Robert Scoble, the high-profile tech evangelist and blogger, and longtime fixture at industry events, has been accused by a second woman of groping. Michelle Greer, who worked with Scoble at Rackspace in 2009 and 2010, says Scoble groped her at a tech conference in 2010. The accusation comes on the same day that the technology journalist Quinn Norton accused Scoble of assaulting her in the early 2010s at Foo Camp, a hacker conference. Norton wrote, "And then, without any more warning, Scoble was on me. I felt one hand on my breast and his arm reaching around and grabbing my butt."
Scoble is an influential figure in tech. He started his Scobleizer blog in 2000, and parlayed the blog into lucrative roles including technology evangelist at Microsoft, futurist at Rackspace, and most recently, entrepreneur in residence at Upload, a virtual reality startup that recently settled a sexual harassment lawsuit with a former employee. He's a fixture at tech conferences, where he gives talks with titles like "Beyond Mobile." He’s also written several books with a co-author, Shel Israel, including 2016's The Fourth Transformation, about how in the future, we will replace everything we do on our phones with moving our eyes or even brainwaves.
Greer was a senior manager in corporate communications at Rackspace, where one of her responsibilities was to produce content for Scoble's now-defunct "Building 43" project, a social networking and content community that largely focused on startups. One night in February 2010 when Greer was at the Startup Riot tech conference with Scoble in Atlanta, a few people from Rackspace ended up in the hotel bar.
"I remember seeing him with two drinks in his hand," she told BuzzFeed News. "My boss sat next to me, and Scoble sits across from me and starts touching my leg." She said that she told the group she was tired and had to go up to her room. Once she got there, she called her boyfriend and told him what had happened.
A couple days later, when the team was back in San Francisco, Scoble's producer (who was present during the incident) apologized to her. As she recalled, he told her, "I'm so sorry, my employees will never touch you again." But Scoble himself never apologized, and Greer decided not to go to HR with what had happened.
When contacted by BuzzFeed News via Facebook Messenger on Thursday, Scoble said, "What happened with Michelle happened with my boss," as well as "other women in the room." He declined to comment further, saying only that he would be doing a live video at midnight Pacific.
After the incident, Greer still had to work with Scoble. Their face-to-face interaction was limited, since she was based in Austin and he was in San Francisco, but still, Greer said, "I was afraid of him," and she dreaded their occasional interactions at conferences and events. She decided to try to transfer to a different team at Rackspace, but within the next few months, two different teams told her they didn't have the head count to put her on their teams. In the meantime, her job performance was suffering. "I had basically shut down," she said. "I was miserable."
One day, she got called into an office by her boss, who told her he didn't think she could be happy at the company, and let her go. (Greer's former boss did not return a phone call from BuzzFeed News.) At her exit interview, she said, she told HR everything that had happened. "You could tell they felt bad," she said. "They were like, why didn't you come to us before? I was like, it's Robert Scoble. If this gets out, he has the bigger megaphone than I do. I could be totally hosed."
The timing, she said, was terrible: "I had just gotten a condo. I had a mortgage."
For Greer, one of the most galling things about what happened was watching Scoble continue to act like an advocate for women in tech on social media and elsewhere. "He'll share a lot of stuff about women in tech. He tries to act like an ally." In July, she posted a comment on Facebook that said, "I have always worked with mostly men. They know things should change. If you don't get rid of the bad actors though, nothing changes." Scoble liked her comment. "I responded, 'You're a bad actor. I can't tell you how awful I felt after working with you. Watching you like this post angered me.' He said, 'Saying I am sorry isn't enough to undo the harm I have done.'"
Years after the incident and her subsequent firing, Greer is still angry about how she was treated. "I have to explain for the rest of my life why I only worked at Rackspace for 10 months. I wish I had gone to HR when it happened so I could have nipped it in the bud, and it wouldn't be this cancer that just spread."
To Greer, it seems as though she's been victimized all over again. "He apologizes and then he keeps doing this crap," she said. "I lost my job. It traumatized me for life."
Doree Shafrir is a senior tech writer for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.
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