As It Happens

Tech CEO accuses venture capitalist of assault amid Silicon Valley harassment scandal

Two days after Silicon Valley venture capitalist Dave McClure resigned amid harassment allegations, another former colleague accused him of assault.
Cheryl Yeoh says she was compelled to speak out after she saw people online voicing their support for venture capitalist Dave McClure. (Cheryl Yeoh )

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Two days after Silicon Valley venture capitalist Dave McClure resigned from his company 500 Startups amid harassment allegations, entrepreneur Cheryl Yeoh wrote a blog post accusing him of assault.

"I felt like if I don't come out and tell the truth now, when the cat is already out of the bag, people are going to condone his behaviour," Yeoh told As It Happens guest host Laura Lynch. "And he's going to rationalize and justify his actions and continue doing it."

Yeoh, CEO of Cheryl Yeoh and Co., alleges McClure propositioned her several times and then pushed himself against her and kissed her against her objections in 2014.

She has not pressed charges and none of the allegations have been proven in court. McClure did not respond to As It Happens' requests for comment.

The night in question was three years ago. Yeoh had just moved from Silicon Valley to Malaysia to head up an innovation agency. McClure was in town to meet Yeoh and her colleagues about potentially launching an accelerator in Southeast Asia. 

Afterward their meeting, McClure and some other colleagues went back to Yeoh's apartment to brainstorm ideas over drinks, she said.

"In tech, it's very typical to continue discussions like that outside of business hours or fundraise outside of business hours, so it was nothing out of the normal," she said.

But she said she soon noticed McClure was filling her cup with whiskey faster than she could drink it.  Then, when everyone else left, she said McClure stayed behind.

"So I ask, like, 'Hey, Dave, are you ordering an Uber? Are you leaving?' And he was like, 'No.'"

A photo Yeoh snapped and sent to her boyfriend of McClure, right, and colleagues at her home the night he allegedly kissed her against her objections. (Cheryl Yeoh)

Assuming he'd had too much to drink and needed a place to crash, Yeoh said she showed him to the guest room. 

"Then I walked into my room and he followed me ... propositioned me to sleep with him," she said. "And at that point, I was like, 'No, I have a boyfriend, we talked about him. And you have a wife. You know, would like to leave?'

"I showed him the door, and that was when he ... backed me into a corner and he started, you know, kissing me, and I firmly said no and pushed him away.

"While he was pinning me to the wall, he said things like, 'Just this one time. I really like women who are smart and strong like you.' It was pretty traumatic."

Dave McClure has stepped down from his role at 500 Startups, which he co-founded. (Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch)

McClure has not responded publicly to Yeoh's allegations, but she said he apologized to her in private Facebook message, which she showed to As It Happens.

Her post comes after McClure announced on Saturday that he was stepping down from the venture firm he co-founded after entrepreneur Sarah Kunst accused him of sexual harassment in a New York Times story.

Kunst said that after she spoke with McClure about a job at 500 Startups, he messaged her on Facebook and said: "I was getting confused figuring out whether to hire you or hit on you."

After she reported his comment to his colleagues, she said the company ceased communications with her and she never got the job.

'I'm a creep. I'm sorry.'

In his own blog post, McClure admitted to being "a creep" and apologized to Kunst and "multiple" other women.

"I made advances towards multiple women in work-related situations, where it was clearly inappropriate. I put people in compromising and inappropriate situations, and I selfishly took advantage of those situations where I should have known better. My behavior was inexcusable and wrong."

McClure's post garnered him numerous supportive messages from colleagues on social media. 

"At that point, I saw a flood of support for him because he'd done a lot of good and, you know, he's helped a lot of women and minorities in their startups, and I felt like that didn't do it justice to other women whom he's harassed," Yeoh said.

She used her blog post not only to speak out about McClure, but to make recommendations for how tech companies can improve their harassment policies

Co-founder Christine Tsai has since taken the reins at 500 Startups. She wrote that McClure's behaviour "was unacceptable and not reflective of 500's culture and values."

In response to Yeoh's allegations, the company issued the following statement to Reuters:

"We appreciate Cheryl speaking up and realize how upsetting and painful it is for her to have gone through that experience and have the courage to speak up. We can only hope our efforts in changing 500 can help create a safe and effective platform for female founders around the world."

With files from Reuters