Mahesh Murthy, influential investor, faces string of molestation allegations
Mahesh Murthy, founder of Pinstorm and partner at venture capital firm Seedfund, has been regularly cropping up in headlines since a few months for allegedly sexually abusing several women. Many alleged victims have shared screenshots and described their experiences with him. This comes not long after other such incidents - TVF founder Arunabh Kumar and Scoopwhoop co-founder Suparn Pandey were also accused of sexual-misbehaviour.
Cycle started in 2003, 19-yr-old was one of the victims
FactorDaily, which has reported extensively on the matter, date the incidents to 2003, when then 19-year-old Swati Pandey was allegedly forcibly touched and kissed by him at a cafe and then during a ride to Bandra. The same year, Anamika, who had moved to Mumbai from Chandigarh met Murthy to discuss business, wondered if this is the "big-city" norm after he made unwanted advances.
Allegations come up against Murthy one after another
In February, Pooja Chauhan, co-founder of Vayuz.com, shared screenshots of her conversations with Murthy; she had wished him a Merry Christmas, and he replied, "XXXes under the mistletoe for you, babe!" A few days later, entrepreneur Wamika Iyer took to LinkedIn to recount similar experiences. Last May, entrepreneur Supriya Sahoo had made similar accusations on social media, after which he defended himself on Facebook.
17-yr-old daughter of govt officer convinced her to speak out
What started over a decade ago has continued; in 2016, an unnamed government officer shared publicly Murthy's messages, "Hey babe, one's supposed to celebrate Diwali by blowing a patakha. So can I go down on you please?" Her 17-year-old daughter convinced her to speak out.
Famous author Rashmi Bansal says Murthy touched her inappropriately
Recently, author Rashmi Bansal came forward about how Murthy allegedly misbehaved with her in 2004; they connected on Ryze social network and met at Mocha Café to discuss business. Murthy allegedly talked about his open marriage and touched her inappropriately; Bansal said she felt "cheap and violated". The investor has denied the allegations: "It was cordial but unpleasant meeting," he told FactorDaily.
What emboldened Murthy?
Murthy's influential standing in the start-up world presumably gave him a sort of cover. He also relied on young female entrepreneurs not wanting to go to police and get involved in hassles, as Wamika Iyer said. Swati Pandey also attributed his choosing public places for meetings to his confidence that "these women won't raise a voice". "His courage comes from our fear," she added.
Seedfund partners stopped working with Murthy in 2013
Seedfund had heard rumors, but they didn't have a single complaint or any proof, said Pravin Gandhi and Bharati Jacob, the other two partners. Both have them had stopped working with Murthy since 2013 amid a string of allegations; his "my way or the highway" management style didn't help his case either. Despite being a partner, he has no role in management, Gandhi said.
Still managing partner at Seedfund, will be till 2020: Murthy
However, Murthy has denied the allegations had affected his role at Seedfund. "The three of us are still managing partners and will continue to be till 2020, when the fund will sunset as planned, and this is because Pravin has announced that he will retire from the business. Bharati and I are doing different things going forward," he told FactorDaily.