CEO Fired After Alleged LSD Usage Before Investor Meeting, Claims Discrimination

Iterable CEO Justin Zhu was fired on April 26 after investors discovered he allegedly took LSD before an important meeting with a prominent investor group. 

About the company: Iterable is a California-based company that was founded in 2013 by Zhu who took his idea and turned it into a company valued at $2 billion. 

  • Iterable is a market platform that unites brands with their customers. 
  • Zhu revealed to  Bloomberg Businessweek that he felt “alienated” because his company became “too focused on sales and money.” 
  • His departure announcement from the company stated he did not comply with the company policy. He has been replaced by his co-founder Andrew Boni and is currently  taking “time to reflect” from the “trauma.” 

Reason for microdosing: Zhu allegedly microdosed LSD before an important meeting in 2019 with potential investors to regain focus and heal his “trauma,” according to his interview with Bloomberg. 

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  • Zhu met an entrepreneur who proposed he take small quantities of the illegal drug to “improve his concentration and overall well-being.” 
  • He revealed that he preferred a therapist but researched the subject instead. 
  • He discovered that several entrepreneurs including Steve Jobs and Bill Gates took the drug which inspired him to try it, reaffirming that he only took the drug one time that year. 
  • Despite LSD being illegal, microdosing to increase productivity was prevalent among many Silicon Valley entrepreneurs according to reports from New York Times and Forbes

Why he spoke up: The Shanghai-born, former CEO called his investors out on being discriminatory and “pattern-matching” after they wanted to replace him. 

  • Zhu wanted to set an example for East Asian immigrants by running his company with “eastern values,” which doesn’t mean he’s “not equipped to be CEO.” 
  • He claims the disputes with his investors “amounted to discrimination even if it doesn’t fit the stereotypical image of racial bias” and only received feedback about his values rather than his work performance. 
  • The Atlanta shootings in March 2021 inspired Zhu to tell his story as a CEO, what challenges he faced due to being Chinese and opening up about his relationship with his investors. Zhu’s investors reportedly asked him not to speak with the press, but he claimed he would rather “tell the story and even be fired.” 

Featured Image via Bloomberg Technology

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