Justin Caldbeck sues Binary Capital co-founder Jonathan Teo for breach of contract and fiduciary duty, fraud and more
Embattled venture capitalist Justin Caldbeck (pictured) is suing his former co-Binary Capital founder Jonathan Teo, alleging breach of contract, fraud and more.
Caldbeck, accused of sexual harassment and unwanted sexual advances in 2017, took an indefinite leave of absence from Binary Capital, leaving to Teo all the responsibilities of the $175 million fund. Shortly after, Teo offered to step down in a last-ditch effort to keep the firm afloat. Ultimately, Binary Capital shut down and New York venture capital firm Lerer Hippeau assumed responsibility for its $125 million debut investment vehicle, 70 percent of which has been deployed, per details shared in the lawsuit.
In the legal filing submitted to the Superior Court of The State of California, Caldbeck accuses Teo of mismanagement following his June 2017 departure. We’ve reached out to lawyers for both parties for comment.
“Mr. Teo completely abandoned the leadership responsibilities that were entrusted to him, neglecting to take the most basic steps required to run a venture capital firm,” the lawsuit states. “Mr. Teo was laughably bad at this job. As another Silicon Valley entrepreneur remarked publicly, ‘this guy has done everything possible wrong.’”
The filing cites 500 Startups and Sherpa Capital as examples of funds that were able to survive following similar scandals wherein a partner was accused of sexual harassment and misconduct. Caldbeck, in essence, is upset Teo wasn’t able to successfully run Binary Capital following his own alleged wrongdoings.
Binary Capital co-founders Jonathan Teo and Justin Caldbeck
Caldbeck, who’s taken to angel investing in the months following the high-profile scandal, was previously a managing director at Lightspeed Venture Partners before launching Binary Capital alongside Teo in 2014. Teo, for his part, was formerly a managing director at General Catalyst. Binary Capital, an early-stage fund, has backed companies including plus-sized clothing business Dia&Co and airfare search engine Skiplagged.
According to several reports, Teo had hoped to keep Binary Capital alive after The Information published a report highlighting six women’s allegations of being groped and propositioned during their professional relationship with Caldbeck.
Caldbeck, however, is less than satisfied with Teo’s handling of those allegations and the wave of “negative press articles” that followed. Caldbeck also claims he resigned from the firm only in exchange for a promise for future financial stability from Teo.
In the months following his departure, Caldbeck asserts Teo took personal vacations to Mongolia, Ibiza and the Burning Man festival. He “went AWOL,” “was completely unresponsive,” “seemed not to care,” and “made no effort to save the firm,” per the filing.
Teo, additionally, allegedly took on an operating role at Binary Capital portfolio company Trillex, where he increased corporate spending limits to purchase gifts for himself, including taking out a more than $2 million unauthorized loan to pay his personal taxes and to assist a family member with a real estate project.
According to a Forbes report on the lawsuit, Teo’s legal team says “The justice system will soon remind Mr. Caldbeck that he alone is responsible for his many misdeeds.” We will update this report when he hear back from Caldbeck and Teo’s legal teams.
Here’s the full lawsuit: