As Harassment Scandal Reaches Tech Industry, Startups Look For Ways To Check Bad Behavior

By Tracey Lien
Los Angeles Times

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Not wanting to be associated with their disgraced peers, several companies in Silicon Valley have been focused on doing everything they can to clean up their own houses.

Los Angeles Times

Venture capitalists have long had godlike status in the tech industry.

Founders venerate them because they need their money. Limited partners eagerly throw billions of dollars their way, enamored by their outsize investment returns.

But now, after allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct have led to the resignations of Justin Caldbeck of Binary Capital and Dave McClure of 500 Startups, and the dismissal of Steve Jurvetson of DFJ, the industry’s once-celebrated kingmakers are facing pressure from founders and limited partners to clean up their act.

“There’s so little transparency in venture capital,” said Kiki Mwiti, the Bay Area founder of tech startup Globerly, who in July teamed up with industry peers to build a platform to remove some of the secrecy from the venture capital industry.

There have always been whisper networks, Mwiti said. In private Facebook groups, Slack channels and one-on-one meetings, women have shared experiences and warned each other of bad players. But in venture capital, money is concentrated in the hands of a few, and many investment firms don’t even list their portfolios or contact details online. That has contributed to sexism, discrimination and harassment going unchecked.

“When I saw these stories coming out about sexual harassment, I felt like something needed to be done,” said Samantha Friedman, who with around a dozen women in tech co-founded FairFunders.

FairFunders is a kind of buyer’s guide for entrepreneurs seeking ethical investors. The bare-bones website offers a curated list of venture capital firms that meet its criteria for transparency and have records of investing in diverse founders. Investors hold phone calls twice a month in which entrepreneurs can ask questions. Investors cannot buy their way onto the list.

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