Latest article from Henry Joseph-Grant, to see more click here
Dave McClure, the founding partner of the startup incubator and investor 500 Startups, said in a blog post on Medium that he deserves to be called a “creep” because of his actions. His apology is a response to a New York Times article that reported on an inappropriate Facebook message to entrepreneur Sarah Kunst while she was considering a job at the incubator. McClure wrote Kunst, in part: “I was getting confused figuring out whether to hire you or hit on you.”
In his apology, McClure wrote that this wasn’t the only instance of his taking advantage of women in tech and that he often put them in “compromising” situations.
“I made advances towards multiple women in work-related situations, where it was clearly inappropriate,” he wrote. “I put people in compromising and inappropriate situations, and I selfishly took advantage of those situations where I should have known better. My behaviour was inexcusable and wrong.”
Now for me, hearing that a bald, middle-aged man has used his position to make inappropriate advances towards women, is not surprising and something I sadly hear very often, especially from those in the upper echelons of technology and investment. I mentor dozens of female entrepreneurs, many of whom have confided in me about the often inappropriate behaviour directed towards them, be it not being taken seriously because of their gender to the extreme of lewd and uninvited sexual advances. So inappropriate sexual behaviour is very much a problem in the UK and not isolated to Silicon Valley. I would even go as far to say it is maybe even worse here, given that we have a lack of Angels and VC’s, leading to some feeling invincible to the point of an attitude and aura of arrogance.
If we as men are advocates of diversity then we need to be that diversity and treat women as equal, which means there are lines and boundaries that you simply do not cross.
I believe that the more these instances come to light the more those who act like this will realise that their moral compass needs adjusting and they need to be more responsible. They are not rock stars, with groupies in every town, in absolute awe of them, they are simply confusing their profile or position with popularity and for me, that is simply pitiful and pathetic.
Now going back to Dave McClure he added the obvious: “And I probably deserve to be called a creep.”
His account of what happened with Kunst differs in part — or at least leaves some parts out — from Kunst’s account in the article. According to Kunst, she declined his advances over Facebook and then showed one of his colleagues at 500 Startups his message. That’s when they discontinued their discussion of a job with her, she told the Times.
McClure wrote that he actually referred her to his co-founder Christine Tsai — who’s since taken over as managing partner after McClure stepped down from running the day-to-day operations — for a formal interview.
“While I did not offer her a job at the time, a few days/weeks later I did refer her to my co-founder Christine Tsai to begin a formal interview process with 500, where Christine and others on the team met with her. Ultimately, 500 decided not to offer Sarah a job.”
A spokesperson for 500 Startups said it wasn’t until two years after the interview that Tsai saw Kunst post about McClure’s advances in a public forum and then reached out to investigate.
“Sarah did not mention any claim of harassment to Christine or other 500 members during or after interview,” the spokesperson said in response to a request for clarity.
And the same Times story which included McClure also reported that entrepreneur and investor Susan Wu alleged that well-known investor and former judge on Shark Tank Chris Sacca inappropriately touched her face at an event in Las Vegas in 2009. Sacca has denied the allegation.
“I dispute Susan’s account from 2009,” he said. “However, I am grateful to her and the other brave women speaking up on these vital issues, so our industry can work toward the enduring change it needs.”
Before the Times story came out, Sacca penned a blog post, also on Medium, noting his role in the unfair power dynamics between men and women in the tech industry that often lead to women being diminished.
It may feel like we’re in a period of increasing focus on the murky side of technology, perhaps raised to a new level by a blog post by former Uber engineer Susan Fowler about her troubled experience at the car-hailing company. Her revelations evidently led to Uber overhauling its culture and executive ranks, including the departure of its CEO Travis Kalanick.
“I don’t expect anyone to believe I will change, but I’m working on it,” McClure wrote.
I do respect his honesty, it would have been very easy for him to be slippery about his unsavoury behaviour, I also think it’s worth remembering how hard Dave has worked for inclusivity and diversity across the world, of course, that may now be tarnished somewhat, but I have heard many a good thing about him and 500, also many women after this news have leapt to his defence including SlideShare founder Rashmi Sinha in her blog post that you can read here
I don’t feel it’s fair to simply focus on one part of Dave’s behaviour, without considering further context about his character, most of which points to positive things, I don’t know him personally so it’s hard for me to say if he is a good guy who has made a very bad error of judgement or if he is a bad apple, but what I will say is that this news coming to light is positive as it helps the issues be confronted and as a father of two girls I would hope that if I infect them with my entrepreneurial spirit, that by the time they have their own startups and are approaching investors that they are treated equally and with respect.
This “casting couch” behaviour needs to stop….