Perhaps Martin Bryant, ex-Editor at Large at The Next Web, summed it up best when he tweeted
“Drip, drip, flood” in reference to a slew of stories coming out of Silicon Valley regarding inappropriate behaviour by VCs towards female founders and/or prospective female hires.
This was then followed by a similar story in The New York Times
, this time involving alleged misconduct at other VC firms, including naming Chris Sacca of Lowercase Capital, and Dave McClure of 500 Startups. Notably, the report was based on interviews, both on and off the record, with 12 women in the tech startup industry.
That in itself is telling of how far the story has come already, since it is often prohibitive for women entrepreneurs to speak out in the Valley (or in any other tight knit community) for fear of retaliation, including in this instance the perceived or real threat of being blacklisted by investors in the future.
But perhaps more than anything else, I’m struck by how tone deaf some of the responses by the tech industry in the U.S. has been, not least by the accused in their subsequent mea culpas.
Caldbeck, for example, manages to open his apology, issued in a statement to TechCrunch
, by explaining that “the past 24 hours have been the darkest of my life,” which is in danger of making himself out to be the victim.
Then we have a long Medium post by Chris Sacca
– put out before and without originally referencing that The New York Times had contacted him – where he says sorry a lot of times, although it is never quite clear what it is he is specifically apologizing for.
As one female friend in tech put it to me, the post comes across as mansplaining the issues and the multiple references to the braveness of women that speak out feels quite condescending, even if it probably wasn’t intended to be.
Finally, 500 Startups’ new CEO Christine Tsai – for it would seem McClure was already replaced a while ago, even if nobody told the fund’s LPs
– issued a statement
saying that McClure’s behaviour was not reflective of 500’s culture and values (which is at least questionable, given how large a personality McClure is) and that “he’s been attending counseling to work on changing his perspectives and preventing his previous unacceptable behavior”. (As an aside, why is it that whenever someone allegedly misbehaves, the remedy is professional help, as if it was some kind of out of body experience that happened to them, not by them).
Maybe it’s a cultural thing, lost in translation, or as one PR said to me, simply a case of crisis comms. However, for once, a simple sorry, no excuses, no pontification, no indulgent self-reflection via a Medium post, or claiming of victim status, is the only acceptable response.