‘Silence Breaker’ Lindsay Meyer talks about harassment in high-tech
Lindsay Meyer, the 32-year-old founder and CEO of lifestyle retailer Batch, had already worked as an analyst, consultant and investor in Silicon Valley when a few years ago, she experienced sexual harassment from the co-founder of a venture company.
After the harassment started, Meyer went to a female mentor, who alerted one of the company’s investors about the issue. But much to her chagrin, nothing changed.
“I’d come from the exact world ... as the person who was causing me trouble had been in,” the entrepreneur said in an interview from her San Francisco home. “I’d never seen anything happen like that before. So when it happened to me, I was savvy enough to realize that something wasn’t right.”
Meyer’s time to speak out arrived last summer, when she talked about her story in a New York Times article headlined “Women in Tech Speak Frankly on Culture of Harassment.” She was one of two dozen women in the tech startup industry that were quoted, and one of 10 who named names.
The women’s stories revealed how the toxic culture of sexism and sexual harassment in the world of tech startups had led to awkward, inappropriate and unwanted advances from male investors. In addition, the fear of harassment had kept many women entrepreneurs away from the industry, already under fire for its gender imbalance.
As reported on June 30, 2017 by New York Times reporter Katie Benner, Meyer had received $25,000 from Binary co-founder and managing partner Justin Caldbeck for her fitness startup in 2015.
He then began sending her text messages asking “if she was attracted to him, and why she would rather be with her boyfriend than him.”
She also alleged that he groped and kissed her. (Caldbeck subsequently resigned in the midst of the scandal and two other partners followed closely behind.)
“My story came into the spotlight in June of 2017, and this was a time when there had been very few women who had used their name and their narrative in any kind of public forum in such an explosive way,” Meyer said of the New York Times report. “There was still a high measure of risk.”
Along with actress Ashley Judd and lobbyist Adama Iwu, Meyer will discuss her story and the growing #MeToo movement Tuesday night as part of the Press Democrat’s Women in Conversation program at the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts.
All three women were profiled by Time magazine as part of its 2017 “Person of the Year” issue honoring “The Silence Breakers.” Since then, Meyer’s story has also appeared in Glamour, Fortune, USA Today and other publications.
A native of Minneapolis, Meyer graduated from the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., with a combined degree in science and business. She moved to the Bay Area and worked for five-plus years in biotech and health care.
Looking for a professional life that was more personally fulfilling, she switched her career path to lifestyle-driven consumer commerce, starting with the online home decor firm One King’s Lane, then founding the Active Collective company, a group of curated health and wellness experiences, in 2014.
More recently, she served as the general manager of Mission Statement, a luxury “athleisure” line launched by actress Hilary Swank in 2016.
“It was really helpful to do a brief tour of duty through fashion and get oriented on the retail perspective,” Meyer said.
After being tapped by a Palo Alto investment fund to help them think through futuristic retail concepts, Meyer launched home decor company Batch last September, opening a showroom on Russian Hill in San Francisco.
The showroom is the hub of the firm’s retail activity, but the firm also stages real homes as short-term, pop-up shops where people can view her curated products in situ.
“It’s an intimate opportunity to go in and live with things before you make a purchase decision,” she said. “That’s something that really hasn’t been done before.”
With the help of a small team of mostly women, Meyer sources all kinds of design, art, fashion and accessories from local companies, including Sonoma artist Martha Oakes and San Francisco fashion company Frances Austen.
The entrepreneur lives with her boyfriend and rescue mutt, Ralphie - “20 pounds of white fluff” - in San Francisco. Here is an edited version of a conversation with Meyer held earlier this week.
When did you decide to publicly share your story?
I had been getting tips for a couple of months before the story ran in the New York Times. I was contacted by reporters who were looking for women to go on record and speak out against this person. I was not the only target of this person’s behavior, so there had been enough back-channel conversations that the media knew there was a story there.