Y Combinator Funds Tech To Combat Sexual Assault And Harassment

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Written by Dana Sanchez

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In a #MeToo environment that encourages people to name their harassers, Silicon Valley startup accelerator Y Combinator released results of a survey confirming what we already knew — that female founders are too often the victims of sexual harassment.

As part of the release, YC said it has established a formal process for its founders to report harassment and assault using Bookface, a private digital community portal for YC founders. YC encourages other investors to set up similar reporting systems, according to a YC blog post.

“We created a formal process for founders in the YC community to report bad behavior by investors,” YC wrote. “You can report at any time, even years after the incident took place. The report will remain confidential.”

Earlier in 2018, YC funded Callisto, a 7-year-old nonprofit that graduated from YC’s winter 2018 class. Callisto is dedicated to building technology to combat sexual assault and harassment. Using Callisto, founders can record the identities of perpetrators in the tech and VC industry. The company will collect the information and refer victims to a lawyer who will provide free advice and the option to share their information with other victims of the same perpetrator. From there, victims can decide if they want to go public together with their accusations, Tech Crunch reported.

YC helped Callisto send a survey to 125 of the 384 female founders who have participated in the YC accelerator. They were asked if they’d ever been assaulted or coerced by an angel or VC investor in their startup career.

Of the 125 female YC founders polled, 88 completed the survey, and 19 said they’d experienced one or more inappropriate incidents by angels or VCs:

  • 18 experienced unwanted sexual overtures or sexual badgering
  • 15 experienced sexual coercion or quid-pro-quo
  • 4 experienced unwanted sexual contact

When founders did report, their main reason was to protect others:

  • “I wanted to make sure that other founders funded by this VC would NOT be in contact with this person, so I shared.”
  • “I wanted other people to avoid being preyed upon by the same people.”

When founders did not report, their main reason was to protect their company or fear of retaliation:

  • “Did not want to endanger my company’s funding prospects”
  • “I was afraid of the consequences for my ability to get future funding.”
  • “VCs would penalize women for coming forward by icing them out of social and professional situations and denying them funding opportunities, meaning the bad behavior rarely got outed.”

Sexual harassment is not a new problem in tech, but more women and victims have come forward in recent years, encouraged by the #MeToo movement. As a result, Silicon Valley elites Justin Caldbeck, formerly of Binary Capital, and Mike Cagney, former CEO of SoFi lost their jobs to allegations of sexual misconduct, Tech Crunch reported.

First Round Capital recently polled its founders on issues of sexual misconduct. The early-stage investor found that half of the 869 founders polled were harassed or knew a victim of workplace harassment.