The upheaval at Uber has made plain that women working in tech are subject to abusive and even predatory behavior from the men who own and operate fast-growing tech companies. Now a lesser-known scandal just unfolding at Binary Capital in San Francisco is revealing that women entrepreneurs face the same indignities when they seek funding.
A co-founder and partner in Binary Capital, Justin Caldbeck, has resigned after several female entrepreneurs revealed their pitches for funding resulted in unwanted sexual advances, according to Axios. After admitting to “mistakes” and apologizing to “those women who I’ve made feel uncomfortable in any way,” Caldbeck, in a statement announcing he was taking a leave from Binary, wrote at length about the realities of female entrepreneurs relying on male investors for funding.
“The power dynamic that exists in venture capital is despicably unfair,” Caldbeck wrote. “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.”
Jonathan Teo, longtime but apparently now erstwhile friend of Caldbeck and his co-founder at Binary, was not impressed. In an email announcing Caldbeck’s resignation –his leave morphed into a resignation almost immediately — Teo announced that Gibson Dunn, a high-powered law firm, had been retained to conduct an internal investigation. He then laid out the cold truth of being a female founder in the vulnerable position of needing investors:
“We recognize that power dynamics in the business world can, and often do, place women in difficult or hostile situations. As I write this today, I regret that I did not insist on Justin’s immediate exit after his behavior was revealed. I would also like to apologize for our initial response to these allegations. It is clear to me now that I was misled by a partner and friend.”
Toxic and predatory behavior by powerful men toward toward female employees at FOX News and Uber, and now the same by VCs toward female founders, has triggered upheavals that cost those men their jobs. Two events can be dismissed as coincidence but three start to look like a trend. How much will change and how soon remains to be seen.