On Thursday night I gave a talk in Toronto about how startup culture is ridiculously broken. I quoted and referenced and tried to be somewhat reasonable about the lunacy that is startup culture in 2013. While incessant use of the terms ninja, rockstar and crush it do push me closer to some fictional precipice, this is nothing compared to, you know, the real and tangible wrongs that smash us right in the face every single day.
This afternoon, at the TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon in San Francisco, a startup called Titstare presented. It’s on the Internet — I’m not planning to further honor it by posting a link. The notion behind Titstare isn’t rocket science. The newest brainchild by a group of Australian scholars who earned their reputation for a website that sends abusive postcards, Titstare basically hacks a way for men to stare at women’s breasts without being detected.
All this aside, we know that a lot (sorry — a LOT) of men in the world of startups are as evolved as Cro-Magnon. Sorry — flame away, but I’ve seen it in Silicon Valley, New York, London, Hong Kong, Toronto, Beijing, Chicago, Sydney and I can go on and on. I’ve been in rooms from which I’ve quickly excused myself, embarrassed that I stayed even a moment. It sucks.
Today at TechCrunch Disrupt, in the same session as Titstare presented, so did a nine-year-old girl. I learned about this because her mother tweeted:
Titstare guys got a very loud applause from audience. Thank god sexism isn’t alive and well in the tech sector. SO PROUD TO HAVE MY KID HERE
That’s pretty much all I have to say about that.
If you’re the mind wizards behind Titstare or TechCrunch Distrupt, you clearly don’t see a huge problem with this. I do, and I think this can actually be a line in the sand. We have to call out what we see and hear and, most importantly, feel in startup culture that’s just not acceptable. And it does actually need to be me and you and everyone who becomes the startup police.
Personally, I took a lot of heat (including a threat of a lawsuit) at Jason Calacanis’ LAUNCH conference when I was the first to call out the Eshta “booth babes” dressed in quasi-military porn. He did a great job responding to that situation, yet now we fast forward six months and, by my count, 4 of 65 speakers for his upcoming, very high-profile LAUNCH Mobile & Wearables conference are women. How is that okay?
SO back to the issue at hand, how, TechCrunch, was it okay to let Titstare present at Disrupt which is, by any reasonable measure, one of the world’s premier startup events?