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LSD, Cargo Shorts, and the Fall of a High-Flying Tech CEO

Justin Zhu’s $2 billion startup was doing great, but an unorthodox style and tension with investors cost him his job.

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How a Tech CEO Was Fired After Taking LSD
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Justin Zhu, chief executive officer of digital marketing startup Iterable Inc., was walking down Broadway in San Francisco on April 26 when he was summoned to a surprise conference call and abruptly fired. His co-founder, Andrew Boni, and the company’s entire board told him he was losing his job, primarily because he had taken LSD before a meeting in 2019.

The incident had indeed happened—Zhu says he was trying to take a small dose to improve his focus and accidentally took too much—but he also was being fired for other reasons. For the previous 10 months, Zhu had been talking with a reporter from Bloomberg Businessweek about his experience as CEO, the challenges of being Chinese in Silicon Valley, and his disputes with two of Iterable’s key investors. He hadn’t cut off the conversations when investors asked him to, the final straw in a long-running feud.