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A panel on combating sexism and harassment in Silicon Valley today stirred a heated debate onstage at TechCrunch Disrupt. Sarah Kunst, who came forward about being sexually harassed by 500 Startups cofounder Dave McClure, did not hold back.
“Going directly to 500 Startups and Christine [Tsai, a founding partner], showing them proof that Dave had sexually harassed me, wasn’t enough. Her response was no response. Backchannels don’t work.”
She also spoke as the CEO of Proday, a fitness startup: “I don’t only hire white dudes, and I don’t sexually harass people. If you’re not firing people for their sexist behaviors, then you’re not a good manager.”
500 Startups was clearly aware of McClure’s behavior for some time, as the company announced in a blog post that McClure had been acting in a reduced capacity over the past few months following an internal investigation.
According to the post, Tsai, also a 500 Startups cofounder, took on the role of CEO a few months back. That was the first time the organization had publicly addressed the matter with McClure. Tsai wrote:
In recent months, we found out that my cofounder Dave McClure had inappropriate interactions with women in the tech community. 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.
Because of this, we made the decision a few months ago to change the leadership structure at 500. I took on the role of CEO, which involves directing the Management Team and overall day-to-day operations of 500.
VentureBeat reached out to 500 Startups for comment and will update you if we hear back.
Update at 4.05 p.m. Pacific: “We are encouraged that Sarah and other women are speaking out on issues of discrimination and harassment,” a 500 Startups spokesperson told VentureBeat. “The challenges that women and minorities face in the tech industry are real, and an open and honest discussion is the first step towards addressing them. 500 is committed to be part of this much needed change in the industry.”
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