The head of a prominent technology investment firm has stepped down amid questions over his treatment of women, as new concerns surface about sexual harassment in Silicon Valley.
A growing number of female tech entrepreneurs have come forward in recent weeks with claims of discrimination and unwanted sexual advances from investors. The allegations follow the recent scandal over workplace sexism and harassment at Uber, which contributed to the departure of senior executives including co-founder Travis Kalanick.
The latest wave of complaints against well-known Silicon Valley figures suggests that the problem is not limited to any one company but has become endemic in the male-dominated tech industry. On Friday, the tech investor 500 Startups said that its co-founder Dave McClure had stepped down to a diminished role after the discovery of what the firm described as 「inappropriate interactions with women in the tech community」.
Mr McClure had intended to remain as a general partner to fulfil his fiduciary duties. On Monday, however, he left the firm altogether.
In an email to investors, obtained by the Financial Times, Christine Tsai, 500 Startups』 co-founder, said that the firm』s management team had been 「made aware of another sexual harassment report」 against Mr McClure and had asked him to tender his resignation. In a Twitter post on Monday, Mr McClure said: 「In best interest of @500Startups & at request [of] co-founder @christine_tsai, I am resigning effective immediately.」
「His behaviour was unacceptable,」 Ms Tsai had written in a blog post.
Ms Tsai said she had taken over as chief executive running 「overall day-to-day operations」 at the firm, which has invested in companies including Twilio, the cloud communications service, Grab, a ride-hailing service, and MakerBot, a 3D printing pioneer. Mr McClure was 「attending counselling to work on changing his perspectives and preventing his previous unacceptable behaviour」, Ms Tsai said.
In a blog post of his own published on Saturday, Mr McClure admitted he had 「made advances towards multiple women in work-related situations, where it was clearly inappropriate」 and apologised for being 「clueless, selfish, unapologetic and defensive」.
「To all those I let down, and especially to those I directly offended and hurt: I』m very sorry,」 he said. 「My behaviour was inexcusable and wrong.」
The shake-up at the firm was first reported by the New York Times, in an article which described more than two dozen women accusing various investors of indecent behaviour.
「The change I want to see is a start-up environment where everyone, regardless of gender and background feels welcome and safe,」 Ms Tsai wrote. 「Where sexual harassment or discrimination will not impede great talent from producing great impact.」
As these allegations continue to mount, more investors have been driven to apologise for their past behaviour.
「As more and more brave women have come forward to share their own tales and experiences from the hostile environment of the tech world, it has become clear to me there is a much bigger underlying issue in this industry, and I am realising at times I was a part of that,」 wrote Chris Sacca — who made his name as an investor in Twitter, Instagram and Uber before starring as a judge on reality-TV show Shark Tank — in a blog post on Friday. 「I am sorry.」
Mr Sacca, whose blog post was published shortly before the New York Times』 story ran, pledged to invest more time and money in 「levelling the playing field」 for female entrepreneurs and other groups that are under-represented in the predominantly white, male tech community.
「Particularly when reflecting upon my early years in Silicon Valley, there is no doubt I said and did things that made some women feel awkward, unwelcome, insecure, and/or discouraged,」 he wrote. 「For well-off white guys, it is easy to fall into an echo chamber of bliss . . . The resulting insularity is a direct cause of many of these core industry problems involving gender, race, disability, and beyond.」
Women working in Silicon Valley, whether as company founders or rank-and-file employees, have long complained about sexism in the industry. More have been emboldened recently to speak out about their experiences by the high-profile Uber situation, where more than 20 staffers were fired following an investigation into more than 200 sexual harassment claims.
Susan Fowler, the former Uber engineer whose blog post in January sparked the company』s investigation, said in a tweet on Friday afternoon: 「No more of this in the future, Silicon Valley. We』ve had enough.」