Clinc CEO Jason Mars Resigns After Investigation of ‘Inappropriate Behavior’ Complaints
Conversational AI startup Clinc’s co-founder and CEO Jason Mars resigned this week after an investigation into inappropriate behavior complaints from employees, according to a report in Crain’s. The company has begun a search for a replacement CEO. For now, Clinc’s other co-founders, CTO Michael Laurenzano and COO Lingjia Tang, who is married to Mars, will run the company in the interim.
Complaints and Investigation
Two employees filed complaints against Mars in December, leading the board of directors to begin a five-week an outside investigation. Mars’ resignation followed immediately after the investigation. The board of directors said in a statement that it is working on the next steps to improve the work environment after the investigation. The exact nature of the complaints is unknown, but the board’s statement did say there inappropriate behavior, but no retaliatory actions by Mars.
Mars emailed employees announcing his resignation on Monday. He said some of the accusations were embellished or made up and partially blamed alcohol for the behavior he was accused of, he said he wanted to resign for the company’s sake.
“Although the allegations against me are rife with embellishments and fabrications some of which came out in the investigation, the truth is there are cases where I drank too much and partied with employees in a way that’s not becoming of a CEO,” Mars wrote in the email, as obtained by Crain’s. “I’ve learned a hard lesson about seeing my employees as friends and the importance of setting proper boundaries when socializing outside the workplace… I’ve since stopped drinking and am committed to sobriety. I have to now take some time to ponder my next endeavor.”
The resignation of the CEO is a big deal for Clinc. Mars was also a technical co-founder and often the face of the company. The resignation comes at a time when Clinc is growing fast. The company’s clients include US Bank, Barclays, and Ford and it has been adding others, especially in the financial industry.
The company closed a $52 million funding round last year, one of the largest in the industry, from Insight Partners, DFJ Growth and there had even been rumors of a potential IPO. The company had said it planned to grow to 140 employees by the end of the year and move into a new 25,000 square-foot office. According to LinkedIn, there are 116 employees at the moment. Clinc’s board likely hopes the rapid resignation and disappearance of Mars from the company will insulate it from the long-term cloud over companies where CEOs try to fight these kinds of complaints. How well that will work remains to be seen.