It didn't take 500 Startups CEO Christine Tsai long to address the elephant in the room. At the accelerator's latest demo day, held Tuesday at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, Tsai kicked off proceedings by addressing the recent resignation of her co-founder, Dave McClure, in the face of accusations that he subjected women in his professional orbit to unwanted sexual advances. McClure had been running 500 Startups since he co-founded it in 2010.
"It's been a very turbulent period for a lot of people," Tsai said. "For many of you, it was a confusing, emotional time when you probably questioned the 500 you thought you knew."
She hailed the "brave women who've come forward [and] taken huge risks for their careers," an apparent reference to entrepreneurs including Pro Day founder Sarah Kunst. Kunst was the first to publicly blow the whistle on McClure, telling The New York Times about an email he'd sent her that said, "I was confused figuring out whether to hire you or hit on you." After McClure acknowledged a pattern of such interactions and admitted he had been a "creep," he stepped down in July.
Tsai promised that McClure's departure and the cloud he's under won't deter 500 Startups from it's mission of promoting startup founders from diverse backgrounds. "This mission is bigger than one person and way too important to be taken down by one person's mistakes," she said. Of the current crop of companies in its program Batch 21, Tsai said, 30 percent have at least one female founder and 25 percent have a founder who is a person of color.
"We aim to be part of the solution in addressing sexual harassment but, more holistically, diversity and inclusion in this industry," she said. "The unfortunate reality is we still have a long way to go."