Two weeks ago, Silicon Valley was left reeling after female founders stepped forward to accuse some of its most high-profile VCs of sexual harassment. But there are two things we all know about the tech startup industry. The first is that when things go wrong, it bounces back fast. The second is that it's filled with people who believe nearly every human problem can be solved with technology.
So it shouldn't surprise anyone that in the aftermath of revelations that sexual harassment and gender discrimination are common at both startup companies and VC firms, some pioneering tech execs are planning high-tech solutions. Here are a few examples:
1. Y Combinator asked 3,500 founders to report harassment.
The most high-profile and ambitious effort so far comes from the revered incubator Y Combinator, which recently emailed an online reporting form to 3,500 entrepreneurs, encouraging them to report sexual harassment. The company says it will use the information to bar offenders from its popular Demo Day.
2. Y Combinator may fund an app for reporting sexual harassment.
After all, that's what they do. According to a report in The Washington Post, the company is leading an effort to create an anonymous reporting app, akin to Glassdoor, that would allow users to grade VC firms on how they treat women.
3. A similar app is already about to launch.
Whatever Y Combinator may be planning, there already is an initiative in the works that bills itself as "the Yelp for startups." FairFunders will let women report both bad and good experiences with specific investors. It's expected to launch on July 27.
4. Women are investing in women.
And of course, for several years there have been various angel investors channeling funds specifically to female-led startups: Golden Seeds, Female Founders Fund, and Broadway Angels, for example. These funds don't address sexual harassment specifically, but they do provide a place where women can seek funding for their startups without worrying about being asked on a date. Over time, they may succeed in tipping the balance of power in Silicon Valley ever so slightly away from the cohort of white men from elite colleges that currently holds the world of high-tech startups in a death grip. If so, that would be the first step toward lasting change.