Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Nextdoor Lawsuit Alleging VCs Stole Local Social Network Idea Is Dismissed

A lawsuit against Benchmark Capital and its portfolio company Nextdoor — filed by a founder claiming they stole his name and idea for a start-up — was dropped on Tuesday.

The case was dismissed without prejudice at the request of Fatdoor founder Raj Abhyanker, who said that Benchmark and its EIRs — which in 2007 included Nextdoor CEO Nirav Tolia, as well as current Facebook CTO Bret Taylor, who was also named in the complaint — had stolen his pitch for a local social network with neighborhood-level privacy controls.

Nextdoor VP communications Dabney Lawless said her company felt vindicated that the lawsuit was dropped without a paid settlement. “We’ve always said the lawsuit is completely without merit,” she said.

Abhyanker, though, said his fight was not over. He is currently contesting the Nextdoor trademark, and he is hopeful that he can persuade Google to take up the fight, since it owns the Fatdoor intellectual property through its purchase of a later version of the company called The Dealmap.

Further, it came out over the course of my reporting today that Abhyanker also sued Facebook in January over Fatdoor trade secrets; that case has already been dismissed, as well.

That complaint, filed Jan. 20 and embedded below, said Taylor stole various ideas from Fatdoor for broad concepts related to Facebook’s news feed, “Like” button and other products.

Abhyanker told me that the lawsuit and quick dismissal was all part of his litigation strategy to enlist Google to pursue the Fatdoor patents.

I asked Google for comment on the matter, but I doubt it will have much to say.

Abhyanker framed the cases as a fight between a lone entrepreneur and the “incestuous old boys club” of Silicon Valley. “People are afraid to stand up. We stood up and I’m proud of that,” he said.

Making a lay judgment on this particular battle was harder than usual because of the people involved. Tolia and Benchmark had somewhat infamously been sued, and settled with shareholders in a previous start-up, Epinions, after the shareholders were mostly left out of an acquisition deal. Meanwhile, Abhyanker is an intellectual property lawyer, and pursuing patents and trademarks is literally his business.

Raj Abhyanker Facebook lawsuit


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— Valleywag editor Sam Biddle