Today, everyone in Silicon Valley is once again going to be talking about Ellen Pao, the partner who dropped bombshell sexual discrimination allegations against her employer, famed venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.Today is the deadline for Kleiner’s lawyers to respond to Pao’s lawsuit. [UPDATE: Kleiner has filed its response, and as expected, it has denied substantially all of Pao’s claims.]
This case is about to get even messier, in other words.
It’s also provoked a much larger discussion about whether Silicon Valley is a meritocracy—or just an old-fashioned boy’s club driven by personal connections.
Pao is still coming to work every day—with many of the people we’ve included in our list. Some are named in Pao’s lawsuit. Some aren’t. But all have been swept up by the lawsuit’s broader impact.
If you know any of the players in the case and have information to share, please email [email protected]. Discretion is assured.
Ellen Pao had sex with another partner. Then she broke it off. She says he cut her out of business after that.
Pao, who graduated from Princeton with a degree in electrical engineering and Harvard with a JD and an MBA, worked at Microsoft, Tellme Networks, Danger Research, and BEA. She joined Kleiner Perkins in 2005 as John Doerr's chief of staff and a junior partner with the firm.
In 2006, according to her complaint, she had a brief sexual relationship with another partner, Ajit Nazre, who had allegedly repeatedly propositioned her. After she broke it off, Pao alleged that Nazre retaliated against her by cutting her out of meetings and email threads.
Pao is still working at Kleiner Perkins.
(A note: We aren't going to offer lengthy recitals of resumes or laundry lists of accomplishments here. Everyone involved is pretty much by definition at the top of their game. We've focused on the charges laid and how everyone's connected to each other.)
Doerr, Kleiner Perkins' most famed investor, backed Netscape, Amazon.com, and Google. But his push into cleantech hasn't gone nearly as well.
Nor, according to Pao's lawsuit, has his handling of her complaints. Pao, who started at Kleiner as Doerr's chief of staff, said she told Doerr about male partners' behaviour on several occasions between 2007 and 2011.
After Pao's lawsuit became public, Doerr issued a strongly worded statement, saying the firm had conducted an internal investigation and found her charges 'false.'
Alphonse 'Buddy' Fletcher Jr. is a controversial hedge-fund manager whose own legal history has fascinated watchers of the case. Lawyers we've spoken to say Kleiner's counsel would have a tough time bringing Fletcher's past up in court. Nevertheless, it's being talked about.
Fletcher sued his employer, brokerage Kidder Peabody, for discrimination and won $1.3 million in 1991. He's embroiled in a dispute with the famous Dakota co-op apartment, where he owns four units (he wanted to buy a fifth, and the co-op's board denied him).
Two men working for Fletcher as contractors sued Fletcher for sexual harassment. Both reached confidential settlements.
Before marrying Pao, Fletcher lived with a man. He received an award from the Harvard Gay & Lesbian Caucus in 2005 for his efforts in philanthropy and civil rights.
Fletcher and Pao are both members of the Aspen Institute's 2007 class of Crown Fellows, a prestigious business leadership award. According to a source, that's where he met Pao. Crown Fellows spend 24 days together in seminars which stretch over two years. Pao and Fletcher married in 2007.
In April, a judge ordered one of Fletcher's hedge funds liquidated, saying it was insolvent.
This is the Kleiner Partner whom Pao said she slept with. He's accused of retaliating after the affair ended.
Ajit Nazre, a former SAP executive, joined Kleiner Perkins in 2003 as part of the firm's push into cleantech investing.
Pao alleged that Nazre pressured her to have sex with him beginning with a business trip they took together to Germany in February 2006. Later that year, she had a brief sexual relationship with him, then broke things off.
She alleged that Nazre subsequently retaliated by cutting her out of meetings and email discussions.
In April, VentureWire and other outlets reported Nazre's departure from Kleiner Perkins. That came after Kleiner had launched an internal investigation of Pao's complaints.
Nothing's been heard from Nazre since.
Former KP partner Vinod Khosla sits on a board that Nazre used to sit on—and that Pao's qualified for.
But Kleiner's website now says that Vinod Khosla is the Kleiner board member for Kovio.
That seems like an unusual arrangement, since Khosla left Kleiner years ago to start his own firm, Khosla Ventures, and his title is 'partner emeritus.'
We'd point out that with her electrical engineering degree, Pao seems like she'd be a great candidate to take over the Kovio board seat.
Lane, the former COO of Oracle, joined Kleiner in 2000 as one of the architects of its push into green technology investing. That hasn't gone well--notable investments include Fisker, which has proven to be an also-ran to Tesla Motors in the electric-car race.
Pao said that she took her complaints about Nazre to Lane and said that Lane didn't act on them because he was Nazre's 'mentor.' Lane allegedly suggested to Pao that she resolve the issue by marrying Nazre.
Lane is not involved in the $525 million fund that Kleiner Perkins raised earlier this year, and--besides dealing with this lawsuit--he has his hands full as executive chairman of Hewlett-Packard, the ailing tech giant which recently announced it would lay off 27,000 employees.
By the way, Lane married Stephanie Herle, then one of his administrative assistants at Oracle, in 1995, after divorcing his first wife.
Randy Komisar, a cofounder of Claris and former lawyer for Apple, joined Kleiner Perkins in 2005, the same year as Pao. On Valentine's Day in 2007, Pao alleged that Komisar gave her a copy of The Book of Longing and asked her out to dinner. According to the book's front-flap description, it features 'playful and provocative' drawings. Pao's complaint says they're sexually explicit.
Here's Komisar talking about the lack of women in venture capital from a 2010 interview posted on YouTube:
There are not enough women in venture capital today. Venture capital tends to be clubby in the sense that you tend to have confidence and trust and perhaps better communication with people that you feel more like than people you feel less like. And that applies across gender as well.
Komisar went on to note that a younger generation of venture capitalists seemed more comfortable with diversity--including gender diversity.
In 2011, Pao alleged that Komisar told her that women weren't successful at Kleiner Perkins because they were 'quiet.'
Chi-Hua Chien, who's backed companies like Path and Klout for Kleiner, allegedly held parties at a Kleiner Perkins partner's home in San Francisco to which women weren't invited. Pao's complaint recounts a meeting where Doerr asked Chien why that happened. 'Women kill the buzz,' Chien allegedly said.
We've spoken to people who know Chien well. They say that he's got a dry sense of humour that may not come across out of context.
Gore, the former vice president who joined Kleiner Perkins in 2007, has an apartment in the St. Regis condo tower in San Francisco. So did Ellen Pao and her husband, until March 2012, when they sold it, according to public real-estate records.
We haven't found any other Kleiner partners who own units in the St. Regis. So we're pretty sure Gore's apartment was where Pao's alleging that Chi-Hua Chien hosted those men-only parties.
Pao's complaint said she found it embarrassing when partygoers ran into her in the building and asked if she was attending the parties Chien was throwing.
Gore, it's worth noting, has had his own problems with sexual-harassment cases. Three massage therapists lodged accusations against him in 2010, but the charges were subsequently dropped.
Ted Schlein runs Kleiner's digital investing efforts. Pao started reporting to Schlein in December 2009 after repeatedly asking to be transferred out of Kleiner's cleantech group where she worked with Nazre, according to her complaint.
In October 2011, according to Pao, Schlein and another male partner flew with Pao in Schlein's private jet to an event for CIOs in New York. On two nights, Pao said, Schlein and the other partner attended evening business events and didn't include Pao.
At a Kleiner Perkins party in Palo Alto, Calif. last month, according to Reuters reporter Sarah McBride, Schlein and other partners avoided Pao:
There, Pao held court on one side of the room, greeted with hugs and hearty handshakes by a number of start-up entrepreneurs she has worked with. Meanwhile, other Kleiner partners at the bash-- including Matt Murphy and Ted Schlein-- clutched their drinks and steered clear of their suddenly famous colleague.
Seidenberg is one of 13 women partners at Kleiner Perkins, which has an unusually high number of women partners for the venture-capital industry.
When asked about Pao's complaint, in a statement to The New York Times, Seidenberg said:
I was drawn to the firm because of its diversity and have excelled here as have other women. Everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed.
In March, according to the complaint, Kleiner formed an investment committee for its new $525 million fund. Only one woman was named to that 10-person committee: Seidenberg.
Pao cited her exclusion from the committee as one of the firm's discriminatory acts.
There is no more powerful voice about investing in the future of the Internet than Meeker. Period. She joined Kleiner in January 2011 after a long career at Morgan Stanley, where she was the most influential analyst covering public Internet companies.
She called the original Internet revolution in 1995 and followed up with pathbreaking analyses of the growth of Internet use in China and on mobile devices. She now oversees Kleiner's late-stage digital investments in companies like Groupon and Zynga.
She hasn't spoken about the Pao case. We're told that she would like to.
Lee has built up Kleiner Perkins' reputation in next-generation e-commerce startups, many of them founded by women, like One Kings Lane and Rent The Runway.
But Lee has loosened her ties with Kleiner. She remains a partner, but her focus is on a new, independent seed fund. (Kleiner has put money into Lee's investment vehicle, but it's not a fund run by the partnership.)
It's striking, given the context of Pao's complaints, that Lee has chosen to operate more independently.
Lee hasn't spoken about the case, as far as we know.
In late May, Kleiner announced that it was hiring Megan Quinn, a veteran of two high-profile Kleiner-backed startups, Square and Google, as a new partner.
Recruiting a partner at a venture-capital firm takes months, sometimes years, so it's hard to argue the timing was anything but a coincidence.
Still, people inevitably made a connection between the hiring of a woman partner and the filing of Pao's lawsuit. But come on: What was Kleiner supposed to do? Delay Quinn's hire? Life goes on in a lawsuit--and part of life at Kleiner involves continuing to hire eminently qualified women as partners.
Among other board seats she holds on Kleiner's behalf, Pao is a director of Flipboard, a hotly watched maker of mobile, social content-reading apps. That's one of the investments that could help redeem the firm's reputation as a keen observer of Silicon Valley trends.
Before joining Kleiner, Pao worked at a number of technology companies, including Tellme Networks, an enterprise-voice startup acquired by Microsoft. Mike McCue, the cofounder and CEO, went on to cofound Flipboard, where he's the CEO.
He wrote on Quora that Pao did a number of technology-licensing deals for Tellme and praised her work. More recently, he declared himself a continued supporter of both Pao and Kleiner.
'Both are excellent and have helped tremendously,' he said on Twitter--another Kleiner investment where, by the way, he is a board member.
With all those interlocking ties, it's understandable that McCue doesn't want to take sides. He's representative of a vast group of entrepreneurs, executives, and fellow investors in Silicon Valley who are caught in the middle of this polarising case.
John Amster is the CEO of RPX, a San Francisco-based company which helps its customers manage the risk of patent lawsuits.
It's one of two portfolio companies listed on Pao's Kleiner Perkins biography as examples of successful exits.
Pao's complaint does not name RPX, but it mentions a San Francisco-based company which went public in the middle of 2011. That could only be RPX, whose IPO was in May 2011.
According to Pao's complaint, she was primarily responsible for getting Kleiner to invest in the company. But both Nazre and Komisar allegedly stepped in between Pao and RPX.
At one point, Pao said she was courting a CEO to join the board of a company she was backing. (VentureBeat reported that the company in question was RPX.) Nazre allegedly convinced the CEO to join the board of one of his companies instead.
According to Pao's chronology of events, when Kleiner invested in RPX, the firm's partners awarded a seat on the board to Komisar. The complaint says Doerr told Pao that she deserved the seat but Komisar 'needed a win.'
According to Pao's complaint, several RPX board members wanted Komisar kicked off the board, but Kleiner partners ordered Pao to cut off contact with RPX so Komisar could build a better relationship with the company.
Komisar remains a board member of RPX.
Reached by phone, an RPX spokesman declined to comment on the case.
Three administrative assistants and a junior partner also alleged harassment, according to Pao's complaint
Pao's complaint mentions three administrative assistants who allegedly complained of sexual harassment by Kleiner partners in May 2007.
In December 2011, according to the complaint, another junior partner overseen by Nazre told higher-ups that he sexually harassed her.
Kleiner launched an investigation. Nazre subsequently left the firm.