In October 2022, an independent panel released the report of a six-week investigation into the conduct of Eke Urum, the founder of Risevest, following allegations of workplace bullying and sexual harassment. While the committee recommended that Eke step aside as CEO of the company, three people close to the situation told TechCabal that he continues to function effectively as CEO. All persons who spoke to TechCabal asked to be anonymous for fear of reprisals. Risevest has denied the reports and clarified that Eke is only involved in the company’s investment arm.
Eke was first asked to step aside by the company’s board of directors late in August 2022, having been informed of the allegations earlier that month. Several reports at the time suggested that the accusations against Eke were by one person. Still, several sources told this publication that at least two people made the claims against him. While the panel’s investigation did not prove the claims of sexual abuse, it pointed out that there was “sexual impropriety”. Part of the panel’s findings said, “The evidence presented to the panel could not prove sexual assault by Eke Urum. However, the evidence presented to the panel, including admitted sexual relations with an employee and unwanted, inappropriate jokes and conversations, revealed sexual impropriety. It also showed a pattern of abuse of power, intimidation, retaliation, and workplace bullying by him.”
Risevest moves on after panel report
On the strength of that report, the panel recommended that Eke should not be reinstated as CEO. It also recommended that Tony Odiba be named acting CEO until the board appoints a new CEO; four months after the report, a new CEO has not been selected. Instead, three sources told TechCabal that Eke remains in charge of decision-making at the company.
In response to this claim, Tony Odiba, the acting CEO of Risevest, told TechCabal: “I am still the acting CEO, and I run the overall operations of Rise. Eke is only involved in the company’s investment arm as he is one of our lead investment managers and still leads the overall product strategy as the panel recommended. All other aspects of the business are still under my purview.” In a phone call, Eke told TechCabal, “I’m not, and I’ve not been leading the company and not as CEO. I’m not involved in the day-to-day. What I do at Rise, based on the panel recommendation, is help direct the product and oversee the investment selection process.”
Another source said there was a company-wide meeting after the panel report was released where Eke refuted all the allegations against him. Two people with knowledge of that meeting confirmed that Eke told the team to “drown out the noise and focus on building.” Eke Urum and Odiba confirmed that the meeting happened but did not provide further details. All our sources said that employees at Risevest had accepted the situation and moved on.
However, two sources close to the situation noted that Eke is not ruling out legal action against what he feels are some of the false accusations. It is unclear what the substance of the legal action is or whether it will happen, but Eke will share what he calls his side of the story at some point. In the middle of all of these, there were also layoffs at the company.
Layoffs at Rise citing macroeconomic conditions
Several sources who spoke to TechCabal confirmed that layoffs within the company started in December and ended in January 2023. All sources say that the company cited the broader macroeconomic conditions as a reason for the layoffs. Two sources could not confirm an exact number but estimated that about 10 people were fired.
Tony Odiba, the acting CEO of RiseVest, confirmed the layoffs to TechCabal via email. Part of his email said, “…given the macroeconomic conditions, the company has to ensure it remains fully operational while it still meets its obligations to staff. However, things can not always go as we wish, so we made some hard decisions. We laid layoff some people, and [those conversations started] as early as June last year.”
Beyond the layoffs, Risevest will have to navigate choppy waters soon as its founder tries to push back against weighty allegations that will put the spotlight on his startup again. As with everything, only time will tell how this will play out.