Urban Airship is one of Portland’s most promising startup companies, delivering billions of push notifications to mobile phones on behalf of clients such as ESPN, Groupon and Alaska Airlines. It is also heavily funded, raising $46.6 million from the likes of August Capital, Foundry Group, Intel Capital, True Ventures and Founder’s Co-op.
But now Urban Airship co-founder and CEO Scott Kveton is in hot water.
The Oregonian reports on sexual assault accusations levied against the 40-year-old tech CEO, alleging that he engaged in a complicated and physical relationship with a longtime girlfriend in which several incidents reportedly went over the top.
Mike Rogoway and Laura Gunderson of The Oregonian report:
Police records and hundreds of pages of texts, emails and online chats provided by Kveton’s accuser to police and The Oregonian show that the pair had a highly physical relationship, which they once likened to the role-playing couple in the hit erotica novel “50 Shades of Gray.” They pushed each other’s boundaries – too far, she told him in numerous emails and texts.
One of those messages details an incident from February 2010 — one year after Urban Airship was founded — in which Kveton allegedly forced himself on the woman following a night at a bar. The woman, whose name was not disclosed, was sleeping on the couch when the incident allegedly occurred. Kveton followed up with an email from his personal account:
“Believe me, the concept of not having you in my life absolutely and utterly makes my heart ache…. and I can’t believe how I treated you the other night … I just felt so betrayed and hurt that night with all of the things you were saying … that doesn’t justify it whatsoever … I’m just hurt and for some reason I took it out on you in that awful way.”
Another email a few days later from Kveton continued:
“I don’t know what to say about Sunday that hasn’t already been said. I know it was awful but we’ve always had that power differential. Maybe it was never healthy? I just don’t know and wish I could take Sunday back.”
The Oregonian story also details an incident from 2011 in which Kveton allegedly surprised the woman by hiding in her closet and then allegedly proceeded to tie her wrists up with reusable bonding tape. Another incident allegedly happened a few days later, and the woman claimed others continued into 2012 and 2013. Portland police are investigating incidents from 2012 and 2013, and woman has not seen Kveton in the past year. The couple dated on-and-off from 2008 to 2013.
Prosecutors did not charge Kveton for incidents that occurred in the Portland suburbs of Beaverton and North Plains in 2010 and 2011.
Kveton declined to comment to The Oregonian, but his attorney Stephen Houze, who also recently defended Dave’s Killer Bread co-founder Dave Dahl, issued a statement to GeekWire this morning:
“The allegations of an unnamed accuser reported in the Oregonian newspaper today are under investigation by law enforcement. There is an orderly process to such an investigation, which is designed to evaluate the truthfulness of the accuser and expose any possible motives that animate her accusations. As the Oregonian article mentions, another prosecutor’s office has already investigated similar allegations made by the same accuser and declined to prosecute Mr. Kveton. While the current investigation is ongoing, it is inappropriate to comment on the specifics of the matter. On behalf of Mr. Kveton and his family, I would ask the media and public to accord Mr. Kveton the presumption of innocence that is the cornerstone of our system of American justice, a concept that can be so easily destroyed by the sensational reporting of salacious and unproven allegations.”
Meanwhile, an Urban Airship spokesman called the investigation a “personal, private matter for Scott, and has nothing to do with Urban Airship.”
“We remain focused on continuing to drive Urban Airship’s rapid growth and success in the market,” the spokesman said.
Sexual assault and sexual harassment claims have been made at other tech companies in recent months, including earlier this week when a former female executive of online dating app Tinder described “a barrage of horrendously sexist, racist and otherwise inappropriate comments, emails and text messages” in the workplace. Last year, Square COO Keith Rabois resigned following sexual harassment claims, and GitHub founder Tom Preston-Werner stepped down in April after “errors of judgment” as part of a sexual harassment probe.
The most high-profile recent incident involved RadiumOne founder Gurbaksh “G” Chahal who was forced out of the company after allegations were raised about him hitting his girlfriend repeatedly and assaulting her with a pillow.
Those incidents have raised awareness of gender inequality in the workplace, sensitive issues which have come to light given the imbalance of men and women in many tech companies.
Full report from The Oregonian here.