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Kleiner's Doerr denies gender discrimination allegations

Kleiner Perkins' powerful partner John Doerr issues a statement that refutes the claims in a junior partner's suit and defends his firm's commitment to diversity.

John Doerr
Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers

Venture firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers is refuting claims of gender discrimination brought by a female junior partner after it hired an investigator to look into the matter, the company's veteran partner John Doerr said in a statement released today.

"We have taken great care to treat this situation seriously, swiftly, and with integrity," Doerr said in his statement. "We hired an expert, independent investigator to conduct a thorough inquiry. The investigator's report concluded that the allegations are without merit and that our firm does not discriminate on the basis of gender. In the end, facts -- not unfounded claims -- will determine the outcome of the suit filed against us. We will vigorously defend our reputation and are confident we will prevail."

Doerr, who has been with Kleiner Perkins for 32 years, defended the firm's commitment to diversity in response to a lawsuit junior partner Ellen Pao filed earlier this month. The suit was brought to the public's attention last week, casting a shadow on the prominent Silicon Valley venture capital firm. Pao is still working at the firm.

Ellen Pao Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

Pao, a San Francisco resident, alleges that she endured five years of retaliation for rebuffing sexual advances from senior partners and that the company discriminated against her and other female employees when it came to promotions and pay.

According to the complaint, Pao lists 20 other female employees, known as Jane Does throughout the suit, who she said were also discriminated against. The suit has yet to move past the complaint, according to the Superior Court of California, County of San Francisco's Web site.

"It is not easy to stand by as false allegations are asserted against the firm, especially because legal constraints prevent us from responding fully at this time. But we have been heartened to hear from so many people -- including many women -- who have reached out to convey their support," Doerr said in the statement.

Doerr said the firm has a long track record of having a diverse firm in terms of gender, age, and ethnicity, pointing to the firm's partners and to the entrepreneurs it backs. He named women-led companies such as Auxogyn, Coursera, Genomic Health, Lockerz, One King's Lane, Plum District, Rent the Runway, and Veracyte.

"Most importantly, we're backing them not because they are women, but because they are the best at what they do," he said in the statement.

Doerr said Kleiner Perkins has a dozen female partners at the firm, "the most of any leading venture capital firm." The firm's Web site lists about 50 partners total.

Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, founded in 1972, is famous for big hits such as Google, Amazon, Genentech, and Netscape, and more recently funded newly public startups Groupon and Zynga.

Update 5:07 p.m. PT: This post has been updated to include more background.