Tesla has had an interesting year. Much of 2017 has been caught up in waiting for the Model 3 to roll out. Now, since it has, the company has been under fire for falling way behind in production. Then, recently, Tesla announced a string of new and gradually more impressive automotive innovations: a pickup, an SUV, and a semi-truck … all fully electric.
While all these messages were splashing across the headlines, Tesla was hoping to keep another narrative out of the headlines. Silicon Valley investor Steve Jurvetson, who is a board member and investor with Tesla and SpaceX, as well as a partner with VC firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson, has left that firm over allegations of “misconduct.”
Jurvetson announced his departure on Twitter, citing “personal matters” before promising to take legal action against “those whose false statements have defamed me…”
Those statements were not made public, but the subsequent internal investigation was. DFJ, according to CNN, stated: “Earlier this summer we became aware of indirect and second-hand allegations about one partner, Steve Jurvetson… We immediately opened an independent investigation, which is ongoing at this time.”
Soon after, it was announced the Jurvetson was leaving the firm through a “mutual agreement.” To date, no one has come forward to divulge the nature of the misconduct in question. However, the company did release a vague statement: “DFJ’s culture has been, and will continue to be, built on the values of respect and integrity in all of our interactions… We are focused on the success of our portfolio companies, as well as the long-term vision for the firm and will continue to operate with the highest professional standards.”
At this point, short and positive is the way to go for DFJ. The company gains nothing from divulging any salacious details if there are any. And, if the story isn’t nearly as salacious as some of the others in the headlines today, some will invariably dig in trying to find out the “real truth…” even if it has already been revealed.
Neither Tesla nor SpaceX helped offer any details in their mutual statement: “Steve Jurvetson is on a leave of absence from the SpaceX and Tesla boards pending resolution of these allegations.”
Once again, a simple and reasonable statement that says enough but avoids saying too much or creating any extra suspicion that the companies are hiding something.
That’s not to say everyone is happy with the messaging as is. Some are already trying to tie Jurvetson to other high-profile Silicon Valley investors, such as Dave McClure and Justin Caldbeck, who both left their respective companies after allegations of sexual harassment.
Notice, though, that no one is accusing Jurvetson of sexual harassment… only “misconduct.” That won’t stop people from making a tenuous connection, but it does give Jurvetson, DFJ, and Tesla a bit of an out if pressed.
Ronn Torossian is the Founder and CEO of the New York based public relations firm 5WPR: one of the 20 largest PR Firms in the United States