Nearly 22 per cent of women tech biz founders surveyed by startup accelerator Y Combinator learned the hard way that venture-capital and angel investors can be creeps or worse.
Of the 88 founders responding to the survey by Callisto – a non-profit funded by Y Combinator that tackles sexual assault – 19 "experienced one or more inappropriate incidents by angels or VCs": 18 had to fend off “unwanted overtures or sexual badgering”, 15 experienced “sexual coercion or quid-pro-quo” offers, and four had “unwanted sexual contact.”
The survey was sent to 125 of 384 women founders who have worked with Y Combinator to launch their upstarts. Y Combinator, based in the San Francisco bay Area, gives startups seed funding – enough to get going, typically $150,000 – as well as advice and connections to investors, in exchange for seven percent of each business.
The study reflects the difficult or awful situation a woman can find herself in when a person holding the purse-strings misbehaves, turns harasser, or commits flat-out sexual assault, in exchange for funding. Quite simply, founders afraid that saying “no”, or making the behavior public, will ruin their source of investment and their fledgling company, one way or the other.
"YC has a zero-tolerance policy for inappropriate behavior and will ban any investor who acts inappropriately from our community," a spokesperson for Y Combinator said. "Zero percent of female founders should be ever be harassed, coerced, or experience unwanted sexual contact by investors."
Callisto provides software so women can anonymously report sexual assault, and claims 13 partner institutions as users so far.
Later this year, the organization will launch a version for founders: the identity of accused perpetrators will be “securely” stored so only the person reporting someone will know who they are – it's not stipulated in Y Combinator's announcement, but we presume it involves a strong cryptographic hash. If the same individual, or hash, shows up multiple times, the founders will be referred to an attorney for help.
For its own part, Y Combinator has decided sex pests are prevalent enough among the entitled dudebros of Silicon Valley its male-dominated world of funders that women founders need an anonymous reporting tool, so it's added that capability to its Bookface portal.
“You can report at any time, even years after the incident took place. The report will remain confidential,” the acceletator's team stated.
The #MeToo era started early in tech: the Hollywood angle blew up in October 2017 with Harvey Weinstein rightfully in the cross-hairs, but long before that this industry had scandals in Oracle, GitHub, the Tor Project, and more. ®