Startup incubator 500 Startups is seeing a change in leadership after inappropriate sexual harassment episodes that led to the ousting of co-founder Dave McClure.
Even in this day and age, even in the most evolved of societies, women still have to deal with discrimination, sexual harassment and other such inappropriate behavior every now and then. Sexual harassment issues blew up the technology startup scene on Monday, July 3, when McClure filed his resignation and admitted he was a “creep” for hitting on several women in work-related environments.
‘I’m A Creep. I’m Sorry’
Last week, The New York Times reported that McClure had made advances to a woman seeking employment at 500 Startups. The report stirred a great deal of uproar and over the weekend, McClure posted a statement on Medium owning up to his mistakes and apologizing for his behavior. The post is titled “I’m a creep. I’m sorry,” and addresses the sexual harassment issues at 500 Startups.
McClure notes that he would like to think he’s not a bad person, but he’s become aware that some of his past actions have offended and hurt others.
Sexual Harassment At 500 Startups
“I made advances towards multiple women in work-related situations, where it was clearly inappropriate,” says McClure. “I put people in compromising and inappropriate situations, and I selfishly took advantage of those situations where I should have known better. My behavior was inexcusable and wrong.”
Following the sexual harassment controversy, McClure gave up his prominent position as general partner of funds and entities at 500 Startups. Another company partner, Elizabeth Yin, filed her resignation this weekend as well. As this disturbing matter has now come to light, Yin said she was resigning after the company had covered up another one of McClure’s sexual harassment cases.
500 Startups Leadership Changes
Christine Tsai, a founding partner at 500 Startups, took over as CEO a few months ago, after McClure was demoted to general partner following an internal investigation into his behavior.
“In recent months, we found out that my co-founder Dave McClure had inappropriate interactions with women in the tech community,” says Tsai, adding that his unacceptable behavior does not reflect the company’s value and culture. “I sincerely apologize for the choices he made and the pain and stress they’ve caused people. But apologies aren’t enough without meaningful actions and change.”
Tsai says McClure’s role at the company had been limited to general partner obligations, and he’s been in counseling for addressing his behavior. McClure has now resigned as general partner.
The hush-hush nature of this whole thing, however, is still raising eyebrows. If an internal investigation deemed months ago that McClure’s behavior was unacceptable and it prompted his demotion, why did the company not own up to this and make an announcement? It’s only now, after the NYT article made waves, that they’re publicly addressing the issue. Yin’s resignation is closely tied to this matter, as she was upset about how the company handled things and she accused management of not being honest about what prompted McClure’s demotion.
A number of other startup investors have apologized for not doing more to prevent sexual harassment from occurring in the first place, especially since 500 Startups is not the only startup and venture capital outlet to mistreat women. Gender bias should not have room in any industry.