Finally, accused sexual harassers of the tech world like Uber’s Travis Kalanick and venture capitalist Justin Caldbeck are beginning to pay the price for their unrepentant misogyny and hubris. This week, Silicon Valley investor Dave McClure has resigned from 500 Startups, the company he founded, and written a self-flagellating letter in which he referred to himself as a “creep” after The New York Times outed him as a serial sexual harasser in a recent exposé on the culture of harassment in the industry. While it he appeared to do the right thing by publicly resigning on Monday and by apologizing for his actions in his bluntly titled piece “I’m a Creep. I’m Sorry,” the letter doesn’t offer much in the way of understanding how a man with a history of harassing women could undergo such a swift change of heart beyond the fact that he got caught. But is that enough?
“By now you may have heard I fucked up, and people are calling me a creep,” McClure wrote. “While I’d like to believe that I’m not a bad or evil person, regardless it’s clear that some of my past actions have hurt or offended several women.”
The Times piece on sexual harassment in the tech world featured several accounts from women who’d been denied access to jobs or opportunity for failing to play along with some of the bad boys of tech who held their power over them with the expectation that they could also sexually harass them. The woman who called McClure out was 31-year-old Sarah Kunst, an entrepreneur who’d discussed a possible job at McClure’s company 500 Startups. During the recruitment process, McClure sent her a Facebook message that read, “I was getting confused figuring out whether to hire you or hit on you,” according to the Times. Her talks with the company ended when Kunst mentioned McClure’s advances to one of his colleagues.
Once the Times piece broke, a spokesperson for 500 Startups explained that there was an investigation into allegations that McClure had harassed women.
“After being made aware of instances of Dave having inappropriate behavior with women in the tech community, we have been making changes internally,” the spokesperson said, according to the Times. “He recognizes he has made mistakes and has been going through counseling to work on addressing changes in his previous unacceptable behavior.”
McClure appeared contrite in the letter he posted after being caught:
“When confronted about what happened, I was at first defensive. What did I do wrong? We were just hanging out! Why are people so upset? I tried to present my crappy behavior in the best possible light. I didn’t have much empathy for the people I hurt and offended, and rather than face up to my own shallow motivations, I rationalized my actions and came up with reasons to find blame in others, rather than solely with me.”
But since McClure penned his mea culpa, another woman wrote in a blog post that she was a victim of his aggressive sexual harassment. Cheryl Sew Hoy came forward with her story after reading his apology that spurred bros on Twitter to send tweets of solidarity to him, at turns, patting him on the back for his bravery and insisting that he’d done nothing wrong.
“After reading Dave’s post “I’m a Creep. I’m Sorry.,” I couldn’t help but feel compelled to tell my story,” Hoy wrote. “While Dave acknowledged and apologized for his ‘inappropriate behavior’ towards multiple women, I felt it generalized his actions to inappropriate comments made in a ‘setting he thought was social.’ It definitely didn’t address the severity of his sexual advances towards me and potentially others.”
In her post, Hoy alleged that after a get-together in her new apartment in Malaysia with several investors and tech players in 2014, all of her guests had left except for McClure. Thinking he was perhaps too drunk to go home, she offered for him to crash on her couch, but he followed her to her room and propositioned her for sex. After rebuffing him, he got physical, she wrote.
“At this point, I led him to the door and told him he needs to leave. On the way out, he pushed himself onto me to the point where I was backed into a corner, made contact to kiss me, and said something along the lines of ‘Just one night, please just this one time.’ Then he told me how he really likes strong and smart women like me. Disgusted and outraged, I said no firmly again, pushed him away and made sure he was out my door."
Hoy said it wasn't the first time he'd made sexual advances and at one point he even apologized in a Facebook message for the incident in her apartment, but that his apology was not his own idea and laid the blame for the incident squarely on her perception of his actions.
“When Dave finally got around to apologizing to me, it was a half-hearted message on FB,” Hoy wrote. “I was disappointed that he used words like ‘If that incident last year made you feel uncomfortable, I’d like to apologize,’ and ‘if I misread things or acted inappropriately.’ It showed me that he did not think what he did was wrong, was not remorseful, did not own up to it, and it was not a sincere apology. He even didn’t apologize on his own accord.”
Just as McClure appears to have a history of sexual harassment, his apology to Hoy and the public hair shirt that is his self-effacing "I'm a Creep" letter could indicate he has another history of empty apologies.