Greg Gopman, the VR program manager who was let go by Twitter earlier this month after some inflammatory comments he made about homeless people three years ago resurfaced, was at a homeless charity event the day the news of his unemployment broke, he told Business Insider. Gopman had been a freelance contractor at Twitter, a source said.
Twitter declined to comment.
“[The] icing on the cake was I was at a homeless charity event when TechCrunch wrote their smash piece,” Gopman said. He was attending “a celebration of Downtown Streets Team being in San Francisco and celebrating the success of the homeless people they helped” when the story broke, he says.
Downtown Streets Team is an organisation that helps the homeless in San Francisco by putting them back to work. Gopman has been involved with homeless issues ever since late 2013, when he vowed to educate himself on why San Francisco has such a widespread homeless problem. He first emerged publicly as a champion of the homeless in early 2015, when he wrote a long opinion piece, published on Business Insider, describing the scale of homelessness in SF and suggesting policy solutions.
Gopman vowed to do something about homelessness after he was humiliated when a Facebook rant he wrote about how annoying the homeless are went viral. In the post, he called homeless people in downtown San Francisco “degenerates [who] gather like hyenas, spit, urinate, taunt you, sell drugs, get rowdy, they act like they own the center of the city.” He suggested they be confined to less ritzy areas of the city. “It’s a burden and a liability having them so close to us,” the old post said. “Believe me, if they added the smallest iota of value I’d consider thinking different.”
Unsurprisingly, the spectacle of a young venture capitalist whose Linkedin says he has built three “multi-million dollar companies” moaning about the homeless touched a nerve, and he was forced to apologise.
But he went further than that, and in 2015 founded a pro-homeless organisation called A Better San Francisco, which also urged housing solutions for the poor.
Gopman joined Twitter in late September. Then, on October 18, Variety reported that he was working on new VR projects at the social media company. On the same day, TechCrunch wrote a story about his arrival at Twitter, re-quoting in full his entire deleted Facebook ramble from 2013.
Gopman figured Twitter must have known about his history, and his road-to-Damascus conversion, before the company hired him.
“I don’t know what the people at Twitter knew when they hired me. I assumed they ran a Google search on me,” he told Business Insider.
“I was hired for my merits working in the VR industry and because of my connections in the space. I started on [September] 28th … but the story of me being hired came out Tuesday [October 18].”
“I was working night and weekends making sure we were racing towards our goals. Everything was going great. Then the TC article came out. I did work phone calls all night. All positive. Then at 10am the next day I was called in and let go.”
Separately, a source told Business Insider that Gopman was a freelance contractor on a one-month contract, and the period of the agreement was up and not renewed. The timing wasn’t great, but he wasn’t fired, in other words.
When the news went public he was at Zendesk, three blocks down from Twitter’s HQ, at a celebration honouring DST workers who had done well in the program.
“Can someone never grow past their crimes or bad behaviour?” asked Baratunde Thurston, a Comedy Central writer, in a Facebook post protesting Gopman’s firing. “Why should he lose a job three years later when it seems he took real steps to make amends? TechCrunch are the arseholes here. … And Twitter are the cowards.”