TechCrunch reporter alleges 500 Startups venture partner groped her in Taipei

In the photo, 500 Startups venture partner Tristan Pollock appears to be holding Catherine Shu by the hand, pulling her along behind him down a sidewalk.

The hand-holding, allegedly unwelcome to Shu, preceded an incident that left Shu, a TechCrunch writer based in Taipei, Taiwan, suffering from symptoms similar to post-traumatic stress disorder, Shu wrote in a July 20 article that contained the photo.

A request sent to 500 Startups, which is headquartered in Mountain View, for a response by Pollock to the claimed incident did not receive an immediate response. The company is a prominent startup accelerator and venture capital firm whose website home page invites viewers to “Meet our badass, global family of startup founders, mentors, and investors.”

Shu’s allegation comes in the wake of the highly publicized resignation of 500 Startups founder Dave McClure, a self-described “creep” accused of hitting on a woman while she was applying for a job at his firm. And her claim lands as Silicon Valley grapples with allegations of widespread sexual harassment and sexual assault in the tech industry.

Shu, writing in TechCrunch, described a 2015 night out in Taipei, after she and a friend met Pollock and two other men outside a startup hub where Shu’s friend worked.

Pollock said he wanted to go to a bar, Shu wrote.

“I was getting ready to leave because my husband had just called to let me know he was done with work, but my friend asked me to join them, so I told her I’d stay for a drink,” she wrote.

While walking to a bar, Pollock mentioned he wasn’t having much luck on Tinder in Taiwan, Shu wrote.

“My friend told Pollock I’m not available because I’m married. Then she added that I like white men, because my husband is white. I was dismayed to hear her describe my relationship like that, especially because it seemed to intensify Pollock’s interest in me,” she wrote.

“He put his arm around my shoulders and whispered ‘Can’t you pretend you’re single?’ in my ear. I shrugged him off.”

Not long after, Pollock grabbed her hand and asked her again if she could pretend she was single.

“His behavior was escalating quickly and I was frightened. I tried to pull away repeatedly. I splayed my fingers and twisted my hand, but he held on. I looked for the other two men in our group, but they were too far ahead,” she wrote.

Her friend snapped a photo, which appears to show Pollock holding Shu’s hand as if pulling her along. When he and Shu had to cross a street, he dropped her hand, Shu wrote.

“I saw a taxi queue a block away and told my friend that it was late and I needed to go home,” she wrote.

“She walked up to me and playfully tugged at my arm, asking me to stay. Pollock came up to my other side and grabbed my other hand, again.

“He slid his hand down where my friend couldn’t see and grabbed my butt, as if to pull me in toward him.”

Shu backed away, got into a cab and fled, she wrote.

Her editor contacted 500 Startups to report the incident, and the firm’s HR manager emailed Shu asking for her account of the alleged incident, Shu wrote.

“I sent it to her. Afterward, I was told that 500 Startups carried out its own investigation and internal response,” she wrote.

“I was confused that he wasn’t fired after groping me and I wish I had asked why, but I felt overwhelmed. I had covered several 500 Startup investments before in my time as a contributor at TechCrunch and heard founders speak well of McClure, so I decided to take it on faith that he and his colleagues would handle Pollock appropriately.”

Pollock’s behavior left her with “PTSD-like symptoms,” Shu wrote, referring to post-traumatic stress disorder.

“I was already experiencing intrusive thoughts. They started a few weeks after my encounter with Pollock, when the initial shock had worn off, and would continue for about a year,” she wrote.

“During my pregnancy, I found my prenatal exams stressful, because I did not want to be touched by nurses or my doctor. I startled easily when people approached me, even if it was my husband and I hadn’t seen him first, especially at night.

“Once I was rocking my newborn in a swaddle, trying to soothe her, and I started crying because I felt that I was holding her against her will and it brought back bad feelings even though it was the only way to get her to sleep.”

Shu wrote that she isolated herself, declining invitations for tech events and conferences.

“During my maternity leave, I considered leaving tech reporting because I didn’t know how I could do my job effectively if I was too anxious to network with potential sources. I was scared and have been for almost two years.”

The bearded, bespectacled Pollock, who made the Forbes magazine “30 Under 30” list of rising entrepreneurs in 2015 and claims as his personal motto Facebook’s “move fast and break things,” remains a venture partner and entrepreneur-in-residence at 500 Startups.

In a response to TechCrunch concerning Shu’s allegations, 500 Startups said it investigated them as soon as they learned about them nearly two years ago.

“We spoke to her, Mr. Pollock, and several other witnesses,” the firm said, according to TechCrunch.

“Although the various accounts were inconsistent and the investigation was inconclusive, we took internal action that we felt was responsive and reparative, and we communicated that action to TechCrunch’s Editor-in-Chief, Matthew Panzarino.

“Mr. Panzarino stated in a subsequent text message that Ms. Shu was ‘satisfied’ by our internal actions adding that ‘At this point I believe we can close the books on this one … Thanks for taking the time and treating it seriously.’”

 

Image: Tristan Pollock’s LinkedIn page (LinkedIn screenshot)

 

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