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A former Silicon Valley startup CEO and cofounder has filed a lawsuit against his former employer for discrimination based on race and his mental health challenge, despite the company's stated reason for firing him was that he took acid at work.
The Iterable CEO was fired for taking a small amount of lysergic acid diethylamide during an investor meeting. The company's other co-owner told his coworkers that the ex-CEO's actions undermined the board's confidence in his ability to lead the company.
Iterable is being sued by a man who claims that the reason he was ousted was because he's Asian-American and has been open about his mental health issues.
A big part of the ousted Iterable founder's legal argument is that microdosing made him better at his job and made the marketing platform more money.
We don't know how many times Zhu actually took acid, at work or otherwise, but he claims in his suit that he performed well as CEO, even though he did take acid.
In Silicon Valley, LSD has been part of the culture for a long time. Steve Jobs and Bill Gates have both talked about using the drug.
According to the suit, he was suffering from insomnia, as well as "heart palpitations that worsened whenever he heard his phone ring or saw a message from his investors." He believes he had no choice but to start microdosing because he wanted to make sure that the company would be successful.
He said during the investor meeting that his body was more sensitive to the dose than he expected, and it impacted his vision during a meeting with a minor potential investor.
The complaint states that the experience brought a positive change to Zhu's work life and that his experiences helped him process his own emotions. The company was able to raise $60 million in a Series D round due to the help of the LSD.
Zhu's performance was not well received.
According to the lawsuit, another potential investor said that the company's Caucasian COO looked more like a CEO than Justin did. That meeting got tense.
In an effort to be more calm and focused, Zhu tried to have an open discussion about his own mental health struggles, the same ones that led to him taking drugs before the meeting, according to the suit. He claimed that the investor told him that he didn't think he should be CEO and that he should step down.
According to the suit, some time later, Zhu told his co-worker that he'd taken a drug to help with his depression. After Boni shared that information with Iterable's board, they asked Zhu to step down.
The stakes of the suit are intriguing. On the other hand, a growing body of evidence shows that there are benefits to using the drug.
Taking it at work in the context of an investor meeting raises more questions than it answers. It's illegal on the federal level and in California despite the Bay Area's recent decriminalization of mushrooms.
If he was buying the substance on the black market, it's possible that it wasn't even LSD, or that it was stronger than he thought, as he was having visual effects during the meeting.
Issues of race, business, neuroscience and banned substances are covered in this case. We'll be watching closely, but we don't know whether we'll ever get any clarity.
There is a study on taking a drug that eases treatment-resistant depression.