Male employees at a $1.6 billion security camera startup were accused of taking photos of female employees and sharing them in a private Slack channel

Verkada camera security surveillance system Verkada makes a cloud-bases camera security system.

  • Company insiders at Verkada, a unicorn startup that sells camera security systems, say male employees were using the company’s technology to take photos of female employees around the office and sharing those photos in a private Slack channel, according to an investigation in IPVM.
  • The company penalized those workers by reducing their stock awards, multiple sources told IPVM.
  • A representative for Verkada disputed the report, saying it contained “many factual inaccuracies.” IPVM is not a news organization, but a research and reviews site for the video surveillance industry.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Several male employees at Verkada, which sells video surveillance systems, were accused of using the company’s own software to take photos of female employees around the office and posting those photos with captions in a private Slack channel.

Company insiders detailed the incident, and alleged a “frat house” environment that allowed this type of behavior to go unchecked, in an explosive report in IPVM released Tuesday.

Verkada uses its own camera security system at its headquarters in downtown San Mateo, California, to conduct customer demos and for security purposes.

But a group of male employees used it for other means last year when they took screenshots of their coworkers around the office and shared the photos with crude, sometimes sexual, captions across Slack, according to the investigation.

IPVM did not publish screen shots of the Slack chat but it did publish an email from the CEO about the article. In it he disputing any allegation that the company “condones a culture of systemic sexual harassment.” The CEO also said in the email that the company has investigated past allegations and “took disciplinary action against the relevant employees which ranged from financial penalties to termination.”

Sources told IPVM that the company penalized those employees by reducing their stock awards, but no one in this incident was terminated.

“I was shocked. To me that’s not just a fireable offense, that’s a career-ending offense,” one person told IPVM.

One person familiar with the incident explained to Business Insider that because all employees are aware that these cameras are used throughout the office, the incident could not be accurately described as covertly using the system take photos of workers unknowingly.

IPVM is not a news organization, but instead a research and reviews site for the video surveillance industry. Writer Charles Rollet spoke to “multiple” unnamed sources, who were mostly former employees, he told Business Insider.

A representative for Verkada told IPVM that the report contained “many factual inaccuracies,” saying that the company could not discuss the actions of individual employees “out of respect for their privacy and wellbeing.”

Verkada declined to make cofounder and CEO Filip Kaliszan available for an interview with Business Insider on Thursday, but the company said in an emailed statement that it is providing coaching for managers and mandatory sexual harassment training, as well as expanding the human resources team, to make the workplace safe for all.

“Verkada is committed to creating a workplace that is respectful and inclusive of everyone. We take our policies very seriously, and there have been and will continue to be repercussions for anyone who violates them. Every employee is expected to operate with high standards of conduct, and any behavior that runs counter to these values is not tolerated,” the company wrote.

Verkada is a unicorn startup with a lot at stake

Founded by computer scientists who met at Stanford University, Verkada was built on the realization that the older, legacy security camera systems that businesses and schools used were lagging in features compared to the modern security systems that were available for homeowners, like Ring and Nest. Its cameras stream a video feed to a dashboard in the cloud, where security personnel can play back footage that shows any activity that set off an alert.

Verkada CEO Filip Kaliszan. Verkada cofounder and CEO Filip Kaliszan.

The company has taken off in four years. In January, Verkada reported that it had 2,500 customers, including two dozen Fortune 500 companies, partnered with 1,100 resellers, and tripled revenue in 2019. It’s now going after hospitals as clients, as health care facilities struggle to manage capacity and provide patient care in a pandemic.

Before this year’s challenges, Verkada raised about $150 million in funding from investors such as Sequoia Capital, First Round Capital, and Felicis Ventures. Its last round of financing in January gave it a $1.6 billion valuation.

And last month, Verkada was No. 10 on LinkedIn’s list of the top startups of the year, a ranking based on the volume of job applications initiated on the site as well as employee growth. Verkada’s staff about doubled this year to 405.

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