back to article A trip to the dole queue: CEO of $2bn Bay Area tech biz says he was fired for taking LSD before company meeting

The co-founder and CEO of Iterable, a San Francisco marketing tech biz valued at over $2bn, claims he was fired after admitting to micro-dosing LSD at work. Justin Zhu, a Twitter alum, founded his upstart with former Google Adsense veteran Andrew Boni in 2013 and built it into a company employing more than 400 staff with a …

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  1. abs

    Stoned web design

    Clients have commented on how they find my web apps easy to navigate and use.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Stoned web design

      That would explain lots.

    2. KittenHuffer Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: Stoned web design

      I (sort of) remember in my youth partaking of 'drunken' coding on many an occasion.

      Once in a while I'd get up in the morning, review my code, and realise that I'd never have thought of that way of solving that problem.

      But most of the time I'd get up, review my code, and realise what I'd be spending the morning rewriting!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Stoned web design

        Oh god yeah. The worst part though is when you're sober you can't understand what you wrote and need to get drunk again.

        I had a housemate years ago (works for a large accountancy software firm now) that used to get drunk at the same time and we'd go on weird coding marathons.

        The idea was we'd set a very simple goal and attempt to come up with the fewest lines of code to achieve that goal. E.g. card shuffling algorithm, list sorting algorithms, vector prediction algorithms etc.

        We were truly at our peak. We could chuck out code while hammered that was elegant and efficient. Neither of us are that good anymore.

        We came up with algorithms I still don't fully understand.

        The card shuffling algos we came up with are like alien technology.

        We wrote things almost exclusively in BASIC or C and one of the key rules is that we weren't allowed to use descriptive English readable names anywhere in our code for variables. We weren't allowed to comment our code and we weren't allowed to reuse any code.

        If we hit a wall or big that couldn't be fixed within a reasonable amount of time we had to start from scratch observing the rules above.

        The purpose was to find different routes to solve a problem. A bit like starting at one end of a forest and trying to sprint through it without stopping. If we had to stop, back to the edge of the forest and another route had to be found but an already beaten path could not be used.

        1. Stu J

          Re: Stoned web design

          https://xkcd.com/323/

    3. Sampler

      Re: Stoned web design

      I remember back when I was cool *cough* young I would spin up the decks at a mates house and make record ideas of mixes I'd like to try at the next set we had live. Often a few tinnies would go down and one night I made this awesome tape and we were like "we should take this to a record label, it's awesome", listened back to it the next day and, yeah, it got taped over..

  2. jake Silver badge

    Silly Con Valley tried this "microdosing" thing back in the '80s.

    It didn't work then, either. All we wound up with was a bunch of druggies telling everyone how cool their ideas were, with the rest of us shaking our heads and cleaning up the mess.

    1. thames
      Pint

      Re: Silly Con Valley tried this "microdosing" thing back in the '80s.

      This is like being very drunk when a university student. You would have what you felt were the most brilliant and profound insights ever, and couldn't understand why other, more sober people couldn't see it when you tried to explain it to them.

      When you woke up the next morning, as well as having a headache you would also have the realization that what you thought was brilliant the night before was either completely mundane or complete nonsense.

      1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

        Re: Silly Con Valley tried this "microdosing" thing back in the '80s.

        what you thought was brilliant the night before was either completely mundane or complete nonsense.

        A friend of mine at University had an world changing revelation one evening when utterly stoned out of his skull, and, knowing he'd probably not remember it the next day, wrote it down. The next morning he vaguely remembered doing it and looked for the note before doing anything else. The note read "must get another pint of milk".

        1. ShadowDragon8685

          Re: Silly Con Valley tried this "microdosing" thing back in the '80s.

          Well, did your mate get his milk?

      2. Mike 16 Silver badge

        Re: College Daze

        One of the episodes of my college years that I am still ashamed of was when I recorded my roommate's Outstanding Guitar Licks one evening and played them back to him when he was sober next morning.

        He did forgive me and we still correspond occasionally, but I don't recommend it.

      3. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Silly Con Valley tried this "microdosing" thing back in the '80s.

        Hollywood and Wall St tried the cocaine megadosing thing in the 80s and that was awesome.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Silly Con Valley tried this "microdosing" thing back in the '80s.

          Ludes dude. Ludes.

    2. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      The Flip Side of the COunter INtelligence COIN aint No Sunny 0Day Tripper Ride

      It didn't work then, either. All we wound up with was a bunch of druggies telling everyone how cool their ideas were, with the rest of us shaking our heads and cleaning up the mess. ..... jake

      What does that tell everyone about the prime time movers and shakers responsible for the messes that geopolitical party members and rigged trade and corrupt money markets are escaping accountability for, jake, ...... apart from being currently a right dodgy lucky bunch of druggies.

      Can you imagine what will happen to them whenever the system realises their weaknesses and catches them?

      1. fajensen Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: The Flip Side of the COunter INtelligence COIN aint No Sunny 0Day Tripper Ride

        Can you imagine what will happen to them whenever the system realises their weaknesses and catches them?

        Golden Parachute emits it's jolly little "PoP!" and then they sail on the warm winds of Free Enterprise into a cushier, yet more important and better paid, position. Until finally they retire and become government advisors instead?

  3. Joe W Silver badge

    Acid - don't do it...

    A former colleague told me this. He was an interesting guy, for sure, and very reliable and sensible nowadays. He took it "way back when", but said that he had flashbacks for quite a while, and the kind and timing of them left something to be desired.

    And then there is the categorisation system as of another former colleague: "I'd take it, my brother would take it, my brother does not want to have anything to do with it". I think acid is definitely not cat1.

    I have some strange colleagues....

    1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

      Re: Acid - don't do it...

      Acid, and to some extent heroin, are such that in spite of all the propaganda against them, most people take them for a while and then stop without any lasting damage. Some people though end up massively damaged and with their lives completely screwed up (or ended). The problem is that beforehand you have no idea which group you will be in, which is why the propaganda against exists.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Acid - don't do it...

        That's why it isn't propaganda.

      2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Acid - don't do it...

        That's not true - even thinking about drugs will immediately kill you.

        I know because I went to school in the 80s and the Thatcher/Reagan governments would never lie

      3. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

        Re: Acid - don't do it...

        The problem is the side effects of LSD and heroin can be very nasty. There is no easy way beforehand to determine if you will have any of these side effects and at what dose. This is true of any powerful drug like these. It's propaganda but observable fact.

        Recreational use of these drugs is also hampered by dealers cutting them with all sorts things which can make what is already somewhat unpredictable even less so and even more dangerous.

      4. FlamingDeath Silver badge

        Re: Acid - don't do it...

        It’s impossible to become addicted to LSD, I am talking from experience. As to the description of the effects of psychedelics being that you will see talking colours and dragons, is utter bollox and just shows the lack of knowledge about the substance. If you want to converse with an entity that may or may not be a part of your imagination, take DMT, that is a true hallucinogen

        They’re talking about using psychedelics to treat addiction.

        Oh and the gov sacked Professor Nutt when he told them the truth about so-called controlled aibstances.

        Bunch of fucking swivel eyed loons, who make these policies

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Acid - don't do it...

          You want to downplay the dangers of Equasy ?

          1. low_resolution_foxxes Bronze badge

            Re: Acid - don't do it...

            If I'm not mistaken, the largest statistical risk that exists during ecstacy trips is panic and overreaction to the guidance to drink water. Ultimately resulting in you drinking too much water and dying of over-hydration and over-sweating.

            It is worth remembering then, that technically water is more dangerous than ecstacy, in a "what is more likely to kill you" numeric comparison.

        2. RuffianXion
          Paris Hilton

          Re: Acid - don't do it...

          Which led to one of the greatest news headlines I've ever seen (in the Telegraph no less) - https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/6509297/MPs-demand-answers-over-Nutt-sacking.html

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Acid - don't do it...

        As a student in school I smoked weed and took acid all the time, and occasionally had a drink or two but it was never a problem. When I moved to university and then started working afterwards they called me Capt. Bentbrains.

      6. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Acid - don't do it...

        the other issue is that the kind of people who associate with them and the profit margins associated with the kinds of people who sell it are such that it it's a good idea to hand out with them or the product they're selling

        money (and greed) makes people do very strange things

    2. Ernst Blofelt

      Re: Acid - don't do it...

      Do people still do LSD

      It's been DMT round these parts for years now

  4. fajensen Silver badge

    How did "They" find out? Was he being an idiot on SoMe or does HR have a Raman-spectrometer in the lobby or something?

    1. thames

      Perhaps when he presented his "brilliant new plan" to the board one of them asked him "WTF? Are you on drugs or something?", to which he answered "why yes I am, how did you guess?"

    2. David Glasgow

      Because he started a pitch...

      "picture yourself, in a boat, on a river...."

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Because he started a pitch...

        ...after spending the first 30 minutes slowly eating a bowl of Doritos.

        1. fajensen Silver badge

          Re: Because he started a pitch...

          But, then his dose is not "micro".

    3. JDPower666

      He told people. It's literally there in the article.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        ..which was really a very stupid thing to do. Clearly the "micro-dose" of LSD blurred his judgement. LSD is still illegal, no matter the dose size. A secret is no longer a secret if you tell someone.

        Maybe next time he could just try holding his breath. Some people claim a certain level of hypoxia can clarify thinking too. On the other hand, some also claim the same for "shots" or pure oxygen have the same effect.

        Personally, I think most of these claims rely more on the person trying it out believing in the hype rather than an actual effect.

        1. JDPower666

          That may be the case for creativity, I don't know, but micro dosing can have a positive role in mental health. Hell, even backwards Britain has just started a trial into it's use for depression.

          1. CrackedNoggin

            Why would the effects of depression be any different than they were back in the 60/70's?

            There are a huge variety of drugs that result in a feeling of euphoria. Inevitably, many people with little drug experience who take those drugs then believe they that drug improves the character/intellugence/happiness and become a proselytizer for the cause. LSD, Ecstacy, Cannibus, Cocaine, Ketamine, etc. Now here we are back to the Golden Oldy LSD, for the "first" time.

            LSD is just not reliable and predictable enough, even in the short run. I remember the news reports from the early 70's about a drug manufacturing lab raided in Kingston on Thames - it was so contaminated that two of the officers ended up "tripping". One "freaked out" and had to be hospitalized. The other remained calm and was interviewed on the news, and although I can't remember his exact words now, my memory is that he found it "interesting".

            Personally, I believe that any mind expansion or mood change possible with street drugs is also possible by other non-drug means - e.g., fasting, meditation, and physical activity. There is long history of such.

            But, if someone is going to use street drugs anyway, then I think they are better going into it thinking of it as temporary entertainment, not as a permanent solution to making them a better, happier person.

            ** Yes I know that there are some drugs that for example do prevent severe schizophrenic episodes in a very small portion of the population. And pot can be very useful for people suffering long term / end of life pain - a far better option than opioids. But those are all special cases - while above I am talking about the cultural mode.

            1. brotherelf

              > Personally, I believe that any mind expansion or mood change possible with street drugs is also possible by other non-drug means - e.g., fasting, meditation, and physical activity. There is long history of such.

              Yes. This training is a bit easier if you know what you're looking for, though. (In a "now I know what I can give my consciousness permission to do" kind of way.)

              AFAICT, even the proponents of psychoactive substances for mental health reasons don't say this is a pill that will fix your problem – it's possibly a way to make it easier to see things from a novel-to-you angle that will make it easier to do all the other stuff, like CBT, even if your current brain patterns try very hard to keep you in a routine that isn't healthy for you.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I took a lot of LSD in my youth, I think it was 76 in 1 year when I was 16. Not proud of it but it is what it is. The question is did it change the way I think? I think it did. I'll give an example. Last year I went to B&Q just after lockdown started and it was boiling hot outside and we were queueing in cars for ages. When we got to the front they directed us into bays. The bays were facing the sun. Everyone else parked forward yet I was the only one that parked backwards while I waited for them to bring to stuff to the car. This also translates into tech. There have been many times I've hit a problem only to come up with some really novel way of getting round it. I can't actually remember a time when I've had to do something with data in particular that I didn't get it done in the end. I was also the person in meetings that thought of something no one else did when working on projects. I don't advocate the use of LSD at all but I do think it has it's merits and probably needs some proper research.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You just don't know, that might be your personality to begin with, it might give you a bit of perspective on things for a few months but unless you get lasting PTSD I don't see how it can affect your life going forward.

      Don't forget it was your choice to try it so you were already the kind of person that has a slightly different way of thinking compared to the majority.

      1. FBee
        Coffee/keyboard

        50's housewife on LSD

        "It's so sad that you can't see it...you'll never see it..."

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Si-jQeWSDKc

        ESC key for escaping reality!

    2. the Jim bloke
      Alien

      Not a drug user and never (willingly) have been, but still smart or experienced enough to park facing away from the sun. I do have some alienation issues where I believe the vast majority of people are not as intelligent as me, reinforced almost every time I see a switched on TV, doesnt matter what content its showing..

      You may have sharper wit and deeper insights than most of your colleagues, but would they be even more profound if you hadnt killed those braincells back in the day....

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        That's a good point. I never thought of it that way.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        .. not a drug user

        So you don't drink alcohol then? Whilst childhood intake of these classes of hallucinogen is advised against as it can trigger mental health issues far more readily than in adults, alcohol destroys your brain at any age when consumed in socially acceptable volumes.

        1. the Jim bloke
          Unhappy

          Re: .. not a drug user

          Point conceded.

          I used to drink regularly,

          now its only on special occasions, and I miss it...

    3. katrinab Silver badge
      Meh

      I park with the back facing outwards at places like B&Q, because it is easier to get the trolley to the back of the car to put things in the boot. With my car, I don't think it makes much of a difference in terms of sun exposure which way round it is parked, but I might look to park next to a tree or something if that makes a difference in the particular situation I find myself in.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Exactly. Most people park facing into a parking bay because they are crap at reversing in. They often don't seem to realise that reversing out is more dangerous because, depending on what is parked next to you, you might be half-way or out of the space before you can see other traffic or pedestrians.

        1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
          Pint

          My father taught me a lesson like that when I was a young lad, about reversing in to a parking bay, when you have full awareness of the local vehicle & foot traffic, rather than reversing out when you don't have that.

          Although these days in Mall car parks I tend to drive in across two empty bays & still be facing out.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          There is a company that I worked at which had a policy that everyone should reverse park in the office car parks - for the safety aspect that you refer to, and had notice boards to reverse park in the car park.

          Fair enough, but the safety directs also went to which way you went down corridors and stairs - and you had to be demonstrably holding the handrails when using the stairs, else risk being reported to your manager.

          The overriding memory of that place... "Stepford Wives" - a docile, conformant workforce - especially in the call centre - and IMHO, the operatives were subjected to a cult-like environment.

          Glad to have finished the work there, and as they are exiting that business, hopefully the call centre people too will find a better employer/employment conditions

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            My current employer is like that - only they insisted on NOT reverse parking. They eventually conceded that maybe it's ok, as long as it's in the lots with perpendicular parking, rather than the diagonal, clearly directional parking. (With that one, they have a point.)

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        This was lockdown they were directing people into a very large areas quite far apart from each other in the middle of the car park. I'm not talking about normal parking... I chose backwards because of the sun, nobody else made that conscious decision. I'm not special just odd thinking.

        I can't believe people actually thought I was talking about run of the mill shopping parking.

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