketed skyward two decades ago.
His partners at DFJ spent a weekend pondering his fate, sources said — first placing him on a leave of absence last Saturday, then voting him out on Sunday, and then finally informing some of the firm's top limited partners at a golf-filled gathering, along with some portfolio companies, on Monday.
Jurvetson was asked to leave because DFJ caught him lying about what it considered serious allegations, a source familiar with the situation said.
DFJ's investigation found, in part, a pattern of dishonesty with women, according to other sources, including extra-marital affairs that, in the eyes of some, crossed into the professional world. Jurvetson also contributed to a difficult work environment, a source alleged. The complete circumstances that forced Jurvetson from his job are still in dispute, although both sides say his decision to depart was mutual.
Partners at DFJ unanimously decided it would be better for Jurvetson to leave, a source close to the firm said, with even founding partners Tim Draper and John Fisher deciding his time there was done.
DFJ declined to comment for this story. Jurvetson also declined to comment, referring Recode to the statement he issued earlier in the week. In Jurvetson's statement, he said he left because of the acrimony that arose between DFJ partners in the wake of the investigation.
To be clear, no one has publicly emerged to allege sexual harassment by Jurvetson. But behind the scenes, it appears as though individual colleagues interpreted an ambiguous set of facts through, in part, a lens of how the transfer of power would affect them personally.
Jurvetson's resignation surprised many tracking the case. The 50-year-old investor is also the highest-profile venture capitalist to be ousted from his lofty position since women this year started to speak out about a range of abuse from male investors in Silicon Valley and beyond.
It began after investigators also uncovered a messy personal life, said multiple sources — which Jurvetson himself clearly alluded to in his own public statement.
Those sources said DFJ's external investigators at the law firm Simpson Thacher and Bartlett discovered from at least two women — who confirmed their accounts to Recode — that Jurvetson had allegedly carried out affairs with multiple women simultaneously. Some of the women also said they felt led on by the married man and were unaware of the other relationships.
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On its face, allegations of personal misconduct — however problematic — may not seem to many to be enough for a firm to agree to part ways with one of its founders. But the line between personal and professional has become ever thinner in the business world, leaving Jurvetson in a precarious position.
That's because several of the women making allegations work in the tech industry and first met him at professional conferences. The firm's move to push Jurvetson out also seems in part preventative — while a woman might not be pitching DFJ today, they might pitch the firm in the future. In other words, Silicon Valley's power players are always at work, even when they are not.
The company said in its statement announcing his departure last week: "DFJ's culture has been, and will continue to be, built on the values of respect and integrity in all of our interactions."
Within the office, Jurvetson was also considered to be dismissive, sometimes using a curt tone with colleagues, sources said. That behavior gave him few allies in the workplace when he needed it.
Jurvetson did acknowledge in his statement that questions about his personal conduct had eventually triggered his departure.
"I have also learned that an ill-advised relationship, where the other person is left feeling hurt, angry or scorned, can have far reaching consequences in the digital age. It is inaccurate and unfair to describe any of this as harassment or predation," he wrote on Facebook.
But he added, "I think my personal life, and other people's personal lives, should stay personal."
And, indeed, multiple women whom Recode interviewed said their sexual relationships with Jurvetson were not forced, and did not involve an implicit workplace quid-pro-quo.
While the allegations do not resemble the scandals that have forced other powerful Silicon Valley men out of their jobs in recent months, they do shed some light on what investigators found.
"He'd sort of create a soap opera for himself," said one of the women who dated Jurvetson, who requested anonymity to protect her career. "He lied to us."
This woman was not aware that Jurvetson was seeing several other women at the same time. She met Jurvetson at a conference at which the venture capitalist spoke.
The pair carried out a consensual affair as Jurvetson's marriage wound down, the woman said, and saw one another about once a month. They would sometimes attend professional conferences together, but she described their relationship as "one hundred percent personal." She said she also saw other men at the time.
A second woman who dated Jurvetson told Recode she was searching for career opportunities in venture capital and startups. The woman, who declined to give her real name out of professional concerns, said she only later realized he was also dating the first woman, although she herself was also seeing other men in what she described as an off-again, on-again relationship with Jurvetson.
Business and romance did occasionally mix in small doses. Jurvetson at one point did offer advice on a startup idea the woman had presented along with a co-founder, she said. The project didn't end up launching at all. Jurvetson once also made an introduction for her to a venture capital firm for a possible job. She ultimately wasn't interested in the gig, she said, and stressed to Recode she did not consider it a major favor.
Several of the women met one another at the TED conference in Vancouver, where Jurvetson is a regular, in the March of 2015, one of the women said. That conference is said to be a flashpoint in the Jurvetson drama, as several women dating him discovered that they were not alone in their personal involvement with the investor.
One woman, Keri Kukral, has been the most public in alleging improper conduct. She wrote in a Facebook post last month that "women have been banned from TED" due in part to DFJ founding partners — she did not specifically name Jurvetson. Kukral edited her post last week to remove the TED allegation.
Kukral also alleged that "predatory behavior is rampant" at the firm, a charge that a DFJ partner has disputed as "patently wrong."
Kukral declined to meet with DFJ's external investigator at Simpson Thacher, Alexis Coll-Very, as of last week, according to a Facebook post by Kukral. Coll-Very said in a letter to Kukral she had until last Thursday to inform investigators whether she would participate in an interview. Kukral did not.
Jurvetson, who has since gotten a separation and is now engaged to another woman, said in his statement that he was the subject of "vicious and wholly false allegations about sexual predation and workplace harassment."
Not everyone agrees with DFJ's decision to dismiss Jurvetson. His departure has stoked anger from some of its limited partners, who have become concerned about the future of the firm since it was revealed last week at their annual meeting in Half Moon Bay, according to a person in touch with the firm in recent days.
And the stakes are high. Jurvetson was, prior to his ouster, a "key man" on DFJ's most recent venture fund, according to a report filed by one of its limited partners, alongside Josh Stein and Andreas Stavropoulos. Legally, those three are the decision-makers at the fund, according to SEC documents. The terms of the fund requires that at least two so-called key men remain. So if another man after Jurvetson were to stop managing the fund's investments, the fund could dissolve.
Jurvetson was DFJ's star and a founder — before shortening it, the name of the firm was Draper Fisher Jurvetson. Deemed a whiz kid ever since he led a $300,000 investment in Hotmail ahead of its sale to Microsoft for $400 million when he was only 30 years old, Jurvetson became one of its key rainmakers. And he has been close, for example, to big tech players like Elon Musk, a relationship that has given DFJ access to SpaceX, which is now valued at over $20 billion.
Jurvetson, Stein and Stavropoulos sat on the management committee for DFJ's 12th early-stage venture fund, which operates quite independently of its growth practice, a fund that focuses on more mature companies. The leaders on DFJ's later-stage fund are Fisher, Mark Bailey, Randy Glein and Barry Schuler.
Some of DFJ's partners were "shocked" by the swiftness of his ouster, the person in touch with the firm said. As of late last week, Jurvetson was still setting up meetings for his CEOs. But the tone changed suddenly over the weekend, the person said.
Along with the disgruntled LPs, multiple sources said some of the firm's approximately 50 employees were nervous about the potential departures of other investors in the wake of Jurvetson's leaving. The entire investing team, though, attended their annual, pre-scheduled LP meeting, said a source close to the fund.
Jurvetson, meanwhile, spent his week trying to move on. He attended Tesla's glitzy truck unveiling by Musk on Thursday That afternoon, he appeared as scheduled at a speaking engagement hosted by Draper, his longtime business partner. He spoke at the event about the ethics of artificial intelligence, appearing in a fireside chat that followed other investors who traded views on topics like cryptocurrency.
The sole difference? Projected on the front screens were their job titles.
—By Theodore Schleifer, Re/code.net.
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