DFJ Co-Founder Jurvetson Exits Firm Amid Harassment Charges

[Updated 11/15/17, 11:10 am. See below.] One of Silicon Valley’s most prominent venture capital firm founders has joined the list of VCs who departed from their positions this year in the wake of sexual harassment allegations.

Steve Jurvetson, co-founder of Draper Fisher Jurvetson (DFJ), confirmed via a Twitter post Monday that he has left the Sand Hill Road firm, where he has long focused on emerging technologies, from genomics to space exploration. He was named to board seats at Elon Musk’s companies Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA) and SpaceX, as well as Craig Venter’s Synthetic Genomics.

Jurvetson didn’t resign with any admissions of wrongdoing.

“I am leaving DFJ to focus on personal matters, including taking legal action against those whose false statements have defamed me,” Jurvetson tweeted.

In a statement issued late Tuesday on Facebook, Jurvetson said allegations of “sexual predation and workplace harassment” are untrue.  The DFJ co-founder said he left the firm due to “acrimony” that developed among its partners during the investigation of the harassment claims. [Paragraph added to note Jurvetson’s fuller response to the allegations.]

Jurvetson co-founded Draper Fisher Jurvetson in 1985 with Timothy Draper and John H.N. Fisher.

DFJ started an investigation of sexual harassment claims, Recode reported, after Keri Kukral, founder of the science media channel Raw Science TV, posted allegations against the VC firm on Facebook October 23. Kukral didn’t point to Jurvetson by name, but warned that “women approached by a founding partner of Draper Fisher Jurvetson should be careful.”

DFJ wasn’t a funder of Kukral’s entrepreneurial ventures, for which she sought financing outside Silicon Valley, she wrote. In her Facebook post, Kukral doesn’t specify where, when, or even whether she personally encountered a DFJ founder, or learned of objectionable conduct from someone else. In addition to warning other women entrepreneurs about an unnamed DFJ founder, her carefully worded post seems to accuse either the firm itself, or Silicon Valley VC firms in general, of wrongdoing.

“Predatory behavior is rampant,” Kukral wrote. “The modes are varied. Silencing behavior ranges from security w/in the firm creating files on women, to potential violations of revenge porn laws, to threats. I have experienced some of these things (not all).”

Women in Silicon Valley say they have been alerting each other to avoid certain VCs or tech executives through informal channels, often rather than making outright accusations, because they fear retaliation. That may have been Kukral’s aim, but it leaves many questions unanswered.

DFJ’s statements on the results of its investigation have also been spare. According to Recode, DFJ spokeswoman Carol Wentworth said the firm had never received a complaint about the professional conduct of its partners or investment professionals, but DFJ “became aware of indirect and second-hand allegations about one partner, Steve Jurvetson.”

Women emerged as defenders of Jurvetson’s, including DFJ partner Heidi Roizen, Recode reported shortly after the investigation began in late October. But DFJ hasn’t revealed much about why, after several more weeks, the firm reached a mutual agreement that led Jurvetson to step down, according to Recode’s account Monday. Jurvetson is also taking a leave from the Tesla and SpaceX boards, Recode reported.

Kukral is founder and executive director of the non-profit Raw Science Foundation, which fosters STEAM education. According to her bio on the foundation’s site, Kukral took a degree in bio-electrical engineering at Purdue University, and has worked on medical device R&D for Abbott Laboratories and other companies.

With his departure from DFJ under a cloud of allegations, Jurvetson follows Dave McClure, co-founder of seed-stage funding firm 500 Startups, and Justin Caldbeck of Binary Capital, who also faced sexual misconduct claims.

Jurvetson’s exit could have repercussions outside DFJ. In the wake of such allegations, other companies and organizations often have to decide whether to maintain their associations with an accused VC or executive.

Photo Credit: DFJ

Bernadette Tansey is Xconomy's San Francisco Editor. You can reach her at btansey@xconomy.com. Follow @Tansey_Xconomy

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