July 8th, 2017
(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: email@example.com
I have to think that men who do this well don’t realize how lucky they are, and they don’t realize how much they are throwing something very important. They were trusted and admired, and they threw that away. And they had the power to do good, and yet they decided to perpetuate many of the problems that the industry has been suffering for several decades.
Dave has done a lot for many founders, and people (including me) are grateful for his support in many ways. What he’s done for the startup community is commendable. It’s tough for some to accept the truth that Dave abused his power for sexual gain and put women in compromising, powerless positions. But we need to acknowledge the difference between inappropriate behavior and assault. What I experienced with Dave was the latter.
Update: I just spoke to Sarah Kunst and learned from her that at least 12 other women including me, have faced sexual harassment or advances from Dave of various degrees. Some of them are portfolio company CEOs like myself. They’re afraid to come out, but some eventually will. I had doubts publishing this, but after talking to Sarah, it is clear to me now that I can’t just sit silently and trust that Dave’s behavior will stop, or that we can just file his misconduct under “Dave being Dave.” This is about protecting other women who might otherwise be subjected to his future unwanted sexual advances.
My Personal Account of Sexual Assault from Dave
3 years ago, I’d just moved from Silicon Valley to Malaysia, to take up a position as the Founding CEO of MaGIC, a government-funded innovation agency in Malaysia that was launched by President Obama and the Prime Minister of Malaysia on April 27, 2014 to spur tech startups in Malaysia and later Southeast Asia via its accelerator programs.
Given that my startup Reclip.It was previously funded by 500 Startups, and I had a good working relationship with Dave, I had already spoken to Dave about setting up an accelerator in Southeast Asia. He said he’d consider doing it if I helped him raise USD$10M for the fund, which would be managed by Khailee Ng, a fund manager of 500 Durians at the time (a microfund for Southeast Asia). I subsequently got the investments they needed secured.
On June 6, 2014, Dave flew into Malaysia to meet some of these investors and other tech players in the industry. I invited him to attend my board meeting that day as well. After the meeting, Khailee, Dave, and a few others (including two other females), came over to my apartment to brainstorm about 500 Startups’ new Growth / Distribution Accelerator, Cerebro (later rebranded as Distro Dojo) and also a hashtag for MaGIC, the organization that I was leading.
What started out to be an innocent night of just jamming and hanging out at my new apartment turned into a nightmare episode that has been haunting me for the past 3 years. Dave kept pouring scotch into my glass before I finished drinking throughout the night, and hours into the night way past midnight, suddenly, everyone except Dave decided to order an Uber. They all promptly left, and left Dave there with me. I was quite confused by how that happened so quickly.
I quickly asked if Dave wanted to order an Uber and leave like the rest of them but he said no. Perplexed, I offered him to crash on the couch or the guest room and proceeded to show him the guest room. Then I went into my own bedroom but Dave followed me there, and that’s when he first propositioned to sleep with me. I said no. I reminded Dave that he knew my then-boyfriend and that we’d just talked about him earlier that night.
At this point, I led him to the door and told him he needs to leave. On the way out, he pushed himself onto me to the point where I was backed into a corner, made contact to kiss me, and said something along the lines of “Just one night, please just this one time.” Then he told me how he really likes strong and smart women like me. Disgusted and outraged, I said no firmly again, pushed him away and made sure he was out my door.
Once he was gone, still in shock and in tears, I immediately called my boyfriend at the time and told him what had just happened. I was rather inebriated at the time, and couldn’t shake off thoughts of what might have happened if I had been any more drunk and helpless, or had let him stay in my apartment. The fact that I had to say no multiple times, and that he had push himself onto me and kissed me without my consent was way more than crossing the line of inappropriateness. It’s sexual assault.
Unfortunately, I felt like I couldn’t speak up at the time, or even tell Khailee about it, because we had the Distro Dojo deal at stake and we were supposed to sign an LOI that week. I was extremely conflicted about it. On one hand, I was really upset with Dave’s individual misconduct and never wanted to work directly with him ever again, but on the other hand, if I said anything, I would most certainly kill the Distro Dojo deal. It was so important to the region that Distro Dojo be established there. In hindsight, the program has indeed made a lot of positive impact to companies such as Grab, KFIT, Bukalapak, and others, and many would argue that 500 plays a fundamental role in the region’s startup ecosystem.
I just had to suck it up and put the incident behind me. Even if I spoke up, I wasn’t sure at the time if my story would be taken seriously. In fact, I felt like I had to “play nice” and avoid any sort of awkward confrontation for fear of repercussions on the deal. It’s the worst position to be in when you feel helpless about something you know was outright wrong. The point is, that I shouldn’t have been put in that position in the first place.