(Almost) Everything Wrong With Silicon Valley’s Culture in One Post

Last week I wrote about the antics of VC Dave McClure and how his on stage profane rant at a technology conference was completely out of touch with the kind of inclusive, engaged and diverse culture we need to grow the industry. I wasn’t the only one to write on it (see herehere and here). I said my piece and for his part, Mr. McClure has apologized for his behavior. Well, sort of.

1 correction: probably insecure w/ new talk / new material… maybe trying 2 hard w/ obscenities 2 cover that. (altho swearing wont stop)

— Dave McClure (@davemcclure) May 10, 2013

Time to move on, right?

Well I would have been more than happy to before reading this weekend article on PandoDaily, Dave McClure Risk Taker. In it the author who clearly discloses he is an investor in McClure’s fund and an admirer goes on to explain that the incident in Omaha isn’t a big deal because as a “risk taker”, “Dave McClure does a lot of stupid shit.”

Duh.

Effectively the article is a giant explanation that it’s ok when someone like McClure is sexist or abusive because he’s smart, because he’s invested in startups with female founders and because the rest of the VC community are just boring. It’s a continuation of the Silicon Valley myth that the smartest guys (and they generally are guys) in the room are also the biggest assholes which is ok because they are smart. It’s a circular logic that almost equates aggression with intelligence in a really dangerous way.

It’s dangerous because it’s easy to believe. It’s simple to buy into the idea that that best leaders, the smartest CEOs, the strongest personalities are the ones that cross the line between pushing for excellent and abuse. It’s dangerous because it’s too easy to fall into the trap of thinking it’s ok. I know when I was (much) younger and early in my career I was surrounded by executives and cultures built on corporate aggressive and verbal bloodshed. Profane and pushy those cultures ended up being more polarizing than unifying. I know I had get out of those cultures in order to see how broken they were and to get coaching to break out of my own bad habits.

I’m not here to beat up on Mr. McClure specifically. It is time to move on past the bad speech for him. But it’s also time for the industry to move on from apologizing for people’s bad manners and poor judgement because they are “risk takers” who invest other people’s money. Venture capitalists who want to be industry leaders by taking risks to build companies of lasting financial and social value should realize they have to lead by example. We shouldn’t make it easy for them. We should hold them to the highest standard and neither the speech in Omaha or this article was.

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