In those responses, what struck her were the ones forgiving him for “being a man” who “hit on a woman”.
Dave McClure was put into the spotlight after a story broke of how he behaved inappropriately to a then-applicant for 500 Startups, Sarah Kunst. Following the incident, Dave issued an apology on Medium and eventually resigned.
His “apology” was in part what spurred Cheryl to call out Dave McClure for sexual assault 3 years ago in her home.
In her post, Cheryl describes Dave following her to her bedroom and propositioning her after a meeting in her apartment once other attendees had left.
Cheryl rebuffed him, bringing up that he knew about her then-boyfriend, but Dave reportedly persisted.
Cheryl describes how he pushed himself onto her, attempted to kiss her, and reportedly said something to the effect of:
She rebuffed him again, and Dave reportedly finally left, following a final insistence from Cheryl.
Cheryl stated that she was “still in shock and in tears” afterward.
She recounted that she was rather inebriated at the time, as Dave was “pouring scotch into my glass before I finished drinking throughout the night”.
She worried about what might have happened if she had been more drunk, or if she had let him stay the night.
In her post, Cheryl stated that at the time, she felt like she couldn’t come clean about the incident to anyone, in fear of wrecking the very deal that Dave came to her apartment for.
She worried that saying anything would kill the deal that would eventually become Distro Dojo. For this, she kept mum.
Cheryl was disappointed by how Dave worded his apology, using words like “If that incident last year made you feel uncomfortable, I’d like to apologize” and “if I misread things or acted inappropriately.”
The wording made her feel 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.”
What To Move On To
In Cheryl’s blog post, she notes some troubling industry norms that she thought needed to be changed.
She quoted Brittany Laughlin of LatticeVC about reporting sexual harassment:
“This model of reporting is broken. We can reduce bad behavior by having more open conversations when someone crosses the line, instead of an all-or-nothing approach. Creating smaller feedback loops will help make change faster.”
Cheryl outlined some steps that she felt companies should take, to make the space safer for all in it:
- The definition of different levels of “inappropriate behaviour” needs to be underlined in a formal Company Harassment Policy. For Cheryl, framework like this is crucial to define which level of boundary had been crossed and makes it easier for victims to report the incident.
- Create a safe channel for harassment reporting. Cheryl stated that this is to “serve as a data point and a warning to the perpetrator”. If repeated instances are reported, then the firm can take action.
- VCs and Founders need to be trained on how to identify and report different levels of harassment. Since this behaviour apparently occurs quite frequently, Cheryl recommended that spreading awareness and giving training is an important addition to defining harassment policies.
- Conduct frequent & proactive sexual harassment surveys. VCs need to survey both male and female founders and find out if they had any harassment inflicted upon them. Firms need to also survey their partners, associates and staff on what is acceptable behaviour, versus what crosses boundaries. She also asks that these firms needed to encourage reports and admissions of wrongdoing to create awareness.
This underlying problem that has silently plagued the tech and startup scene globally and also locally is finally getting the attention that it should.
As more women are empowered to come forward with their stories, what we must also consider is not just the initial outrage but also what the implications are, and how to move forward and make sure that this can finally come to an end once and for all.
You can read Cheryl’s original post here.