- Author Rashmi Bansal says Murthy touched her inappropriately at a cafe in Mumbai during a business meeting in 2004; another woman, Anamika, says she had a similar experience at the same cafe around six months earlier
- Murthy has denied the allegations, which he said were “not only false, but also very old”
- Murthy’s founding partners at Seedfund said they do not endorse or condone the alleged behaviour and added that there were at least two instances when the fund’s LPs (limited partners) asked about allegations against Murthy
Allegations of inappropriate verbal and physical conduct against Mahesh Murthy, a prominent venture and angel investor in India, continue with two more women talking openly about instances of sexual advances made by him — bordering on, if not outright, sexually predatory behaviour — 13-14 years ago.
It has also emerged that Seedfund Advisors LLP, the venture capital firm that Murthy is still a managing partner with, knew of his transgressions with women who met him in professional contexts. But, the firm did not receive a single complaint or otherwise did not have proof to take action against him, two of its partners have said.
Murthy has denied the allegations, which he said were “not only false, but also very old”. He said he has filed a case of defamation in the Delhi High Court against “specific defendants.”
Digital publications YourStory Media and She The People had published articles on the allegations after Wamika Iyer accused Murthy of alleged misconduct in February this year. A source said Iyer, YourStory, Deccan Chronicle, and Twitter India were among the defendants, but this could not be independently confirmed.
The new allegations of inappropriate behaviour against Murthy — ranging from verbal propositioning to suggestive gestures to physical touch — have been made by Rashmi Bansal, an author and well-known speaker on entrepreneurship, and Anamika, an HR director at the Bangalore unit of a multinational, who has requested FactorDaily not to use her second name in this report.
Murthy sent an emailed reply to FactorDaily — reproduced in entirety at the end of this report — to questions that FactorDaily had sent Thursday evening.
“I take any allegations of impropriety seriously and have retained legal help on similar stories published in February. Before I start, my lawyers, also copied on this mail, ask me to tell you the following (in italics): I have already filed a suit in the Delhi High Court and sought reliefs against specific defendants (who happen to be known to you and Sharad Sharma) as also to “Ashok Kumar” (which is in the nature of seeking a John Doe order i.e against members of the public at large) in respect of publication of certain defamatory allegations against me. The suit also refers to members of the public conspiring to do so,” he said in the email.
The Sharad Sharma Murthy refers to is the co-founder of iSpirt, a think tank and advocacy group on software products in India. Elsewhere in his reply, Murthy alleges Sharma has been encouraging FactorDaily “to write this piece about me”. The basis of that charge is not immediately clear.
FactorDaily takes its journalism seriously, and its ethics are spelt out in our code of conduct, and public interest forms the bedrock of our journalism. By way of disclosure, Murthy is an investor in The-Ken, a subscriber-only, Bangalore-based business journalism digital media company. To the extent that The-Ken reports on technology as part of its broader remit, FactorDaily could be seen as a rival.
“I felt cheap and violated and disgusted”
Bansal and Anamika’s stories date back to 2004 and 2003 respectively — barely six months apart.
When Bansal, now in her mid-40s, met Murthy in February 2004 for a cup of coffee at Mocha, a popular cafe in Bandra, Mumbai, she says, the agenda was to discuss and take advice on running a media business. Back then, Bansal used to run JAM (Just Another Magazine), a publication for the youth, and Murthy had the experience of having run Channel V in India during January 1999 to October 2000.
Two months before the meeting 13 years ago, Murthy and Bansal had first connected on Ryze, an online networking platform launched in 2001 and with around 100,000 members by 2004.
“It was a pretty good concept in those days, like you had a website and you also had a monthly meeting in different cities like Mumbai, Bangalore and so on. So I attended one of these Mumbai meets, which was called a mixer, and everyone basically came and exchanged their cards… that kind of a thing,” she recalls.
I am meeting her at cafe located inside Mumbai’s Laxmi Mills, a compound of decades old, abandoned ruins of textile factories, now leased out to new-age businesses.
“He asked me how’s JAM doing, and I said yeah we’re doing fine, but of course it’s tough to get advertising…we had some conversation like that. So he said okay, let’s meet up and let’s discuss… I didn’t even think twice… so many people you meet like this. It’s part of my profession and my job is to meet people,” says Bansal, who grew up in Mumbai and did her MBA from IIM Ahmedabad in 1991-1993.
“Then, couple of months later, he sent me a message saying let’s meet for chai, or coffee or whatever, and I met him at Mocha… I mean not for any particular reason, but thinking ok may be exchange of ideas…something…how to take JAM forward. I mean the way you meet anybody,” says Bansal, who has authored seven books since then, including the book “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish” on entrepreneurship, which has sold over half a million copies.
“Very quickly he just started talking personal, he himself mentioned about his ‘open marriage’… Ok…the first thing after a few.. couple of, you know, may be 10 minutes, he started talking about open marriage. I didn’t even know what an open marriage was… and was just curious ki ye kya hota hai (what is it)… and I had never met a person who had an open marriage. The way he said it, made it sound like everyone has an open marriage… that’s the way to be,” she says.
Then, according to Rashmi, he shifted to sit on her side, closer to her.
“He leaned forward and touched me inappropriately,” she recalls. “So basically he had the guts to actually reach across and touch me.”
In a later conversation with FactorDaily, we asked Bansal whether she remembered anything more specific, she said: “Well I do remember there was an unwanted advance towards me which I didn’t like… like… I just….”
Was it verbal? “Yeah, verbally, and then he put his hand on my thigh — I remember that — and maybe he touched my cheek. I cannot recall the details now. But I just, I just get a creepy feeling… like (thinking)… about it.”
Shocked and confused, Bansal got up and left the cafe.
“But in the car, on my way to my office I started crying. I felt cheap and violated and disgusted.”
For his part, Murthy says in his email that while he knows of Bansal and remembers meeting her at Mocha cafe, “It was cordial but unpleasant meeting (sic)”.
“We disagreed on at least two issues that I recall: her plans and potential funding needs for JAM Magazine which she used to then run and which I said I had little faith in. And second, a philosophical disagreement about MBAs from IIMs tending to become employees more than entrepreneurs,” says Murthy.
“I am not sure what Ms. Bansal’s allegations are but if, as you imply, they are about ‘inappropriate verbal or physical contact’ then I absolutely deny them as a complete and utter lie and fabrication. Nothing of that sort happened or could have happened. It was in a cafe where others were present, in broad daylight,” he adds.
“Oh, and it’s certainly strange that she or you should choose to air them now, 13 or 14 years later,” he says.
Bansal also talks about an article on business networking in the September 2004 issue of Businessworld magazine, where she hinted at the Mocha cafe incident without naming Murthy.
“There is one last issue with online networking – that of trust. Most of the people you meet online are genuinely helpful, good, decent folks. But don’t forget that rotten apples do exist. This is something to keep in mind, especially if you’re female — single or married. If a prominent Mumbai Ryzer suggests ‘let’s meet at Mocha’, be warned the stimulation he’s seeking ain’t intellectual,” she had written in the Businessworld column.
According to her, though he was not named and the “prominent Mumbai Ryzer” could have been anybody, Murthy wrote an email to her responding to the article.
“I hear from quite a few Ryzers and others back in India that you’ve written an article in Businessworld about networking that makes a pointed gossipy reference to me in a deeply disparaging way,” Murthy said in the email. Other parts of the email also alleged Bansal was talking behind his back to others about his alleged inappropriate behaviour.
Murthy, in his email reply to FactorDaily, asked for time to respond to this. “I am traveling in Europe now and do not have online or mobile access to the email account Passionfund which I used back in 2003 and 2004. I stopped using this account over a decade ago and the emails you refer to may be backed up on a hard drive in Bombay and I arrive back only on April 24. I request you to give me time to get back, find the drive and access this, if at all possible.” FactorDaily will update this report when and if Murthy responds to it.
Back to my meeting with Bansal in the Laxmi Mills compound.
As we’re talking, Bansal looks broken, sad and just stops short of crying.
What took her more than 13 years to come out in public and share her story?
“I saw him doing this to other people and people like Wamika who’s hardly in her twenties. I mean she’s a young girl, obviously didn’t approach him for that purpose and she went through the same shit,” she says, referring to Wamika Iyer’s complaints that surfaced in February this year. Murthy responded to the charges that have surfaced in the past few months (and an incident dating back to 2007) in a Medium post titled “The confessions of a serial offender.”
For Bansal, mother of an 18-year-old daughter, the recent developments have been the trigger for sharing her own experience.
“I am sorry but girls always think may be I have done something to encourage him or you know… this is how stupid we are. We actually think maybe I gave him some signals… I should have got up and left when he started talking about open marriage,” she says.
“I feel like it’s kind of an unfinished business for me, why did I let it happen to me and I would not like to see more and more young girls get into this,” she says.
Mocha Cafe Part II
Anamika, who asked for only her first name to be used in this report, had just moved to Mumbai in March 2003 after getting married. She, too, had joined the Ryze network for making new connections and got pinged by Murthy, she says.
“My husband saw that he (Murthy) had pinged me, and he asked me to respond to him since he was an influential, cerebral writer,” Anamika recalls. After she responded, a meeting was set up. The venue, again, was the Mocha cafe.
Anamika can’t remember the exact date and month of the meeting. She says it was September or October of 2003. She drove to the cafe from her office in Andheri West for the noon meeting.
“We sat in a corner, it was an ‘L-shaped’ table and we were sitting at the far ends,” she says.
“Would you like some tea, coffee,” Murthy asked, according to Anamika.
After Murthy’s coffee came and they got chatting. He said she was cute.
Then, he offered Anamika a sip from his cup. “Why don’t you also take a sip?”
“I don’t want,” Anamika recalls saying, feeling distinctly uncomfortable. She was 26 back then and was a newbie in Mumbai. She had grown up in Chandigarh, not a small town by any stretch, but was still in awe of the metropolis, its people, and, at that moment, of Murthy, she says.
“And all of a sudden, he asked me to sit closer, and I said, no, I’m good,” she says.
“Are you scared?” he asked.
“And then he put both his hands around me, and touched my cheek.”
“I was very scared, I got up and said, let’s go,” she says.
As she walked out, several questions kept hounding her.
“Why did he say I was cute?”
“Why would he offer me to sip coffee from his cup?”
“I came out, cried and later told my husband.”
“I also thought maybe this is what happens in Mumbai and it’s an acceptable behaviour. It’s only later that I realised that wasn’t the case, people in Mumbai too had questions on such behaviour,” she says.
Responding to allegations made by Anamika, Murthy told FactorDaily he doesn’t recollect meeting Anamika.
“I have no memory of talking to, chatting with, coming across or ever meeting any such person. In fact I just logged back on to Ryze after more than a decade just to check who this person might be – and it appears that there was no person by that name or by variations of that name who even existed on Ryze in the period you refer to. I can’t even seem to find this person on LinkedIn today,” he wrote in his email.
Meanwhile, Anamika said she’s still not forgotten the incident. “Now that I lead a large HR organisation, I can stand up and say that I would not like this to happen with anyone else.”
As we’ve been reporting over past few months on FactorDaily, sexism and unfair treatment of women across India’s technology and startup ecosystem is worsening. Like Sarah Lacy of PandoDaily flagged in this Outliers Podcast, Indian founders and investors shouldn’t be getting inspired with Silicon Valley’s “bro culture” and “asshole culture.” And as Ashwini Asokan, the cofounder of artificial intelligence startup, MadStreetDen, had pointed out in this Outliers Podcast, sexism in the Indian ecosystem needs to be arrested urgently.
The Seedfund view
Murthy’s founding partners at Seedfund said they do not endorse or condone behaviour alleged of and added that there were at least two instances when the fund’s LPs (short for limited partners) asked about the allegations against Murthy. LPs are investors who come together in forming a venture or private equity fund.
“They (LPs) had heard and they called also. Can’t remember the dates, but I think this conversation with one of the LPs took place may be in 2014-15,” said Pravin Gandhi, one of the three founding partners at Seedfund. The other two are Bharati Jacob and Murthy.
“I think there’ve been two instances where I had to do Facebook posts saying that we (Seedfund) have nothing to do with it… May be 2013-2014 is when they (LPs) saw the first of that behaviour, and our message to them was that it has been dealt by the Facebook post. But till (you have) proof you can’t do much,” Gandhi, who works and lives in Mumbai, said in a phone interview.
Jacob too expressed pain and regret and said that Gandhi and she had stopped working with Murthy since 2013.
“The fact that there were murmurs about his behaviour with women and his style of working and he wasn’t putting much effort into doing what is right by the fund and was busy building his personal brand… all these factors came into play when we decided not to continue working with him,” Jacob said in an interview in Bengaluru.
While the role of Murthy at Seedfund was reduced, he continued to be seen as a founding partner for the outside world.
“It pains me to think that people believe we would support or endorse allegations about his behaviour with women. It is one of the big the reasons why we said we won’t work with him. Even if it was the only reason and he was a brilliant worker we would have made the same call,” said Jacob.
Murthy said it is incorrect to link the changes in his role at Seedfund to allegations of impropriety with women entrepreneurs or executives.
“You seem to allege that either or both of the above (allegations from Rashmi Bansal and Anamika) has somehow impacted Seedfund and my place in it. That is completely untrue. Pravin Gandhi and I came up with the idea of doing Seedfund and Bharati Jacob joined the team subsequently in 2005 / 2006. 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 wrote in his email.
“Each of the founders, myself included, has been and continues to be fully involved in an operational capacity in Seedfund in helping grow our current investments, helping find good exits for them and finding a good return for our investors. I am as involved as any of my co-founders and staff in managing the investments we look after as I’ve always been,” Murthy added.
But Gandhi said Murthy has had no role in managing or mentoring any companies since three years, though he remains a partner.
“We told the LPs that we (Gandhi and Jacob) are managing the companies ourselves, there is really no role Mahesh has in any of the companies that we are looking to exit,” said Gandhi, declining to name the LPs.
“We have this whole process by which people who brought the deals become mentors. So all the companies he had brought to the table either died or disappeared. Other companies being managed are my deals or Bharati’s deals,” Gandhi said.
He added that Murthy’s “my way or the highway” management style often riled people around him. These included Jacob. Her decision to go separate ways with Murthy was “not only related to this” (the alleged sexual transgressions), Gandhi said. “I would not say that decision of not working with him was purely related to his alleged behaviours.”
Meanwhile, if Seedfund knew about what was going, why did the other founding partners not act on it?
Both Jacob and Gandhi said they never received any formal complaints or real evidences to support the allegations.
“When we spoke to people who worked in the ecosystem, you know other investors, saying that we aren’t going to work with him anymore, then a lot of stories stumbled out and my thought was why didn’t you say it earlier. But I guess they didn’t want to share with us as they probably thought that since we are working with him, they shouldn’t bias us in any manner,” said Jacob.
Gandhi cited similar reasons.
“I thought about it (disassociating with him). But there’s not really any provision that on suspicion I can do something and do I want to go to court. There was no provision anywhere to do anything substantial about it, except to counsel,” he said.
What would you advice be to women when they are faced with improper behaviour as is being alleged against Murthy, I ask Gandhi. “I would say very clearly that if they have grouse, please come out and say it. My advice would be that they should not tolerate this…,” he said.
“When people have asked me about association with him, in some manner or another, I have warned them. These are issues you should think about. If somebody came to me, I would advice them and warn them to the extent,” he added.
Email exchange between Mahesh Murthy and FactorDaily:
Below is the text of the emailed questionnaire share by FactorDaily with Mahesh Murthy. His responses (in italics) follow the questions and do not correspond to the serial numbers of our questions.
1. Do you know Rashmi Bansal, now an author and speaker, and earlier the editor of JAM Magazine?
2. When and where have you met her?
3. Did you meet her in February, 2004 at Cafe Mocha on Hill Road in Mumbai?
4. What was the purpose of the meeting?
5. Ms Bansal has alleged that at the Cafe Mocha meeting you indulged in inappropriate verbal and physical communication/contact with her. Do you have anything to say about such an incident?
6. In an article on business networking in September 2004 for Businessworld magazine, Ms Bansal wrote: “There is one last issue with online networking – that of trust. Most of the people you meet online are genuinely helpful, good, decent folks. But don’t forget that rotten apples do exist. This is something to keep in mind, especially if you’re female — single or married. If a prominent Mumbai Ryzer suggests ‘let’s meet at Mocha’, be warned the stimulation he’s seeking ain’t intellectual.” To which, you reacted in an email thus: “I hear from quite a few Ryzers and others back in India that you’ve written an article in Businessworld about networking that makes a pointed gossipy reference to me in a deeply disparaging way.” Could you confirm this?
7. Is there anything you would wish to say in response to Ms Bansal’s allegations?
8. Do you know Anamika (second name redacted), an HR professional, who says you met her on Ryze in 2003?
9. Did you meet Anamika at Cafe Mocha on Hill Road in Mumbai around September-October 2003?
10. What was the purpose of the meeting?
11. Anamika alleges you had inappropriate verbal and physical communication/contact with her. Do you have anything to say about this?
12. What is your role and responsibilities at Seedfund?
13. We understand that Seedfund founders knew as early as 2008-09 about your inappropriate advances on women entrepreneurs and executives who might have met you in professional contexts. Are you aware of this?
14. Did you have conversations with them (Seedfund partners) on your inappropriate behaviour?
15. We understand that you’ve not been part of Seedfund in any operational capacity since 2014 and that the fund’s LPs were informed as much then. Would you say this is the case?
16. At least one of the LPs, we are told, had been in touch with Seedfund partners about your inappropriate behaviour. Were/are you aware of this?
Murthy’s emailed response:
“As you may know, Seedfund started in late 2006 and your questions relate to the years 2003 and 2004 – several years before Seedfund was even thought of – and are of no relevance to Seedfund in any way.
If you are to publish my reply as part of your piece, please do so in full.
I am also copying Sharad Sharma of iSpirt on this as I understand that he has been encouraging you to write this piece about me. (Hi Sharad, happy to connect with you again – we last spoke when you wanted my support to help get Yogi of Stayzilla out of jail. We’re both glad he came out.)
1. Mr. Mishra, you say in your mail that I barely have 12 hours over a night to reply to you – despite your request that I confirm email messages sent over 13 years ago. As a seasoned journalist (and you and I have interacted before over the years) you’d agree that this is a pretty drastic imposition and I wonder about the motivations behind this undue haste that you’re displaying.
2. I am traveling in Europe now and do not have online or mobile access to the email account Passionfund which I used back in 2003 and 2004. I stopped using this account over a decade ago and the emails you refer to may be backed up on a hard drive in Bombay and I arrive back only on April 24. I request you to give me time to get back, find the drive and access this, if at all possible.
3. If your story has apparently waited 13 years perhaps it can wait a few days more? I’m not sure what the urgency is, unless Sharad or whoever is behind this really wants you to publish it tomorrow for some reason known only to them.
4. You state in your email that you will publish tomorrow morning regardless of any response from me. Again, this is unusual form, but since you seem to be presenting it to me as a fait accompli, I have to set aside your seeming disregard for journalistic protocol and try to answer your questions to the best of my memory.
5. I take any allegations of impropriety seriously and have retained legal help on similar stories published in February. Before I start, my lawyers, also copied on this mail, ask me to tell you the following (in italics): I have already filed a suit in the Delhi High Court and sought reliefs against specific defendants (who happen to be known to you and Sharad Sharma) as also to “Ashok Kumar” (which is in the nature of seeking a John Doe order i.e against members of the public at large) in respect of publication of certain defamatory allegations against me. The suit also refers to members of the public conspiring to do so.
6. The Delhi High Court has already passed an interim order in my favour. (Sharad may be aware of this, and hence may be urging you to publish your piece quickly.)
7. These matters are sub-judice. Any defamatory or scandalous publication by you will legally necessitate me to also file a suit and seek appropriate orders against you and those encouraging you to do so. (I understand that in a phone call that just happened with Sumanth Raghavendra, Sharad has not denied this. FactorDaily seems to be some pawn in his plan.)
(Editor’s note: Sumanth Raghavendra is a co-founder of and writer with The Ken.)
8. I must also point out that the allegations you refer to in your email are not only false, but also very old. No complaint has been made for all these years which in itself clearly shows that the allegations are false and made maliciously. (The timing makes me suspect that it is part of a concerted effort. First – allegations in February 2017 of things that supposedly happened a year ago. When the Court moves against those, then in April 2017 to allege things that supposedly happened 13 and 14 years ago. And to somehow tie it to a well-known business, Seedfund, that I co-founded 11 years ago. What next – will a publication be urged to examine stories of what may have happened when I was 6 and 7 years old?)
9. Now to answer your questions. Your first set is about Rashmi Bansal. Here is my response: I know of Rashmi Bansal and respect her for her work. I have not read much of what she’s written, but understand she now writes stories that support and encourage entrepreneurs. I have met her, to my knowledge, just once. This was some 13 or 14 years ago, at Cafe Mocha in Bandra, in broad daylight when she used to run JAM Magazine. It was cordial but unpleasant meeting. We disagreed on at least two issues that I recall: her plans and potential funding needs for JAM Magazine which she used to then run and which I said I had little faith in. And second, a philosophical disagreement about MBAs from IIMs tending to become employees more than entrepreneurs. Again it was something we both had written about and disagreed on. (I used to write a column then in a national business magazine.) There was no inappropriate verbal or physical communication or contact whatsoever. The only other reference I remember was a few years later knowing that she had taken on Arindam Chaudhary and IIPM and had to back down when sued by them. While Maheshwar Peri, myself and others helped continue the fight against them and perhaps had a more positive result. There has been no contact since.
10. I am not sure what Ms. Bansal’s allegations are but if, as you imply, they are about “inappropriate verbal or physical contact” then I absolutely deny them as a complete and utter lie and fabrication. Nothing of that sort happened or could have happened. It was in a cafe where others were present, in broad daylight. Oh, and it’s certainly strange that she or you should choose to air them now, 13 or 14 years later. If Ms. Bansal’s allegations are about “inappropriate communication” then I have no memory of the exact words that were exchanged at the meeting. We certainly disagreed – but I recall vaguely that it was in a civilised and cordial manner and I don’t recall either of us resorting to verbal abuse. As far as the email exchange you asked about, I have requested time for me to get details on it – as I’ve mentioned earlier, I stopped using that email account over 10 years ago and have no access to it at the current moment.
11. Now to the issue of some Ms. Anamika (second name redacted). I have no memory of talking to, chatting with, coming across or ever meeting any such person. In fact I just logged back on to Ryze after more than a decade just to check who this person might be – and it appears that there was no person by that name or by variations of that name who even existed on Ryze in the period you refer to. I can’t even seem to find this person on LinkedIn today. So, to your questions, no – I do not remember knowing any such person, or meeting them anywhere at any time, let alone behaving in any inappropriate way with them. To your question, if this person is alleging inappropriate behaviour, then I completely and absolutely deny it as a total fabrication and lie. Again, it is quite incredible that such an allegation should surface spontaneously 14 years later – this is either a remarkable coincidence or alternatively a sign that you or people on whose urging you seem to be acting have engaged in a willful conspiracy to defame me for reasons best known to you. On paper, both Ms Bansal and Anamika seem to be well-educated professionals with a sound knowledge of their rights and the social and economic stature to raise an issue if there was ever one. The fact that neither did so for 13 and 14 years respectively – but are now suddenly doing so in concert with a failed effort 2 months ago and with Sharad Sharma’s urging at the current moment is more than just mysterious. A reasonable person would even call it suspicious.
12. Now to your questions regarding Seedfund. You seem to allege that either or both of the above has somehow impacted Seedfund and my place in it. That is completely untrue. Pravin Gandhi and I came up with the idea of doing Seedfund and Bharati Jacob joined the team subsequently in 2005 / 2006. 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.
13. The only issue that ever came up in the period that is even remotely relevant is of the nuisance legal notices sent by one Ms. Seema Pagey. At various times, this lady had claimed that she invented venture capital (and sent Seedfund a notice saying she wanted a 1/3rd share as we “stole” her idea); that she invented digital marketing (and sent my investee Pinstorm a notice demanding 1/3 of the company as they “stole” her idea); that she invented instant messaging (and sent my investee Geodesic a demand to similar effect); that she was my wife and wanted me to give her a flat in Bombay and maintenance; that she was not my wife but wanted the court to order me to give her a child; and more such nonsense. I have written of this earlier in 2015 and 2016 here and here. This lady is facing multiple charges of perjury and extortion at the current moment. There was no other incident that came up to the best of my knowledge.
14. As a fund and as part of compliance we had to take cognisance of her legal communication, inform relevant people (including a LP who had brought it up) that we were dealing with it and explain that it was not anything to worry about. And indeed we went on to raise a significantly larger fund in 2010 after this, and the issue never surfaced again.
15. To your specific question: “We understand that Seedfund founders knew as early as 2008-09 about your inappropriate advances on women entrepreneurs and executives who might have met you in professional contexts. Are you aware of this?” My answer very clearly is – “I am a Seedfund founder and there are two other founders apart from me. There were no inappropriate advances at any time ever to any women entrepreneurs or executives who met me in professional contexts, and further there were never any conversations with my partners or indeed anyone else about any inappropriate behaviour whatsoever. All such allegations are entirely false and clearly well-timed and maliciously motivated.”
16. To your specific question: “We understand that you’ve not been part of Seedfund in any operational capacity since 2014 and that the fund’s LPs were informed as much then. Would you say this is the case?” My answer is this. “Seedfund has an announced plan to sunset in 2020. We raised our second fund in 2010 and invested it as planned, committing the entire corpus by end-2014. We then ceased making new investments and have since focused on growing and exiting our current investments by the planned 10-year mark, in 2020. The fund’s LPs were informed in 2014 that the founders and partners would not be seeking any more new investments. Each of the founders, myself included, has been and continues to be fully involved in an operational capacity in Seedfund in helping grow our current investments, helping find good exits for them and finding a good return for our investors. I am as involved as any of my co-founders and staff in managing the investments we look after as I’ve always been.” I hope that clearly answers your question.
Mr. Mishra, I’ve taken a load of unplanned time off my schedule to answer your questions against your unrealistic deadline here, and I hope you’ll do me the respect of either giving me more time as requested, to find emails from 13 years ago, or to publish my reply to your questions in full in your publication.”
Correction: The story was updated to remove Anamika’s second name, which appeared by mistake in a few places and was removed within minutes. The error is sincerely regretted. We thank vigilant readers for pointing this out.
Update: The story was modified on April 21 at 6:15 pm to explicitly state that Murthy remains a managing partner at Seedfund. While the story did not say earlier that he was not a partner, there may have been a impression created that he had been stripped of his title along with his reduced responsibilities three years ago. (The unmodified version read: “But Gandhi said Murthy has had no role in managing or mentoring any companies since three years”, which has been changed to read: “But Gandhi said Murthy has had no role in managing or mentoring any companies since three years though he remains a partner.”)
Disclosure: FactorDaily is owned by SourceCode Media, which counts Accel Partners, Blume Ventures and Vijay Shekhar Sharma among its investors. Accel Partners is an early investor in Flipkart. Vijay Shekhar Sharma is the founder of Paytm. None of FactorDaily’s investors have any influence on its reporting about India’s technology and startup ecosystem.