I recently spoke to Gregory Gopman, the Virtual Reality leader who Twitter hired — and then fired after 24 hours following a TechCrunch hit-piece that brought up old comments Gopman had made on his Facebook account three years ago.
“They couldn’t actually say they fired me because of that. That would be illegal. It was more of a ‘I don’t think it’s working out’ talk,” explained Gopman on his separation from Twitter. “I didn’t want to make it harder for them than it had to be.”
TechCrunch reporter Lucas Matney received heavy backlash in the comments of his piece two weeks ago, after it led Gopman to lose his new position leading Twitter’s Virtual and Augmented Reality initiative, with users describing the piece as an act of “bullying,” “harassment,” and a “total dick move.”
“I don’t know if they didn’t know or they just didn’t care. It hasn’t been relevant for years,” said Gopman on the topic of whether Twitter knew about his old and since-apologized for posting when hiring him. “Then this TechCrunch piece comes and makes it headline news again. I was shocked. The second I saw it I knew I was going to be fired. No one survives a hit piece like that unless you’re senior management.”
In a piece for HackerNoon written four days ago, Gopman claimed that he was “moving forward.” Though his comments in 2013 generated severe backlash, with TechCrunch being the outlet to recently dig up his comments, Gopman has since gone on to dedicate his time into learning and building solutions for the homeless over the past few years.
“I started by trying to make amends with people I had attacked. I learned everything I could about homelessness so I could try to make a positive impact in the space. I was lucky that a lot of homeless non-profit leaders took me under their wing and showed me things most never get exposed to,” he wrote in his piece. “I got to sleep in homeless encampments, get mentored by national leaders in the space, meet with civic leaders and organize city-wide events on solving homelessness. It was awesome.”
Then when I thought I learned enough, it was time to act. I took a crack at building my own solutions — putting WiFi in homeless shelters (Shelter Tech), helping bring peer based workforce empowerment programs to San Francisco (Downtown Streets Team), and creating disruptive housing solutions that would bring a complete end to homelessness for less than what cities currently spend today (Transition Centers and Regional Housing Solutions).
“Things are really exciting right now. I have projects I’m working on in VR, IoT, and homeless solutions,” Gopman told me. “In a lot of ways I’m in better shape since getting fired so I can spend more time on them. I really liked working at Twitter and would be open to working at another big company down the line. But I’m happy with what I’m cracking on right now.”
Despite his eagerness to move on, Gopman did state that he wished “they could have handled things so much more tastefully.”
“I was really upset with them at first, the general consensus from everyone who read it was, ‘Fuck TechCrunch’… I don’t know why they thought that piece would be relevant or funny,” he said. “The guy looked at my life and tore everything I’ve ever done up as insignificant and did it out of nowhere. I hit up TechCrunch’s editor immediately after and he said that he didn’t review the post before it went live… I just don’t think people there care anymore.”
“They don’t realize there are serious repercussions when pieces like that are written,” Gopman concluded, describing it as “bully-like journalism” and adding that it would never have been published if former TechCrunch co-editor Michael Arrington was in charge.
Arrington stood up for Gopman two weeks ago, posting that he was “Saddened to see how the community is treating [Greg]. Totally ashamed of the way techcrunch is handling it.”
Saddened to see how the community is treating @StartupGreg. Totally ashamed of the way techcrunch is handling it.
— Michael Arrington (@arrington) October 19, 2016
Gopman, however, has already been significantly damaged by his past and the ruthless pursuit of social justice warriors, anxious for their next display of outrage. He is but another victim of the news outlets looking to fill the void left by the now defunct Gawker.