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Numerous Women Have Accused VC Justin Caldbeck of Sexual Harassment, Leading to Indefinite Leave
Justin Caldbeck, co-founder and managing partner of venture capital firm Binary Capital, is accused of sexual harassment and making unwanted advancements by a half-dozen female executives in Silicon Valley, The Information reports (via TechCrunch).
While Caldbeck initially rebuffed the accusations on Friday, saying that he “strongly” denied the allegations, he later announced that he was taking an indefinite leave of absence from Binary.
Among the women alleging sexual harassment by Caldbeck, include Susan Ho and Leiti Hsu, co-founders of Journy, a travel planning and booking service; and Niniane Wang, co-creator of Google Desktop and former CTO of Minted, according to TechCrunch. Three other women declined to give their names “for fear of retaliation from the VC — and because of wider concerns they might suffer a backlash from men in the industry who don’t see inappropriate advances as a problem,” TechCrunch reports.
Caldbeck provided TechCrunch a full statement announcing his indefinite leave of absence:
The past 24 hours have been the darkest of my life. I have made many mistakes over the course of my career, some of which were brought to light this week. To say I’m sorry about my behavior is a categorical understatement. Still, I need to say it: I am so, so sorry.
I direct my apology first to those women who I’ve made feel uncomfortable in any way, at any time – but also to the greater tech ecosystem, a community that I have utterly failed.
The power dynamic that exists in venture capital is despicably unfair. The gap of influence between male venture capitalists and female entrepreneurs is frightening and I hate that my behavior played a role in perpetrating a gender-hostile environment. It is outrageous and unethical for any person to leverage a position of power in exchange for sexual gain, it is clear to me now that that is exactly what I’ve done.
I am deeply ashamed of my lack of self-awareness. I am grateful to Niniane, Susan, Leiti, and the other women who spoke up for providing me with a sobering look into my own character and behavior that I can no longer ignore. The dynamic of this industry makes it hard to speak up, but this is the type of action that leads to progress and change, starting with me.
I will be taking an indefinite leave of absence from Binary Capital, the firm I co-founded in 2014. I will be seeking professional counseling as I take steps to reflect on my behavior with and attitude towards women. I will find ways to learn from this difficult experience – and to help drive necessary changes in the broader venture community.
The Binary team will also be taking measures to ensure that the firm is a safe place for founders of all backgrounds to find the support and resources they need to change the world, without abuse of power or mistreatment of any person.
I owe a heartfelt apology to my family, my investors, my portfolio, and the team at Binary, who have been completely blindsided and in no way deserve the pain I’ve caused. But most of all I apologize again to those who I’ve hurt during the course of my career – and for the damage I’ve done to the industry I care so deeply about.
Here’s background on the allegations made against Caldbeck, as reported by The Information (via TechCrunch):
Among the allegations made to The Information are that Caldbeck sent explicit text messages to women; that Caldbeck sent messages in the middle of the night suggesting meeting up; that Caldbeck suggested going to a hotel bedroom during a meeting; that Caldbeck made a proposition about having an open relationship; and that Caldbeck grabbed a woman’s thigh under the table of a bar during a meeting.
The women were all in contact with the VC in a professional capacity. Some as founders hoping to secure funding from his fund for their businesses. It’s hard to imagine a more skewed power dynamic.
Meanwhile, TechCrunch reporter Natasha Lomas shared her insight into the experiences that she and her female colleagues have have gone through covering Silicon Valley, which has a notorious reputation in its treatment of women.
TechCrunch has multiple female journalists on staff whose jobs frequently involve talking to VCs and technologists, at times in a one on one capacity. Many of us also have stories of similarly inappropriate behavior from male sources and interview subjects — be it being propositioned via text message late at night or having to brush off unwanted advances during a professional networking event.
News of of the allegations against Caldbeck drew responses on Twitter from some of Silicon Valley’s key players, including LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman and Ellen Pao, who sued Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, alleging sexual harassment and gender discrimination. (Pao lost her case).
— Ellen K. Pao (@ekp) June 23, 2017
— Reid Hoffman (@reidhoffman) June 23, 2017
Hoffman’s essay about sexual harassment in Silicon Valley can be read on LinkedIn here.