They say revolutions don't happen overnight. They take years of anguish, and suffering, and hardship, until one day the dam breaks and a flood of people rise up together to create real change.

For years, the Venture Capital culture, with Silicon Valley as its nexus, has been rife with behavior that many consider abrasive and rude. However, looking only slightly under the surface, it has turned out that it goes far beyond that.

In the past weeks, we've seen the complete collapse of Binary Capital, a fund led by Justin Caldbeck, who allegedly assaulted multiple women, and Jonathan Teo, who allegedly assisted in covering up this behavior.

Dave McClure, Founder of 500 Startups, was forced to apologize for his lewd behavior, as well as resign from his role there, and as GP of the fund. Elizabeth Yin resigned in protest for his misconduct, and there are reports that others are not far behind.

Reid Hoffman, urged others in Silicon Valley to stand with him in signing a "Decency Pledge", that would show which funds are allies to women, yet as more funds showed their support for this, other reports came forward against some of the people using this hashtag, which highlighted the point that the unethical behavior of certain VCs is unlikely to end anytime soon.

Since this story initially broke, more people have started to come forward. Cheryl Yeoh posted her experiences with Dave McClure, which may have been the lynchpin for his resignation. Comments made by Cathryn Chen, myself and others are eerily echoed in the words of Amy Varle, founder of the People's Property Shop. "It actually makes me cry to read these comments and know I'm not alone. I have literally been stalked and bribed with a 100,000 investment via the latest guy. Its made me sick on a daily basis."

There has been backlash against these women. VCs Sam Altman and Chris Swies got involved in the fray. Chris Sacca, himself named in the New York Times article, disputed the claim against him. As more women are coming forward, men are starting to fight back, turning this into a she-said, he-said.

Clearly, something isn't working.

As I've been digging into this story since I started covering it, I've found that it goes deeper than simple gender bias. Not only have women come to me with their stories, I've heard from men who have had similar experiences of their being harassed while vulnerable - only they feel the repercussions for their coming forward would be too harmful for them to deal with.

Wherever there is a power imbalance, it is too easy for things to be misconstrued.

On the VC side, they may very well be innocently thinking: "Hey, this person is really fun to hang out with." Unfortunately, they're not taking into account the worldview of the person on the other side.

This other person is in an automatically vulnerable position. They're not on the same level as the VC, because they have a fiduciary responsibility to their company to make payroll, pay vendors, get product out, etc. To them, at some level, the VC represents certainty, security. That person will never be "really fun to hang with."

Chris Sacca, Dave McClure, even Justin Caldbeck and all the rest may well have had purely innocent intentions - in their own minds. Where they have failed is they did not take into account the other people around them.

I'm happy to talk to anyone in Silicon Valley or anywhere who would like help in understanding perspective. Maybe then we'll start to make some progress.

Published on: Jul 5, 2017
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