Where Do We Go From Here?
To be a founder is to be exposed. You put out into the world a vision, something for which you are willing to risk everything. But unfortunately, what you see as a vision for making very real progress in the world, someone else sees as an opportunity to attack, to take advantage of the position you’re in, a position you’re only in because you passionately want to do something extraordinary. The recent reporting about sexual harassment throughout the venture community has done an exceptional job of shining a light on what has been kept in the shadows too long.
The stories about this abhorrent behavior encapsulate, at its most basic, the persistent and perhaps inescapable power imbalance between the startup space and the venture world that supports it. And I am so glad to see so many stepping up in response, taking a stand, and working for change.
I concede that I don’t have a systemic solution — capital has to flow from one hand to another — that’s the nature of funding. And we live in a world in which the control of capital is a very recognized and legitimate form of power — who has it and can grant it and who needs it and what will she do to get it.
So if the flow of capital will continue to be an expression of power, how do you fundamentally change the situation to stop people from abusing it?
Honestly, I don’t know. I do know that the single greatest population of people dedicated to solving seemingly unsolvable problems is the founder community. I know that if we can get a conversation going and agree to where we as a group want to end up, I like our chances of getting there.
To make that happen, we need to get everyone involved, particularly those who faltered and abused their position, saw their mistakes, and are right now committed each day to treating people better. The stakes couldn’t be higher. People should treat each other decently, regardless of their position. Full stop. That’s the now. But the longer-term consequences of not fixing this are also dire.
If we want the best and brightest to share their deepest and most daring ideas, we need to ensure that the environment to do that in is safe and supportive. If we don’t take this moment and correct this behavior, we risk pushing dreamers and future founders back into the pre-defined career paths that promise golden handcuffs, unquestioned process, and perpetuation of the status quo.
I’m in and want to have this conversation. I am committed and will be wherever I need to be to ensure that this detestable behavior is ended. And I am dedicated and willing to help return the startup space and the venture world to the great partnership that it has been for so many of us and should be for all who are daring enough to dream.
TechCrunch published the template and would appreciate your help sharing it, with the hashtag #HarassmentPolicy if you’d like:
A template for investor/founder sexual harassment policy