A female startup founder filed a lawsuit on Wednesday against a longtime Silicon Valley venture capitalist for alleged sexual assault on an overnight flight from San Francisco to Minneapolis last July.
Rachel Danae Vachata, a 29-year-old co-founder of technology companies, alleges that 73-year-old venture capitalist Lucio Lanza “preyed on” Vachata by threatening to use his position to make or break her companies and then repeatedly groped her breast and crotch and tried to kiss her, and at one point inserted his hands between her legs while seated next to her on the flight, according to the complaint filed with the Santa Clara County Superior Court.
Vachata alleges that on a July 28 Delta Airlines flight from San Francisco to Minneapolis, Lanza sat next to her — despite having been assigned a different seat by the airline — and began talking to her after seeing her company’s logo on her computer. Her lawsuit alleges that after a flight attendant told Lanza to move back to his correct seat, he returned to sit next to Vachata when an off-duty pilot left the seat next to Vachata’s.
Lanza is the founder and managing director of Lanza techVentures, based in Palo Alto. Lanza did not respond to a request for comment after calls were made to his firm, Lanza techVentures. A spokesperson said: “Lucio has no idea of what he is being accused of. As far as he remembers, he was on a plane talking to this woman about her start-up.”
“Victims did not create the problem, but we will be part of the solution.” said Vachata. “We can’t be afraid to stand up for ourselves and others — safety is a basic human right.”
In her complaint, Vachata said an airline supervisor told her that Lanza likely was not forced to stay in his original assigned seat and not cut off from being over-served alcoholic beverages because he was a platinum member with the airline. The supervisor also told Vachata that the incident had been recorded by the company.
Lanza techVentures, founded in 2001, made its most recent public investment during a 2016 seed round in Bloomlife, a women’s health company using wearables and data to improve birth outcomes, according to Crunchbase. Bloomlife didn’t immediately respond to an email request for comment.