Sexual harassment in Silicon Valley: Allegations force another investor to step down

Dave McClure, co-founder and CEO of prominent Bay Area startup accelerator 500 Startups, has stepped down after being accused of hitting on a job candidate.

The move comes less than a week after allegations of sexism derailed the career of venture capitalist Justin Caldbeck and all but shut down the firm he founded. Those allegations at the same time opened the flood gates for more women to come forward with stories of their own experiences with sexism and harassment.

McClure is no longer CEO of the San Francisco-based accelerator, and his co-founder, Christine Tsai, has taken over day-to-day operations, Tsai wrote in a blog post Friday.

“In recent months, we found out that my co-founder Dave McClure had inappropriate interactions with women in the tech community,” she wrote. “His behavior was unacceptable and not reflective of 500’s culture and values. 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.”

McClure, who refers to himself as a “Troublemaker” and “Sith Lord” on his LinkedIn profile, will continue to serve as a general partner with the firm in order to fulfill his obligations to 500 Startup’s investors. He’s also attending counseling, Tsai wrote.

The leadership change comes after The New York Times on Friday published a story claiming that McClure behaved inappropriately with a female job candidate in 2014. Entrepreneur Sarah Kunst told The Times that she discussed a potential job with McClure, and during the recruiting process, he sent her a Facebook message that read, in part: “I was getting confused figuring out whether to hire you or hit on you.”

Kunst told The Times that she rebuffed his advance, and when she discussed the matter with one of McClure’s colleagues, the firm ended its conversations with her.

500 Startups recently launched an internal investigation into the matter.

“After being made aware of instances of Dave having inappropriate behavior with women in the tech community, we have been making changes internally,” 500 Startups said in a statement to The Times. “He recognizes he has made mistakes and has been going through counseling to work on addressing changes in his previous unacceptable behavior.”

Tsai wrote McClure was removed as CEO “a few months ago.”

“As much as we want to be part of the solution, we clearly have also been part of the problem,” she wrote. “Undoubtedly there are ways I could have done more or acted sooner. The change I want to see is a startup environment where everyone, regardless of gender and background feels welcome and safe. Where sexual harassment or discrimination will not impede great talent from producing great impact.”

The news follows a public apology published by investor and Shark Tank personality Chris Sacca, who also was accused of bad behavior by The New York Times. Entrepreneur Susan Wu told The Times that Sacca touched her face without her consent in a way that made her feel uncomfortable.

“I now understand I personally contributed to the problem,” Sacca wrote.


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