The Inbox - Love Me Tinder

| O'Neill, Ashley


If you find yourself in the digital dating scene (or the market for highly-valued start-ups for that matter), you are probably familiar with Tinder, the dating app that allows users to identify potential dates with an easy swipe of a finger on a smartphone.  Last July, Whitney Wolfe, Tinder’s former VP of marketing, sued the company, alleging that she was sexually harassed by Tinder’s fellow co-founders, CMO Justin Mateen and CEO Sean Rad. The suit primarily focused on the ugly breakup between Mateen and Wolfe, and Mateen ultimately resigned in September, after Wolfe’s suit revealed his “private messages to [her] containing inappropriate content.”  Now, the aftershocks of Wolfe’s suit have spread to impact Rad’s employment as well.  As discussed in this lengthy Forbes piece, the company’s majority owner, IAC (InterActivCorp), decided to oust Rad as CEO early this month, in part due to his involvement in the Wolfe-Mateen brouhaha.   IAC says it still wants Rad to stay involved and focus on Tinder’s business, so for now, it’s not undoing the “match” between Rad and the company he founded.

Consumers of taxi and black car services have witnessed a sea change in options over the past few years. Thanks to internet-based car-summoning applications, customers are empowered with a range of efficient, cost-conscious alternatives to standing on the corner, arms waving, eyeing every yellow vehicle that approaches.  Now, Lyft, one of the leading entrants into this new market, is squabbling in court with an employee who left it to join the other market leader, Uber.  According to Courthouse News Service, Lyft recently sued its former COO, Travis VanderZanden, alleging that he breached his employment contract when he left the company to become Uber’s new VP of international growth.  Lyft says that VanderZanden stole 98,000 pages of confidential financial projections and forecasts, business strategies, marketing plans, and international growth documents. It also accuses VanderZanden of soliciting Lyft’s employees to join Uber, including Lyft’s former VP of operations. Meanwhile, just this week, Uber is rumored to be in talks with investors to raise significant capital toward international expansion. It seems obvious that Uber is focusing on growing its international market share, and perhaps time will tell if Lyft can prove a misappropriation of its own confidential international strategy.

If you thought Jimmy John’s non-competes were restrictive, you haven’t seen what Sigma-Aldrich has cooked up.  According to The National Law Review, the overly-restrictive covenant came to light when the company sued a former sales employee for breach of his employment agreement when he left the company for a management position with a competitor.  Unfortunately for the life sciences company, the non-compete offered no geographic limit, and the trial court ruled it unenforceable. On appeal, the Missouri court of appeals did not void the non-compete based on its lack of geographic restriction alone. The court reasoned that if a non-compete with no geographic limitation is to succeed, it must also specify the class with whom the contact is limited. As written, Sigma Aldrich’s non-compete forbade former employees from working for any competitor, anywhere, and in any capacity. Based on the decision on appeal, it is possible, at least in Missouri, for a company to bar an employee from working for a rival anywhere in the world, so long as it specifically articulates the nature of the prohibited employment.