Venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins continued its defense Wednesday against sex discrimination allegations by former employee Ellen Pao with the testimony of Matt Murphy, a partner who described himself as her mentor during her rocky tenure.
But despite that relationship, Murphy painted Pao as entitled, disrespectful, and demanding of rewards instead of earning them. Despite her junior status, she insisted on being included in all meetings with companies she had discovered and serve on company boards.
“I thought it was very aggressive,” Murphy said. “I thought coming back to me after the email exchange we had and telling me that I needed to have her in my meetings” overstepped her authority.
Murphy, who joined the firm in a junior role in 1999 and rose through its ranks, says he tried to advise Pao and help her succeed even after she filed a $16 million lawsuit in San Francisco Superior Court against Kleiner Perkins for alleged sexual discrimination and retaliation. She was ultimately fired in 2012.
Throughout the case, Pao has portrayed the blue chip Silicon Valley investment firm as a boys club, where men advanced and women were held back no matter their performance and qualifications — not the meritocracy Murphy described.
Nevertheless, Murphy, along with a number of his colleagues, argue that Pao’s shortcomings had nothing to do with her gender. She simply lacked the temperament that make for a successful investor, according to the firm.
Murphy’s perspective is particularly important because he had just the kind of career trajectory at Kleiner that Pao had hoped for. He joined as a junior partner, hired to help famed partner John Doerr manage his work, then rose to become a principal, and eventually became a senior partner.
“I do believe this is an apprenticeship business,” he said, echoing Doerr’s testimony earlier in the trial.
Despite Murphy’s mentorship and efforts to get her on track, Pao’s performance left him with little choice. For example, Murphy recounted how she once embarrassed him by falling asleep during a board meeting he had invited her to, and disregarded his advice like bringing back notes from meetings she had with new companies and contributing “thought leadership” to the firm.
In the end, and regardless of her lawsuit, it was time for Pao to move on, according to Murphy.
“We felt she had been given a year or two extra to prove herself,” he said. But “she didn’t really rally.”
Murphy also denied Pao’s claim that a group of partners and investors flying in a private jet engaged in inappropriate conversations about porn stars and adult shows while she was present. “That would be very anti-KP,” he said on the stand.
Earlier Wednesday, Andrew Jody Gessow, an investor who was also on the plane and called to testify by Kleiner, delivered the same unequivocal denial about racy talk on the plane.