Ann Lai, a general partner at Bullpen Capital, has been fired from the firm, she says. The investor described the termination experience as “discriminatory and retaliatory” in a LinkedIn post published Monday. Lai helped raise Bullpen Capital’s most recent fund, a $145 million investment vehicle, the first investment vehicle in which she was named an equal partner.
Prior to joining Bullpen Capital in September 2020, Lai was a director at Binary Capital, co-founded by investor Justin Caldbeck. When she resigned from that company, she attributed it to the sexist behavior she said she witnessed there. She claimed Caldbeck, who has been accused of sexual harassment in the past, told her he would blacklist her if she spoke out. Lai said she filed a lawsuit — eventually settled — to break her non-disclosure agreement and tell others the reason behind her departure, as well as help others in the industry break previous tacit contracts.
Her return to investing was marked by her appointment as a general practitioner at Bullpen, as the firm’s first female partner and first partner of color.
“The whole point of my original case [with Binary] is that such behavior is not covered by non-pettiness,” Lai told EntertainmentCab. “I specifically took it out of the GP agreement for Bullpen, not thinking I would ever need it.” If it were like any other time , the only story would be theirs. And then I would have no options.”
It is EntertainmentCab’s understanding that Lai’s formal exit communication was done entirely through legal counsel. Lai was not accepting severance pay from Bullpen Capital at the time of her termination. When asked for comment, she declined to say more, referring to her attorney Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan’s Michael Liftik, who declined to comment except for the following statement:
“Ann did not choose to leave Bullpen and she was not given the opportunity to stay after the end of April. We believe she was forced to leave illegally because she was not afraid to speak up and share her views. Although while vigorous debate was apparently tolerated among the other white male partners, this was unacceptable if it came from Ann, the only female and minority in the partnership Ann remains committed to the diverse founders she brought to Bullpen and the LPs with whom she shared her vision for a data-informed diligence process.”
In a response to EntertainmentCab, a Bullpen spokesperson said they would not be commenting on personnel matters. “We are disappointed by Ms. Lai’s recent comments about Bullpen, and we strongly disagree.”
On LinkedIn, Lai described the partnership at the company as an “all white, all male partnership” where “‘equal’ was never really equal”. Of her time at the company, she claims she had to “defend female founders when they were unfoundedly labeled ‘unreliable’ or ‘unattractive'”, and urged male founders within the Bullpen network to undergo standard due diligence and fend for themselves. come. in meetings after being called “a waste of time” in partner meetings.
The company said through a spokesperson that Bullpen “promotes a collaborative culture of healthy debate and diverse perspectives across our entire team, which is key to finding high-potential, unproven companies.”
Bullpen added: “Our achievements in this area predate and are independent of Ms. Lai’s joining the company, and our commitment is as strong as ever. We are focused on moving forward without compromising our core vision of partnering with strong founders with the perseverance to become market leaders and generate attractive LP returns. Lai’s attorney had no comment on Bullpen’s statement.
Lai, meanwhile, told LPs in her post that she was “determined to deliver what we marketed and promised for Fund VI. I would never stop so abruptly and irresponsibly.”
As part of her resignation, Lai was barred from remaining on the boards of her existing portfolio companies, including ChairmanMe, built by CEO Sarah Lacy, a former journalist at EntertainmentCab. Bullpen will continue to own equity in Lacy’s company, as one of the largest investors.
Lacy believes Lai’s experience is symbolic of a bigger problem in Silicon Valley. She wrote a public LinkedIn post saying what happened to Lai is an example of “why just hiring more female GPs hasn’t changed this industry, about why despite the increase in the number of women getting these jobs , the percentage of capital going to underrepresented founders has fallen. . “
“Was it a feature or a bug that someone like Ann was – again – expelled for not playing the game?” Lacy wrote.
Lai says Bullpen has not contacted her since she made her report of the termination public.
If you have any tips or clues about other personnel shakeups in the corporate world, you can reach Natasha Mascarenhas on Twitter @nmasc_ or on Signal at +1 925 271 0912. Anonymity requests are respected.