Words cannot describe the rage and horror reading the 22-page complaint on file at the Superior Court of San Mateo. I painstakingly combed through each visceral detail in the document. Your cryptic messages, spontaneous outbursts and emotional breakdowns over the past fourteen months all started to make sense. How much fear and anxiety did you internalize and keep out of public view due to the non-disclosure and non-disparagement provisions of your previous employment contract? All this time, you told me everything was okay, but something wasn’t right.
Let’s rewind back to September 2015 when we first met at an eSports viewing party. I just moved to Los Angeles at the time, so I didn’t know many people. Coincidentally, you were visiting from my former home of San Francisco. From our first conversations on untapped market opportunities and business models in eSports, I knew that you were (and still are) an incredibly intelligent and accomplished individual. When we discussed how to better support eSports athletes after competitive play, I respected your strong moral compass and willingness to help those in need. When you suggested we meet up in Berlin for 36 hours to attend an eSports championship, I became inspired by your adventurous spirit and infectious energy.
Since then, we’ve spent quite a bit of time with each other. I was impressed when you explained the data-driven sourcing strategy behind your firm’s potential investments and they key performance metrics and frameworks in which you evaluated these companies. (After all, you finished her bachelors degree in chemistry and physics, masters in applied mathematics and doctorate degree in engineering sciences from Harvard in seven years.) In addition, you are not afraid to roll up your sleeves and get sh*t done. You recounted countless moments where you worked with your portfolio companies to get them to their next growth milestone. We also stayed up late the night before to set up the first mobile LAN event at SXSW Gaming.
During this time, we both faced hardships with our respective companies as 2016 progressed. I made the decision to resign from my previous employer in April 2016. As part of the transition, I agreed to represent the company officially at an event in Croatia towards the end of my tenure. When you told me that your managers rewarded you with an all-expenses paid vacation and you decided to accompany me in Croatia, I was grateful and relieved that I wouldn’t be alone.
At the beginning of the trip, we had a blast. We explored the Croatian coast and islands. We walked around abandoned hotels where they filmed Game of Thrones. We consumed plenty of grilled fish and seafood pasta, and your managers even gifted hotel spa packages.
Even though you were on vacation, you were still dedicated and checked emails in case something urgent came up from the partners or the portfolio companies. Each time you checked your email, I noticed your shoulders sunk a little bit as your face tightened with worry. As the days passed, you spent more time on your phone with increased apprehension. I asked if everything was okay, but you always said “It’s fine. Don’t worry about it.” Every time I asked, I noticed it took a second longer for a response. Nonetheless, you always smiled back or try to soften the mood with a joke or two.
Since then, I knew something wasn’t right. A week later, you told me saying your “all-expenses paid” vacation wasn’t going to happen, so I sent some money to share the burden. You even asked about my summer travel plans and invited me to stay with you in Taiwan the following month. Why would you go on another vacation so soon?
Shortly after, you resigned from Binary. You visited me in LA before I started my summer travels. When we were catching up in my room, I turned my back on you for a minute only to discover you suddenly crying in the corner behind my bed. I asked, “What happened between you and your employer?” You only could stare back at me with anguish, and your tears continued to fall. All I could do was sit silently next to you until you finished. Then you carried on if nothing happened. I was hurt because I thought, as friends, you would be comfortable to tell me what troubled you.
In June, you set off on your backpacking adventure. We met up briefly in Taipei for an afternoon, but we lost contact for most of the summer outside of occasional Facebook or Snapchat messages. When you finally came back to San Francisco at the end of the summer, you announced your move to New York City in October.
This was quite sudden. Although you had a penchant for spontaneous adventures, you were always more calculated and cautious with your career. You rationalized how this fast-growing company may IPO in the near future, but I knew you were running away from something. What is causing you to suddenly pack up and leave the life you built in San Francisco?
In December 2016, you decided to come back to San Francisco and work for Facebook. Facebook? You not only thrived on architecting growth for early-stage high-growth companies, but you also treated the companies you work with like family. Choosing a slower-paced company like Facebook seemed a little odd, but I supported your decision.
Everything on your former boss, Justin, and Binary Capital broke last week. Your withdrawals, breakdowns and mood swings all made sense in light of the harassment, toxic work environment, and continuous threats on your reputation combined with the gag order from your employment contract. The power imbalance between you and your former employer placed you in a position where you had nowhere to go. I was horrified when reading the messages from Justin below.
The Silicon Valley hubris is real. Justin relentlessly continued to threaten and blackmail you long after your resigned. Even the cease-and-desist letter didn’t stop Binary from intervening and shutting down prospective employment leads. They really thought they could sweep this under the rug and get away with it.
I could only imagine the desperation, loneliness and anguish you felt when your job leads dried up and “friends” started to abandon you. There was no place you could turn except to the few who stood by your side whether they are here or abroad. Even through all this personal turmoil, you still remained as positive as you can be and went out of your way to help people you care about succeed.
All I did was stand silently by your side as you suffered alone. I didn’t push further because I was afraid. Reflecting back, this was wrong, and I should have done more. When I doubted myself in the last year, you have always been supportive of pursuing my dreams and generously offered your time and resources during my journey of self-discovery and entrepreneurship. You’re one of the strongest and courageous women I know. Being virtually by your side and supporting you via text are not enough. This is why I came back to San Francisco to not only launch my new company but to also become your voice and light in times of darkness.
My friend, you have escaped the cage. Your wings are stretched out. Now fly. I got your back here and wherever you want to go.