PR Disaster Timeline: Tech Execs in Trouble (Last 12 Months)

Just how many times have tech companies hit a PR speedbump, not because of their performance as a business, but due to reports of bad personal behavior associated with their top executives? That question came up while we were talking about crisis communication strategies, so our Googling expert Liz started compiling a press archive, which quickly grew and grew (and grew)to the point where we had to confine it to just the last twelve months.

Here’s what we have so far:

  • Peter Shih “10 Things I Hate About You” Post Draws San Francisco’s Ire, Confirms Startup Stereotypes: “Shih, who was last year accepted to the prestigious start-up accelerator Y Combinator, listed his gripes with the city, peppering in healthy doses of misogyny, homophobia and a general disregard for socioeconomic inequality.” (August 2013).
     

  • Business Insider Fires CTO Pax Dickinson Over Offensive Tweets: A day after Valleywag raised a stink over Dickinson’s habit of using Twitter to share his views on feminism, poverty and race relations, he is out of the company. ‘Forced to resign’ is how Daily Intel characterizes it; I’m told he was simply ‘fired.’ (September 2013)
     

  • San Francisco Techie Says “Lower Part of Society” Should Be Segregated: “Greg Gopman, founder of AngelHack, infamously fanned the flames with a Facebook rant about his thoughts of the less fortunate. He wrote: "In downtown SF the degenerates gather like hyenas, spit, urinate, taunt you, sell drugs, get rowdy, they act like they own the center of the city... There is nothing positive gained from having them so close to us." (December 2013)
     

  • Relationship Status: Call My Lawyer: “As he built TechCrunch into a multi-million-dollar empire, blogger-investor Michael Arrington became a one-man nexus of power in Silicon Valley. Now he’s on the defensive, denying accusations that he raped an ex-girlfriend and abused two other women.” (December 2013)
     

  • Uber CEO mocks ‘surge pricing’ complaints on Facebook: “The mess that resulted from Uber’s surge pricing ordinarily would have the average CEO running for the cover under which they’d stay for several days following. But not Kalanick, who posted an angry customer letter to his Facebook page with the comment ‘Get some popcorn and scroll down.’” (December 2013)
     

  • Github Founder Steps Down After Harassment Probe: Tom Preston-Werner—founder of the immensely popular social coding site GitHub and its most prominent executive—has left the company in the wake of widely publicized sexual harassment investigation. In her TechCrunch article, [Julie] Horvath said she was bullied after spurning one GitHubber’s sexual advances, and then harassed by the wife of a company founder, presumably Preston-Werner’s wife, Theresa.” (April 2014)
     

  • RadiumOne CEO Gurbaksh Chahal Says He Didn’t Do It: “RadiumOne CEO Gurbaksh Chahal has been charged with domestic violence117 violent acts during a 30-minute assault on his girlfriend.” (April 2014)
     

  • The Complete Saga (So Far) of PayPal Vs. Former Executive Rakesh Agrawal: “PayPal's new director of strategy Rakesh ‘Rocky’ Agrawal was reportedly at Jazz Fest in New Orleans when he decided to take to Twitter and bash co-workers. He was promptly fired, although Agrawal claims he quit before sending the tweets.” (May 2014)
     

  • Rap Genius Co-Founder Moghadam Fired Over Tasteless Comments on Santa Barbara Shooting: “Mahbod Moghadam has been fired from the annotation service after posting appalling comments on the memoir of mass murderer Elliot Rodger. Moghadam added a tasteless series of comments, including ‘beautifully written’ and also ‘MY GUESS: his sister is smokin hot.’” (May 2014)
     

  • Silicon Valley Tech Execs Behaving Badly: “AOL CEO Tim Armstrong epitomizes the arrogant tech executive... [On a] conference call, Armstrong cited a couple of employees' ‘distressed babies’ as reasons for reducing retirement benefits.” (May 2014)
     

  • Snapchat CEO ‘Mortified’ By Leaked Stanford Frat E-mails: “Chief Executive Officer Evan Spiegel apologized for e-mails he sent during his fraternity days that celebrated getting drunk and convincing sorority women to perform sexual acts.” (May 2014)
     

  • NextDoor CEO Nirav Tolia Pleads No Contest to Reduced Charge in Hit and Run:Tolia, who runs neighborhood social network Nextdoor, was charged with a not-so-neighborly felony hit and run last month after he merged suddenly into another lane on 101 just south of San Francisco and caused a woman to lose control of her car and spin into the center median, injuring her hand and neck.” (June 2014)
     

  • The Truth About Tinder and Women is Even Worse Than You Think: “"As Tinder has gained more and more notoriety, there have been numerous examples of [co-founders] Rad and Mateen’s poor judgment—more of them Mateen’s. Last summer, I noticed that both had posted a screenshot of a new Urban Dictionary term, 'Tinderslut,' to their Instagram feeds... [And a] photo of an overweight black man looking joyful on President Obama’s reelection night—Mateen joked in a caption that he was happy about '4 more years of food stamp' [sic]." (July 2014)
     

  • CEO of StartUp Urban Airship Leaves Company After Being Accused of Sexually Assaulting His Ex-Girlfriend. “Portland police have been quietly investigating Urban Airship co-founder and CEO Scott Kveton for the alleged sexual assault of a former girlfriend, reports The Oregonian.” (July 2014)

That’s fourteen in twelve months, and it’s very likely we missed some. (If we did, please let us know in Comments or to us on Twitter, and we’ll update.) We don’t mean to dwell on the negative, however—next week, Amy will highlight some great VCs doing their best to set a far better example.

Update, July 17: Via Twitter, VentureBeat's Dylan Tweney suggests another addition to this list: "Vinod Khosla's 'get off my public beach' court battle." (Read about that one on VentureBeat here.)