(Clarifies in paragrah 3 that Greyhound Capital different to
another firm with same name that focuses on Asia.)
By Sarah McBride
SAN FRANCISCO May 8 Atomico Partners, a
London-based venture firm founded by Skype co-founder Niklas
Zennstrom, is suing a former employee and consultant for
secretly diverting potential Atomico investments to a venture
firm that the two were building.
The employee, Pogos Saiadian, and the consultant, Wouter
Gort, reached out to startups and potential investments using
their Atomico credentials, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday
in state court in Delaware.
But once they got their attention, they ended up investing
on behalf of Greyhound Capital, a venture firm they started
while working at Atomico. All along, they could draw on
Atomico's reputation for backing high-profile ventures like
"Angry Birds" developer Rovio and the Climate Corporation, a
weather data company that Monsanto bought last year for
$1.1 billion. (Saiadian and Gort are not associated with the
firm Greyhound Capital that invests in Asia and has a .net Web
While many venture capitalists head off and start their own
firms, lawsuits remain rare. Most VCs considering striking out
on their own carefully distinguish between work for their
current employers and their own ventures.
Saiadian and Gort didn't respond to emails and LinkedIn
messages requesting comment on the suit, which alleges aiding
and abetting breach of fiduciary duty, misappropriation of trade
secrets, unjust enrichment, civil conspiracy, and other claims.
In emails to potential investors in its fund, Greyhound
seems to have tried to keep the wraps on its activities,
according to the lawsuit.
Its plans were secret, Gort wrote in an email to one
potential investor earlier this year, "because we still work at
Atomico." The men also debated using Confide, a service that
sends and receives texts and then destroys them automatically.
According to the lawsuit, Saiadian and Gort used Atomico's
proprietary information to identify potential targets, and then
traded on their ties with Atomico to build relationships with
those companies, in violation of their employment agreements.
In several instances, the duo ended up investing on the part
Among those investments: San Francisco-based Homejoy, a
cleaning service whose backers include Google Ventures
and Redpoint Ventures; Los Angeles-based Dollar Shave Club, an
online retailer whose backers include Pritzker Group Venture
Capital and Venrock; and Athens-based Taxibeat, a app-based
transportation service whose backers include Belgium-based
Last year Greyhound backed Homejoy with $250,000, Dollar
Shave with $300,000, and Taxibeat with 70,000 euros.
A spokeswoman for Homejoy confirmed the investment but
declined to comment further. Michael Dubin, Dollar Shave's CEO,
said he was "never under the impression that Atomico was
investing." Taxibeat didn't immediately respond to requests for
Additionally, Saiadian and Gort fostered a relationship with
an individual who owned shares of rides-on-demand service Uber,
with a goal of purchasing shares in a secondary transaction on
behalf of Greyhound, the lawsuit alleges. Ultimately, there was
no transaction with Greyhound, Gort, or Saiadian, an Uber
Before they left Atomico, Saiadian and Gort deleted
"thousands of files" from their Atomico computers, along with
emails, the suit alleges. They also uploaded Atomico information
to cloud-based storage accounts such as Dropbox.
Saiadian founded Greyhound Capital in November 2012,
according to the lawsuit, two years after he joined Atomico and
a year after Gort started providing consultancy services.
Atomico suspended Saiadian last month, the suit states.
Zennstrom founded Atomico in 2006, after previously founding
filesharing company Kazaa and online communication service
(Editing by Edwin Chan and Eric Walsh)