In a recent post, TechCrunch writer Catherine Shu went into detail in describing an incident involving 500 Startups Venture Partner Tristan Pollock who allegedly sexually harassed her two years ago.
The article, published yesterday (July 20), comes just a few weeks after another 500 Startups exec, co-founder Dave McClure, was forced to resign amid a mounting number of sexual harassment claims against him.
McClure admitted later that he did in fact made “advances towards multiple women in work-related situations, where it was clearly inappropriate” in a blog post titled “I’m a creep. I’m sorry.”
Incidentally, the self-confessed creep was the guy in charge of Shu’s complaint about Pollack back in 2015.
Here’s Catherine Shu describing what actually transpired:
“Pollock was visiting Taipei to represent 500 Startups at a local startup hub and meet with entrepreneurs in the program. My friend, who worked at the startup hub, and I had just finished attending a networking event at a restaurant. We were outside when three men arrived and greeted my friend. I hadn’t met any of them before, but I later found out that they were Pollock, another staffer at the startup hub and a Taipei-based 500 Startups employee.”
According to Shu, her friend invited her to go to a bar with the group, which included Pollock.
It then started to become inappropriate soon after Pollock told them that he had not had much success on Tinder in Taiwan. He apparently became fixated on Shu after he learned she was married to a white man.
Shu wrote, “My friend told Pollock I’m not available because I’m married. Then she added that I like white men because my husband is white. I was dismayed to hear her describe my relationship like that, especially because it seemed to intensify Pollock’s interest in me. He put his arm around my shoulders and whispered “Can’t you pretend you’re single?” in my ear. I shrugged him off.”
Things began escalating from then on, as Pollock allegedly made multiple unwanted advances to Shu.
“Pollock grabbed my hand and asked me why can’t I pretend I’m single. His behavior was escalating quickly and I was frightened. I tried to pull away repeatedly. I splayed my fingers and twisted my hand, but he held on.”
It would eventually become so uncomfortable that she told the group she was taking a taxi home. There was even a photo taken by her friend that corroborates Shu’s story, in which Pollock can be seen pulling her by the arm.
“[Shu’s friend] walked up to me and playfully tugged at my arm, asking me to stay. Pollock came up to my other side and grabbed my other hand, again. He slid his hand down where my friend couldn’t see and grabbed my butt as if to pull me in toward him.”
Following the incident, Shu wrote about her detailed account of it to both 500 Startups and her editor at TechCrunch.
“I was confused that he wasn’t fired after groping me and I wish I had asked why, but I felt overwhelmed. I had covered several 500 Startup investments before in my time as a contributor at TechCrunch and heard founders speak well of McClure, so I decided to take it on faith that he and his colleagues would handle Pollock appropriately.”
As a victim of harassment, Shu would later exhibit symptoms of PTSD, including a fear of being touched.
Then, much to her surprise, this happened some time later:
“I had no contact with him after the incident, but in March 2016, five months after he groped me, Pollock submitted a post through Crunch Network called “How sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll are creating the next big tech companies.” I saw after it was posted on TechCrunch. It was extremely upsetting to see his byline on the site he knew I work with, especially on an article in which he wrote.”
Taking inspiration from other victims who have chosen to speak out about their similar stories, Shu then decided to go public with her story.
“I want everyone in a position of influence in the tech industry to understand the psychological toll this kind of violation takes on victims. It is not just a workplace issue or a legal issue. It is a human rights issue. It robs women of the time. It takes away energy they wanted to give to their careers or families. It fills them with shame about the most intimate parts of their lives. I’m also painfully aware that many of the women who have come forward about harassment are women of color and, in particular, Asian women.”
In response to Shu’s post, 500 Startups issued the following statement to TechCrunch:
“500 Startups investigated Ms. Shu’s complaint as soon as we learned about it nearly two years ago. We spoke to her, Mr. Pollock, and several other witnesses. Although the various accounts were inconsistent and the investigation was inconclusive, we took internal action that we felt was responsive and reparative, and we communicated that action to TechCrunch’s Editor-in-Chief, Matthew Panzarino. Mr. Panzarino stated in a subsequent text message that Ms. Shu was ‘satisfied’ by our internal actions adding that ‘At this point, I believe we can close the books on this one – Thanks for taking the time and treating it seriously.'”
In a follow-up, 500 Startups also provided this additional statement:
“When we initially looked into Ms. Shu’s account approximately two years ago, we spoke to several witnesses whose accounts and impressions of the events in question varied considerably. Nevertheless, we took the matter seriously and based on the facts made available to us took disciplinary actions with Mr. Pollock that we deemed appropriate at the time. Indeed, TechCrunch’s editor-in-chief expressed that both he and Ms. Shu were satisfied with the actions we had taken and informed us that he considered the matter to be closed.
“As Ms. Shu’s posting contains new information, 500 Startups has decided to immediately engage a third party investigator to review the results of our previous investigation. We have also placed Mr. Pollock on an administrative leave of absence while we await the results of the investigation. We will take appropriate action based on their findings and recommendations.”