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500 Startups’ Dave McClure writes that he was a ‘a creep’ towards women

  • His apology is a response to a New York Times article that reported on an inappropriate Facebook message to entrepreneur Sarah Kunst.
  • In his apology, McClure wrote that this wasn't the only instance of his taking advantage of women in tech and that he often put them in "compromising" situations.
  • McClure is the latest high profile venture capitalist who has been either forced to apologize or to claim some responsibility in the face of reports of inappropriate behavior and sexual advances toward women.

Dave McClure, chief executive officer and founder of 500 Startups.
Justin Chin | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Dave McClure, chief executive officer and founder of 500 Startups.

Dave McClure, the founding partner of startup incubator 500 Startups, said in a blog post today on Medium that he deserves to be called a "creep" because of his actions. His apology is a response to a New York Times article that reported on an inappropriate Facebook message to entrepreneur Sarah Kunst while she was considering a job at the incubator. McClure wrote Kunst, in part: "I was getting confused figuring out whether to hire you or hit on you."

In his apology, McClure wrote that this wasn't the only instance of his taking advantage of women in tech and that he often put them in "compromising" situations.

"I made advances towards multiple women in work-related situations, where it was clearly inappropriate," he wrote. "I put people in compromising and inappropriate situations, and I selfishly took advantage of those situations where I should have known better. My behavior was inexcusable and wrong."

McClure added the obvious: "And I probably deserve to be called a creep."

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But his account of what happened with Kunst differs in part — or at least leaves some parts out — from Kunst's account in the article. According to Kunst, she declined his advances over Facebook and then showed one of his colleagues at 500 Startups his message. That's when they discontinued their discussion of a job with her, she told the Times.

McClure wrote that he actually referred her to his co-founder Christine Tsai — who's since taken over as managing partner after McClure stepped down from running the day-to-day operations — for a formal interview.

"While I did not offer her a job at the time, a few days/weeks later I did refer her to my co-founder Christine Tsai to begin a formal interview process with 500, where Christine and others on the team met with her. Ultimately, 500 decided not to offer Sarah a job."

A spokesperson for 500 Startups said it wasn't until two years after the interview that Tsai saw Kunst post about McClure's advances in a public forum and then reached out to investigate.

"Sarah did not mention any claim of harassment to Christine or other 500 members during or after interview," the spokesperson said in response to request for clarity.

We've reached out to Kunst for comment.

McClure is the latest high profile venture capitalist who has been either forced to apologize or to claim some responsibility in the face of reports of inappropriate behavior and sexual advances toward women.

Most egregiously of late was Justin Caldbeck, former Lightspeed Ventures investor and founder of Binary Capital, who harassed at least six women, many of whom came forward to tell their stories to The Information. Caldbeck apologized, although one of his accusers said she didn't believe him. It's easy to see why, since it was opposite from his initial response to The Information, which was to vigorously deny all claims.

And the same Times story which included McClure also reported that entrepreneur and investor Susan Wu alleged that well-known investor and former judge on Shark Tank Chris Sacca inappropriately touched her face at an event in Las Vegas in 2009. Sacca has denied the allegation.

"I dispute Susan's account from 2009," he said to Recode. "However, I am grateful to her and the other brave women speaking up on these vital issues, so our industry can work toward the enduring change it needs."

Before the Times story came out, Sacca penned a blog post, also on Medium, noting his role in the unfair power dynamics between men and women in the tech industry that often lead to women being diminished.

It may feel like we're in a period of reckoning for the once high-flying tech industry, set in motion by a blog post by former Uber engineer Susan Fowler about her troubled experience at the car-hailing company. The missive has led to Uber overhauling its culture and executive ranks, including the departure of its CEO Travis Kalanick.

But a series of apologies posted on Medium in response to public allegations does not necessarily imply substantive shifts in behavior.

"I don't expect anyone to believe I will change, but I'm working on it," McClure wrote.

By Johana Bhuiyan, Recode.net.

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