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 on Monday. Lai helped raise Bullpen Capital’s most up-to-date fund, a $145 million investment vehicle, the primary investment vehicle wherein she was named an equal partner.
Before joining Bullpen Capital in September 2020, Lai was a principal at Binary Capital, co-founded by investor Justin Caldbeck. When she resigned from that firm she attributed it to the sexist behavior that she said she witnessed while there. She claimed that Caldbeck, who has been accused of sexual harassment in the past, told her he would blacklist her from the industry if she spoke up. Lai said that she filed a lawsuit – ultimately settled – to have the opportunity to interrupt her NDA and tell others the explanation behind her departure., in addition to help others within the industry break past silence-guaranteeing contracts.
Her return to investing was marked by her hire as a GP at Bullpen, because the firm’s first female partner and first partner of color.
“The entire point of my original case [with Binary] is that such behaviors usually are not covered by non-disparagement,” Lai told TechCrunch. “I specifically carved it out of the GP agreement for Bullpen, not pondering that I used to be ever going to want it. “If it were like several other time the one narrative can be theirs. After which I’d haven’t any options.”
It’s TechCrunch’s understanding that Lai’s formal exit communications happened entirely through legal counsel. Lai didn’t accept a severance package from Bullpen Capital on the time of her termination. Asked for comment, she declined to say more, referring inquiries to her attorney Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan’s Michael Liftik, who declined to comment beyond providing the next statement:
“Ann didn’t select to go away Bullpen and he or she was not presented with a chance to remain past the top of April. We consider she was forced out, illegally, because she was not afraid to talk her mind and share her views. While robust debate was apparently tolerated among the many other white male partners, this was unacceptable when it got here from Ann, the one woman and minority within the partnership. Ann stays committed to the various founders she dropped at Bullpen and the LPs with whom she shared her vision for a data-informed diligence process.”
In a comment to TechCrunch, a spokesperson for Bullpen said that they usually are not going to comment on personnel matters. “We’re disillusioned by Ms. Lai’s recent comments about Bullpen, and we strongly disagree with them.”
On LinkedIn, Lai described the partnership on the firm as an “all-white, all-male partnership” wherein “‘equal’ wasn’t ever truly equal.” Of her time within the firm, she claims that she needed to “defend female founders once they’re baselessly called ‘untrustworthy” or “uncompelling,’” push for male founders inside Bullpen’s network to undergo standard due diligence, and arise for herself in meetings after being called “a waste of time” in partner meetings.
The firm, through a spokesperson, said that Bullpen promotes “a collaborative culture of healthy debate and varied perspectives amongst our entire team, which is crucial to finding unproven corporations with high potential.”
Bullpen added: “Our accomplishments on this area predate and are independent of Ms. Lai joining the firm, and our commitment is as strong as ever. We’re focused on moving forward without compromising on our founding vision of partnering with strong founders with the perseverance to turn into market leaders and generating attractive returns for LPs.” Lai’s lawyer didn’t have a comment in response to Bullpen’s statement.
Lai, meanwhile, told LPs in her post that she “was committed to delivering what we had marketed & promised for Fund VI. I’d never quit so abruptly & irresponsibly.”
As a part of her termination, Lai was not allowed to remain on the boards of her existing portfolio corporations – including ChairmanMe, built by CEO Sarah Lacy, a former journalist at TechCrunch. Bullpen continues to own equity in Lacy’s company, as one in all its biggest investors.
Lacy believes Lai’s experience is emblematic of a bigger issue inside Silicon Valley. She wrote a public LinkedIn post saying that what happened to Lai is an example of “why just hiring more female GPs has not modified this industry, about why despite the rise of girls getting these jobs, the proportion of capital going to underrepresented founders has decreased. “
“Was it a feature or a bug that somebody like Ann has been – once more– driven out for not playing the sport?” Lacy wrote.
Lai says that Bullpen has not yet been in contact together with her since she went public together with her account of the termination.
If you’ve a tip or lead about other personnel shake ups within the enterprise world, you may reach Natasha Mascarenhas on Twitter @nmasc_ or on Signal at +1 925 271 0912. Anonymity requests will probably be respected.