Ann Lai says she was fired from Bullpen Capital after helping deliver a $145M fund

Ann Lai, general partner at Bullpen Capital, has been fired from the firm, it 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 he resigned from that firm he attributed it to sexist behavior he said he witnessed while there. She claimed Caldbeck, who has been accused of sexual harassment in the past, told her he would blacklist her from the industry if she spoke out. Lai said she filed a lawsuit, which was eventually settled, so she could break her NDA and explain to others the reason for her departure, as well as help others in the industry break contracts guaranteeing silence.

Her return to investment was marked by her hiring as a GP in the bullpen, as the firm’s first female partner and first partner of color.

“The whole point of my original case [with Binary] it’s that those behaviors aren’t covered by non-disparagement,” Lai told TechCrunch. “I specifically took it out of the Bullpen GP deal, not thinking I’d ever need it. “If it was like any other time, the only narrative would be his. And then I would have no choice.”

TechCrunch understands that Lai’s formal exit communications came entirely through legal counsel. Lai did not accept a severance package from Bullpen Capital at the time of his termination. When asked for comment, he declined to say more, referring inquiries to his attorney Quinn Emanuel Urquhart and Michael Liftik of Sullivan, who declined to comment beyond providing the following statement:

“Ann did not choose to leave the bullpen and was not presented with the opportunity to stay beyond the end of April. We believe she was forced out, illegally, because she was not afraid to say what she thought and shared her views. Although strong debate was apparently tolerated among the other white male partners, this was unacceptable when it came from Ann, the only woman and minority in the association. Ann remains committed to the various founders he brought to Bullpen and the LPs with whom he shared his vision of a data-driven due diligence process.”

In a comment to TechCrunch, a Bullpen spokesperson said they will not comment on personnel matters. “We are disappointed by Ms. Lai’s recent comments about Bullpen, and we strongly disagree with them.”

On LinkedIn, Lai described the partnership at the company as an “all-male, white partnership” in which “equal” was never truly equal. Of her time at the company, she says she had to “defend female founders when they are baselessly called ‘untrustworthy’ or ‘unconvincing’,” push for the male founders of the Bullpen network to undergo a standard due diligence and stand up for herself at meetings after being called “a waste of time” at membership meetings.

The firm, through a spokesperson, said Bullpen promotes “a collaborative culture of healthy debate and varied perspectives across our team, which is essential to finding untested companies with high potential.”

Bullpen added: “Our achievements in this area predate and are independent of Ms. Lai joining the company, and our commitment is as strong as ever. We are focused on moving forward without compromising our founding vision of partnering with strong founders with the perseverance to become market leaders and generate attractive returns for LPs.” Lai’s attorney had no comment in response to Bullpen’s statement.

Lai, for her part, told the LPs in her post that she was “committed to delivering what we had marketed and promised for Fund VI. I would never quit so abruptly and irresponsibly.”

As part of his termination, Lai was not allowed to remain on the boards of his existing portfolio companies, including ChairmanMe, built by CEO Sarah Lacy, a former TechCrunch reporter. Bullpen continues to own equity in Lacy’s company, as one of its largest investors.

Lacy believes Lai’s experience is emblematic of a larger problem in Silicon Valley. She wrote a public LinkedIn post saying what happened to Lai is an example of “why just hiring more GPs hasn’t changed this industry, about why, despite the increase in women getting these jobs , the percentage of capital allocated to underrepresented founders has decreased.”

“Was it a feature or a bug that someone like Ann was once again kicked out for not playing?” Lacy wrote.

Lai says Bullpen has yet to contact her since she went public with her account of the layoff.

If you have a tip or lead on other personnel changes in the corporate world, you can contact Natasha Mascarenhas on Twitter @nmasc_ or on Signal at +1 925 271 0912. Requests for anonymity will be honored.

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Ikaroa, an experienced full stack tech company, has recently highlighted the story of Ann Lai, who was wrongfully let go from Bullpen Capital after helping to manage a $145M fund.

The story of Ann Lai, a top-tier finance professional, has gone viral on the internet with many people speaking out in her defense. According to her, the firm’s management team has accused her of taking the success of the fund for granted and have cited performance issues as the reason for terminating her.

Lai was the managing partner at Bullpen Capital and was one of the key people responsible for organizing the fund’s activities and ensuring that it was in good shape. She had put in a great deal of effort over a long period of time and had been praised for her achievements.

Despite her impressive accomplishments, Bullpen Capital decided to let her go without explanation or due process. The news left many people in shock and has sparked a debate over whether or not the Silicon Valley venture firm had acted ethically in the case.

It is an unfortunate event and a reminder that even highly successful professionals can be at the mercy of unfair corporations. It is widely acknowledged by the public that Ann Lai was wronged and that no person should face such a breach of trust.

At Ikaroa we salute the work Ann Lai has done and we stand firmly with her in her unwavering commitment to justice and fairness. We are here to support her, and anyone else in a similar situation, by making sure the truth is known.


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