A $2 billion startup dismissed its CEO for microdosing LSD at work

Microdosing, the act of taking a tiny amount of psychedelics to improve focus and creativity, has been popular among Silicon Valley execs for years, despite drugs such as LSD being illegal in the US. One CEO of a $2 billion startup experimented with this practice. Unfortunately, it cost him his job.

As reported by Bloomberg, Justin Zhu was the CEO of marketing startup Iterable Inc, valued at around $2 billion, before being ousted over violations of company policy. Zhu said his dismissal was because he took a tiny amount of LSD before a meeting in 2019 in an effort to boost his focus.

Company co-founder Andrew Boni told staff in an email that Zhu violated “Iterable’s Employee Handbook, policies and values.”

Zhu’s “behavior also undermined the board’s confidence in Justin’s ability to lead the company going forward,” Boni wrote, noting that his “vision, creativity and passion will remain a core part of our culture.” The board has appointed Boni as the company’s new CEO.

Microdosing usually involves taking one-20th to one-tenth of a recreational dose of psychedelics such as LSD or magic mushrooms—not enough to see God and start listening to Pink Floyd albums, but it’s claimed that tiny amounts boost focus, creativity, and mood. It started gaining popularity in Silicon Valley about ten years ago, though it’s still pretty controversial and illegal, of course, as psychedelics are schedule 1 drugs.

Sadly for Zhu, his attempts to become more focused might have been in vain, meaning he lost his position for nothing. Imperial College London researchers recently carried out the largest placebo-controlled trial of psychedelics, and while they did find that small doses of LSD boosted the psychology, the placebos worked equally as well as the drug.

“This suggests that the improvements may not be due to the pharmacological action of the drug but can instead be explained by the placebo effect,” said lead author Balázs Szigeti.