Shervin Pishevar, a key figure in Silicon Valley who has invested in Uber and founded the transportation startup, Hyperloop One, is taking a leave of absence to fight allegations of sexual harassment

San Francisco (AFP) - Prominent Silicon Valley investor Shervin Pishevar, an early Uber stakeholder and a founder of the high-speed transport startup Hyperloop One, said Tuesday he was stepping away from business activities to fight claims of sexual harassment.

Pishevar said he was taking an immediate leave of absence from Sherpa Capital, Virgin Hyperloop One and the boards of companies in his investment portfolio to pursue a lawsuit he hopes will show he is the target of a “smear campaign.”

“I am confident I will be vindicated,” Pishevar said in a statement.

He added that he hoped to unearth “who is responsible for spreading false rumors about me,” noting that the decision was his alone.

Pishevar has denied claims by several women of sexual harassment.

Five women told Bloomberg News that Pishevar sexually assaulted or harassed them while meeting them in a professional context. Some of the alleged events took place as early as 2013.

Pishevar allegedly groped a sixth woman, an executive at the Uber ride-sharing company.

Pishevar, co-founder and managing director of Sherpa Capital, is considered one of the most powerful investors in Silicon Valley.

He was an early investor in Uber as well as the vacation rental firm Airbnb.

As an Uber board member and adviser, the Iranian-American Pishevar defended founder Travis Kalanick during a probe into misconduct at the ridesharing firm.

Silicon Valley and many of its venture capitalists have long faced accusations of sexism and of turning a blind eye to sexual harassment.

But after a former Uber employee revealed she had been sexually harassed at the company, more women in the technology industries came forward with similar claims.

The revelations are part of a watershed moment in the United States that has seen powerful figures in Hollywood, journalism and politics felled over sexual misconduct claims.

Richard Branson’s Virgin Group announced last month an investment in Hyperloop One in a partnership aimed at establishing new passenger and cargo transport services for the superfast rail concept.

Branson, a British billionaire with investments in retail, music and airlines, said he believes in the new system, which aims to deliver transport at near-supersonic speeds in sealed tubes.