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CEO of $2bn startup fired for taking LSD at company meeting

Justin Zhu fired from work after microdosing LSD (Iterable)

The founder and CEO of a $ 2 billion marketing startup claims he was fired for taking LSD before a corporate meeting.

The San Francisco-based startup Iterable announced that its managing director Justin Zhu was sacked on Monday for “violating company policies”.

But Zhu claims the main reason for firing the board was because of taking LSD, a List 1 drug in the US, at work.

The laid-off CEO, who previously worked at Twitter and founded the valuable marketing startup with a former Google employee, claims he only took a small amount of the hallucinogenic drug – a technique known as microdosing.

Microdosing advocates claim that it can increase focus and creativity without the hallucinatory side effects. It is a popular regime in San Francisco Bay known for its psychedelic culture and ethos of self-experiment.

Even Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was a fan of the drug, telling his biographer that taking LSD “is a profound experience, one of the most important things of my life.”

Other hallucinogenic drugs have also shown promise in the treatment of depression in clinical therapeutic settings.

But Zhu’s co-founder Andrew Boni didn’t see the brighter side, telling staff that Zhu was fired for violating Iterable’s employee handbook, policies, and values. According to reports, Boni has now taken over the management of its former co-founder.

Microdosing advocates claim it can boost focus and creativity without the hallucinatory side effects (Getty)

Microdosing advocates claim it can boost focus and creativity without the hallucinatory side effects (Getty)

Boni’s note added that Zhu’s “behavior also undermines the board’s confidence in Justin’s ability to run the company in the future,” but that he was a “world-class innovator and creative thinker.”

Silicon Valley CEOs have drawn attention in the past due to their unusual habits and routines.

Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, claims to eat only one meal a day, a form of intermittent fasting, and regularly takes time for extended meditation retreats, while PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel reportedly takes small doses of human growth hormone to help ease the aging process slow it down .

However, the phenomenon of microdosing has spread beyond the borders of Silicon Valley. Researchers are studying its effectiveness in treating a range of conditions. The Psychedelic Research Center at Imperial College London is currently looking for participants for its own microdosing study.

For Iterable’s investors and clients, which include big money venture capital firms and companies like DoorDash and Zillow, microdosing at corporate gatherings appeared to be a step too far.

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