Half a dozen women in the tech industry just came forward to accuse a prominent Silicon Valley venture capitalist of sexual harassment and assault.
According to a bombshell report from The Information, Justin Caldbeck, the founder and managing partner at Binary Capital, groped women who sought out advice or pitched him for investments, sent them lurid texts late at night and harassed them with unwanted sexual propositions.
Three of the six women spoke on the record using their full names, something practically unheard of because retaliation is common and a real fear. (The Observer has heard several similar accounts about unnamed VCs from women but has never published anything because sources have, rightfully so, been too scared to move forward telling their stories.)
Those women are Niniane Wang, Susan Ho and Leiti Hsu, who initially wrote the instances off as commonplace. That’s awful.
“Leiti and I originally were not going to say anything because we felt that what happened to us was just unfortunately so commonplace and trite these days,” Ho told Pando Daily’s Sarah Lacey. “But after hearing the stories of other women who endured much worse, we decided we had to say something to make sure this article would get written. Niniane Wang was the first to agree to go on the record and she said it best—if we don’t say anything and this happens to someone else, it’s really something we could have had a hand in preventing.”
Two of the women reportedly said they did not follow through on business deals with Caldbeck because of these interactions. Through his firm, he has invested in 14 startups, including Bellhops, Havenly and Recharge.
Caldbeck has now taken indefinite leave of absence from Binary Capital and is seeking help. Below is his official statement:
The past 24 hours have been the darkest of my life. I have made many mistakes over the course of my career, some of which were brought to light this week. To say I’m sorry about my behavior is a categorical understatement. Still, I need to say it: I am so, so sorry.
I direct my apology first to those women who I’ve made feel uncomfortable in any way, at any time – but also to the greater tech ecosystem, a community that I have utterly failed.
The power dynamic that exists in venture capital is despicably unfair. 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.
I am deeply ashamed of my lack of self-awareness. I am grateful to Niniane, Susan, Leiti, and the other women who spoke up for providing me with a sobering look into my own character and behavior that I can no longer ignore. The dynamic of this industry makes it hard to speak up, but this is the type of action that leads to progress and change, starting with me.
I will be taking an indefinite leave of absence from Binary Capital, the firm I co-founded in 2014. I will be seeking professional counseling as I take steps to reflect on my behavior with and attitude towards women. I will find ways to learn from this difficult experience – and to help drive necessary changes in the broader venture community.
The Binary team will also be taking measures to ensure that the firm is a safe place for founders of all backgrounds to find the support and resources they need to change the world, without abuse of power or mistreatment of any person.
I owe a heartfelt apology to my family, my investors, my portfolio, and the team at Binary, who have been completely blindsided and in no way deserve the pain I’ve caused. But most of all I apologize again to those who I’ve hurt during the course of my career – and for the damage I’ve done to the industry I care so deeply about.
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