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Here's who invested in embattled Thinx CEO's bidet startup Tushy

Daniel Roberts
Editor-at-Large
A promo page from Tushy’s web site

Two co-founders of Casper, and a co-founder of Scribd and Parse (which sold to Facebook), invested in a bidet-attachment company from the embattled former CEO of period-underwear company Thinx.

New York City subway riders are familiar with Thinx, which makes “period-proof” underwear and flooded trains with ads in fall of 2015. The ads were certainly controversial, and when Thinx added a new one protesting Trump (“pu**y-grabbing-proof underwear”) during the presidential campaign, it had to take the ad down.

But anyone outside of New York who missed the stir caused by the subway ads may have first heard of the company this month, from a bombshell New York Magazine report on harassment accusations against Thinx founder and CEO Miki Agrawal.

The in-depth story contained multiple eye-popping anecdotes alleging that Agrawal created an uncomfortable work environment at Thinx by, among many things: discussing employees’ breasts; touching employees’ breasts; showing her own breasts; discussing in graphic detail her own sexual exploits; and video-conferencing into a meeting from the toilet. Thinx’s former head of PR filed a complaint against Agrawal with the City of New York Commission on Human Rights.

Racked reported that 10 of Thinx’s 35 employees have left the company in three months. Agrawal stepped down as CEO in March. (In a Medium post published in response, Agrawal did not dispute any of the facts in the story and acknowledged, “I have made a ton of mistakes,” but also summarized criticism of her this way: “You should have gotten 100% of everything right the whole time Miki. How dare you.”)

NYC subway ads for Thinx

At the end of New York Magazine’s story came an intriguing detail: Agrawal’s other company, Tushy, recently raised $500,000 in funding.

What is Tushy? “It’s butt spray,” in the company’s own words. “Heaven on your booty. A fountain of fun for your bum.” The company sells two bidet attachments for toilets: $69 for “cool” or $84 for “warm and cool.”

Tushy’s own March 9 press release touted that its founder is Miki Agrawal of Thinx, who also founded pee-proof underwear line Icon. “Miki first set out to challenge social taboos with periods… then pee… and now Tushy is meant to change the way we all talk about poop. And skid marks.”

Who invested in Tushy?

So who are Tushy’s investors, and how are they reacting to the recent reports about Thinx and Agrawal?

Tushy announced this month that its $500,000 seed round was “led by Propulsion Capital, with participation from angels including Luke Sherwin and Neil Parikh of Casper and Zachary Werner of Poln.”

Sherwin and Parikh are two of the three founders of Casper, a popular mattress startup that already has a $500 million valuation. Parikh is its COO. Casper and Thinx have something in common: both have heavily utilized subway advertising in New York City.

Werner is the founder and CEO of Poln (pronounced “pollen”), an advertising consultancy for small and mid-sized online retailers. He is the former head of product for Organize.org, an organ donor web site, and previously worked at Universal Music Group.

Sherwin, Parikh, and Werner declined to comment, and would not even confirm they invested in Tushy. Almost everyone involved with Tushy is staying silent in the aftermath of the stories about Thinx.

Tushy’s press release about its seed funding included a positive quote from Tikhon Bernstam of Propulsion Capital, and linked out to a website for Propulsion Capital. But that website belongs to a venture capital firm that told Yahoo Finance it did not invest in Tushy and has no connection to the company.

A story about Tushy published at Inc. Magazine on the day of its funding announcement also quoted Bernstam and cited him as part of “San Diego venture capital firm” Propulsion Capital. Propulsion Capital is in San Diego, but Bernstam is not.

The mix-up, says Bernstam, happened because he is in the process of changing the name of his fund. He was going by the name Propulsion Capital when he invested in Tushy, earlier this month, but is now changing his fund’s name to Autonomous.vc.

Tushy CEO Monica Pereira, who calls herself Tushy’s Chief Execpootive Officer (Agrawal’s title is co-founder), emailed Yahoo Finance: “We raised from Propulsion Capital and Tikhon Bernstam managed, but that link [in Tushy’s own press release] was incorrect. We disclosed everything we plan to disclose in the press release.” She declined further comment, and Agrawal did not respond to requests for comment.

Bernstam has had prior success in Silicon Valley startup-land. He co-founded Scribd, the e-reading platform founded in 2005 that has raised nearly $50 million, and co-founded Parse, an app developer platform Facebook bought for $85 million in 2013. He has privately invested in more than 50 startups, many of them in self-driving car technology, including Cruise, which GM bought last year for more than $1 billion.

Will the trouble at Thinx damage Tushy?

Bernstam declined to comment on the New York Magazine article about Thinx or the accusations against Agrawal, but said, “Thinx did an amazing job with their branding, and they solved a problem that traditional entrepreneurs wouldn’t have thought of.”

He believes “there’s a huge market” for what Tushy is doing. A huge market for a bidet attachment on toilets? Bernstam clarifies: “They have a lot planned that they haven’t announced.” His investing formula, as he describes it: “You back strong founders in a huge market. They have a great idea and really strong founders. And really great markets can drag the right product out of great founders.”

The question now is whether the bad press about Miki Agrawal and Thinx will hurt Tushy, as long as it is associated with Agrawal. The fact that investors in Tushy were not willing to speak about why they invested in the company may not not be a positive sign.

Daniel Roberts is a writer at Yahoo Finance, covering sports business, tech startups, and media companies.

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