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VC Visionaries is our newest series on A TOTAL DISRUPTION about the greatest minds putting fuel in the engines of the innovative companies driving the tech revolution.
VC Visionaries will present portraits of these VC’s, angels, and the top accelerators in the world, but this short piece that is kicking it off is being posted in an effort to snuff the social media flames that have flared up against Dave McClure, the 500 Startups founder, who has been, all at once, labeled as sexist, arrogant and everything else in between. Lately, Dave McClure has been under fire in the media for comments he made at Big Omaha, a Nebraska-based innovation conference. Dave was giving a lecture at the conference, when he asked a woman in the audience how the battery life was on her iPhone. “It’s fine,” was the woman’s response, to which Dave replied, “You are a lying bitch.” Now, it is a bit presumptuous to assume that the woman who responded was a bitch, but to call Dave anti-feminist is a bit of a stretch.
Some background: I’ve been filming Dave since July 2011. I’ve filmed Dave on-stage, off-stage and everywhere else in between and I certainly encountered a big personality. But, take away the audience and sit Dave down for a conversation and you will encounter one of the most soft spoken, kind and generous people in the tech world. In fact, through my interviews, Dave revealed that he is one of the most pro-feminist investors out there. “Current VCs backed less than 10% of female CEOs and founders,” Dave noted. “In my portfolio 12% of CEOs are women and so are 15-20% of the founders I’ve backed.”
So certainly, Dave is edgy, Dave riles people up and once or twice I’ve even seen him yell an expletive or two at someone in the audience. However, Dave is far from sexist and I’m sure if he had a moment to sit down and discuss the meanings and origins of the word “bitch” with those who were offended, they would also find that the term applies to dogs and to certain members of the male sex as well. Yes, the word is derogatory, but don’t attend a Dave McClure talk if you are expecting to hear how great you are. Dave forces his audience to wake up and realize their mistakes. He approaches positive development in startups by signaling out the negative, the problems founders can solve. At least at a Dave McClure talk you will question your skillset, and at least Dave brings a little spice to the oftentimes bland world of tech conferences.
And hey, Dave’s mom was a single mother and an entrepreneur herself, so I’d argue that it’s hard to be anti-feminist when your greatest influencer was in fact, a woman. But don’t take my word for it, here’s Dave talking about women in business, in an interview we shot in August of 2011.