Another big-name tech investor has apologized for sexually harassing women, the latest in a recent string of industry professionals to admit engaging in or allowing inappropriate behavior in the workplace.
Dave McClure, founder of San Francisco-based startup accelerator 500 Startups, over the weekend publicly admitted to making advances toward multiple women in work-related situations. He offered an apology for his actions in a blog post titled “I’m a Creep. I’m Sorry.”
The post came the day after an article in The New York Times claimed he hit on a job candidate while recruiting her to his firm, and it followed an outpouring from women in tech speaking up about harassment they’ve faced in the workplace. Retired venture capitalist and “Shark Tank” personality Chris Sacca, who also was accused of inappropriate behavior in The New York Times piece, posted a public apology Thursday. Binary Capital founder Justin Caldbeck did so last week, after multiple women accused him of harassment in a story by The Information. And Uber CEO Travis Kalanick apologized and then resigned last month after his management was accused of fostering a boy’s club culture and turning a blind eye to sexual harassment.
“While I’d like to believe that I’m not a bad or evil person, regardless it’s clear that some of my past actions have hurt of offended several women,” McClure wrote in his apology post. “And I probably deserve to be called a creep.”
McClure stepped down as CEO of the accelerator he helped launch, and has been replaced by 500 Startups co-founder Christine Tsai, who announced the change Friday. But he will retain his general partner role and will continue serving the firm’s investors. McClure also is attending counseling.
Sarah Kunst, founder and CEO of athletics-focused media company Proday, told the Times that she discussed a potential job with McClure in 2014, and during the follow-up recruiting process, he sent her a Facebook message saying “I was getting confused figuring out whether to hire you or hit on you.”
In his blog post, McClure apologized for making “inappropriate advances” towards Kunst late at night over drinks, in a setting he thought was social, but “in hindsight was clearly not.” Kunst had mentioned she was interested in joining 500 Startups, McClure wrote, and he refered her to Tsai to begin a formal interview process, which ultimately did not result in a job offer.
“It was my fault and I take full responsibility,” McClure wrote. “She was correct in calling me out.”
McClure says when he was first confronted about his behavior (he has been attending counseling for a month, and stepped down from his CEO duties several months ago) he was defensive, rationalized his actions and blamed others. After several “tough conversations” with Tsai and others, McClure says he realized that he was the problem.
“Again, what I did was wrong,” he wrote. “It wasn’t and isn’t acceptable. I’m working on behaving differently in the future. If you have suggestions or feedback or criticism, I’m open to hearing all of it. I’m guessing you probably have some.”
But for Kunst, the apology isn’t enough. She called for his resignation in a tweet the following day, saying she’s learned of “many more” women who have been harassed by McClure.
It's time for @davemcclure to resign from @500Startups. pic.twitter.com/v47RT7NKNO
— sarah kunst (@sarahkunst) July 3, 2017
The online community has shown mixed reactions to McClure’s apology. Some people who commented on the blog post called it “sincere” and commended McClure’s courage. Others were less forgiving. “Once a creep, always a creep,” one person wrote.
“I don’t expect anyone to believe I will change,” McClure wrote, “but I’m working on it.”
Photo: A screen shot of Dave McClure’s bio page on the 500 Startups website. (500 Startups)
Tags: 500 startups, Dave Mcclure, sexual harassment