After “Me Too,” men and women disagree on solutions to sexual harassment at startups

After “Me Too,” men and women disagree on solutions to sexual harassment at startups
[Illustration: courtesy of First Round State of Start Ups]

The headlines are an everyday thing now–this executive or that entertainer is accused of sexual harassment or abuse. But even in a society that’s finally starting to listen to women who have been mistreated by powerful men, things in the startup world are slow to change.

In its latest State of Startups report, First Round Capital surveyed 869 venture-backed founders and found the state of gender dynamics is still dismal. Some of the most depressing results:

  • Half of founders say they’ve had personal experience with sexual harassment, either directly or knowing someone who was a victim. Seventy percent of women say the issue is still under-covered, while men are four times as likely to say the media’s overblowing the issue.
  • There’s little agreement on how to solve the problem. Women say there should be more female VCs and increased pressure from limited partners to stop bad behavior, while men think the answer is more sensitivity training and media coverage of incidents.
  • Fully 66% of women founders say their gender impedes their fundraising. Somehow, First Round Capital wrote, 12 men said the same thing, to which the firm asked: “Really?”

In non-gender-dynamic findings from the study:

  • Founders feel their companies will survive or fail on their own merits. Just 5% say they think they’ll fail by being outdone by competitors.
  • Virtual reality, conversational bots, wearables, and drones are the most over-hyped technologies, while AgTech, life sciences, security, and space are the least.
  • In 2017, founders felt they had lost the battle with investors for influence. This year, 53% of founders said investors had more influence. In 2016, that number was 39%, and in 2015, it was 36%.
  • Initial coin offerings can compete with venture capital for fundraising. In the second and third quarters of 2017, 90% of $2.3 billion raised by blockchain startups came from ICOs.