Recode Daily: Here’s the story behind VC Steve Jurvetson’s sudden fall from grace

Plus Jack Dorsey’s “other” company is worth more than Twitter, bidders for Rolling Stone and Weinberg Co., and Detroit is building its own internet.

Here’s the story behind VC Steve Jurvetson’s sudden fall from grace. Jurvetson is the highest-profile VC to be ousted since women this year started to speak out about a range of abuse from male investors in Silicon Valley and beyond. He was recently pushed out of DFJ, the premier venture capital firm he co-founded, after an internal investigation found, in part, a pattern of dishonesty with women, including extramarital affairs that, in the eyes of some, crossed into the professional world. [Theodore Schleifer / Recode]

Two years after going public, Square — CEO Jack Dorsey’s “other” company — is worth more than Twitter. The mobile payments startup had a market value of $ 16.5 billion — more than a billion dollars above Twitter’s market cap. Meanwhile, after the recent controversy over “verifying” a white supremacist, Twitter’s new guidelines around violence and physical harm say users can lose verified status for bad behavior both on and off the service. [Rani Molla /Recode]

A handful of bidders are circling Rolling Stone, which was recently put up for sale by founder Jann Wenner, who has run it for 50 years. In the mix are trade publisher Jay Penske, Bustle CEO Bryan Goldberg and music exec Irving Azoff. And a surprise bidder has emerged for the rudderless Weinstein Co. Maria Contreras-Sweet, who led the Small Business Administration under President Obama, is proposing a majority-female board of directors there, and attorney Gloria Allred is on board with the plan. [Peter Kafka / Recode]

Meet Amazon’s nearly invisible workforce of “last-mile” delivery workers, self-employed plainclothes contractors who drive their own cars and compete for shifts on the company’s Uber-like app platform called Amazon Flex. Here’s how it works — and what the mass-contractor model is like for the driver when it doesn’t. [Bryan Menegus / Gizmodo]

Charles Manson, one of the most famous killers of the 20th century, is dead at 83. Manson was convicted of leading his ‘family ‘ to commit nine murders in the late 1960s. Since then, the group ‘has occupied a dark, persistent place in American culture — and American commerce. It has inspired, among other things, pop songs, an opera, films, a host of internet fan sites, T-shirts, children’s wear and half the stage name of the rock musician Marilyn Manson.” [Margalit Fox / New York Times]

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Steve Jurvetson was pushed out of his firm as the lines between personal and professional crossed

Jurvetson was asked to leave because DFJ caught him lying about what it considered serious allegations.

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.

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 evening as a VIP. 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 beneath those investors’ names were their job titles.

Jurvetson’s was blank.


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New Apple video blurs the line between iPad Pro and computer, repeats Steve Jobs ‘post-PC’ concept

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Apple has published a new YouTube video, and with it is repeating the message that "a post-PC world may be closer than you think."
AppleInsider – Frontpage News

Steve Jurvetson defends himself: ‘No such allegations are true’

Jurvetson posted a nearly 400-word statement on Facebook on Tuesday.

High-profile investor Steve Jurvetson vigorously defended himself a day after he left his namesake venture capital firm, asserting that it was due to a cratering of his relationship with his partners and not because of an ongoing investigation into sexual harassment.

“I left DFJ because of interpersonal dynamics with my partners,” he wrote. “It’s incredibly sad to see how things broke down, and the acrimony that arose between us.”

Jurvetson also refuted the many allegations that have been leveled against him, including conduct issues, and claimed his departure from DFJ had nothing to do with that. The 390-word Facebook post served as Jurvetson’s most extensive public rebuttal to the variety of rumors swirling around Silicon Valley him in recent weeks.

“It is excruciating to learn just how quickly, in one news cycle, people conclude that because I have left DFJ there must be some credence to vicious and wholly false allegations about sexual predation and workplace harassment,” he said. “Let me be perfectly clear: no such allegations are true.”

The high-profile investor founded the storied VC firm DFJ, and has backed prominent companies like SpaceX and Tesla. Jurvetson was put on leave from both those boards by those companies yesterday.

As Recode reported, Jurvetson left DFJ under “mutual agreement” Monday, which came after the firm launched an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct. Jurvetson has denied the claims and promised to take legal action against those whom he says have defamed him.

He also alluded to the fact that there were difficult issues in his personal life that had no business being aired.

“I think my personal life, and other people’s personal lives, should stay personal. It should not be in the court of public opinion,” he wrote. “This is the last I will say on this subject for the foreseeable future.”

That said he did detail that personal life a bit in his post, noting: “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.”

Here’s Jurvetson’s full statement:

How does one respond to accusations so serious that being innocent is not a good enough defense? It is excruciating to learn just how quickly, in one news cycle, people conclude that because I have left DFJ there must be some credence to vicious and wholly false allegations about sexual predation and workplace harassment. Let me be perfectly clear: no such allegations are true.

The headlines, so far, arise from the juxtaposition of events, and the wrongful assumption that my departure must be due to a conclusory finding from the ongoing DFJ investigation, which began not with a complaint, but with unsubstantiated rumors.

I left DFJ because of interpersonal dynamics with my partners. The three-month investigation, that has yet to conclude (and I welcome the results whenever that takes place), broke down a normal team dynamic into factions that isolate communications and defer to the advice of lawyers. Add a modicum of stress (such as implied allegations in the press) and deadlines (our annual LP meeting is today), and people show a different side of their personality. I did. So did my partners. It’s incredibly sad to see how things broke down, and the acrimony that arose between us.

I have learned a great deal from this experience. I have seen how my communication style can be hurtful in times of stress. This has affected my relationship with my partners and in my personal life. I have learned that a personal relationship (one that doesn’t involve employees, or prospective employees, or others in the workplace) is not so personal or private after all. 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.

I think my personal life, and other people’s personal lives, should stay personal. It should not be in the court of public opinion. This is the last I will say on this subject for the foreseeable future.

I am incredibly appreciative of the outpouring of support from people who know me, and most especially from my family. Thank you so much.

I am excited to move on and get back to my professional passion, helping great entrepreneurs forge the future.


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Steve Chien, NASA: On how automation helps monitor natural hazards and the future of AI

Remember the volcanic eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull, back in 2010? Those whose flights were cancelled in the chaos probably retain a mild annoyance. Those in the industry caught in the crossfire, on the other hand, may well break out in a cold sweat to this day just thinking about it.

Why? The industry simply wasn’t ready for the disruption. The resultant six-day travel ban from Eyjafjallajökull’s emissions led to the following: more than 95,000 cancelled flights; approximately 10 million passengers caught up; and an estimated total loss for the airline industry of $ 1.7 billion (£1.1bn).

Today, there are now global networks of sensors on volcanoes, linked with satellites, producing relevant alerts to help organisations make the right decisions. The data generated by this, through seismic sensors, remote imaging, atmospheric modelling and more, goes into the terabits each day. As more processes become automated, through artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, more can get done.

Yet this may just be the beginning. Steve Chien (left), head of the artificial intelligence group at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL), argues that while AI has been used to detect and track natural hazards for many years, the increase in sensor data has been more of a recent phenomenon.

“The explosion in available sensor data is revolutionising how science and applied science can be performed,” he says. “In the past, there was a lot of time to figure out how to best use the data, to interpret the data, often with a human in the loop. Now with the flood of data available, the challenge is to accurately leverage the immense amounts of data.

“As a consequence, automation must be everywhere – automated workflows to start, machine learning in some cases, and active sensing to close the loop.”

This leads to a wider discussion around AI hype. ‘AI hype has peaked – so what’s next?’ asked TechCrunch in September. Another article proclaims the AI hype train ‘is already off the rails.’ Gartner’s most recent Hype Cycle makes for interesting reading: while deep learning and machine learning are atop the peak hype sector, artificial general intelligence has more than 10 years left in its journey.

Chien puts it this way. “Recent successes in very specific focused tasks of image classification have certainly garnered significant attention of late,” he says. “While this has been great for a specific class of applications, the challenge is to maintain momentum on a broader front in the longer march towards greater proficiency in a wider range of cognitive tasks.”

The end goal for artificial intelligence, however, is another topic up for debate. Of course, this is a sphere in which some of the biggest names in technology are debating – and disagreeing. Elon Musk famously called Mark Zuckerberg’s knowledge of the field ‘limited’ a few months back, advocating the view that, if there is not appropriate regulation, AI could pose a ‘fundamental risk to the existence of civilisation.’

Chien gives a more nuanced view – and stresses that ignorance, in this issue, is more remiss than bliss. “One major concern is that specific achievements in classification have led to people not in the field to come to the conclusion that some sort of super-intelligent AI system will take over the world and lead to a dystopian future,” he explains.

“People within the field have a more nuanced view in which there is a better understanding that a dramatic increase in one specialised skill within AI does not mean that ‘general superintelligence’ is imminent.

“Importantly, policy and decision making regarding regulation of AI needs to be driven by people who understand the technology, which comes from sustained experience in working with the technology,” adds Chien. “If AI is poorly regulated or constrained, the immense promise of AI to enhance and improve life will be hampered or, even worse, squandered.”

Chien is speaking at the IoT Tech Expo event in Santa Clara on November 29-30 on how AI and the IoT can track volcanic activity, flooding and wildfires, and as for what the audience will come away with, the message is simple: AI is enhancing earth science, monitoring of natural hazards, and, more generally, space exploration.

“AI is here and now at JPL and NASA,” says Chien, adding that many of the technologies and lessons learned have commercial applications with spinoffs already occuring. “We have a sustained program in AI, and AI in the context of IoT, and this program has had a continuous stream of successes.”

Find out more about IoT Tech Expo North America, taking place at the Santa Clara Convention Center on November 29-30, by visiting here.

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