Start-up incubator to investors: Don't sexually harass founders, if you do "we will not continue to work with you"

In today's sad tech news, Y Combinator sent out this warning email ahead of this year's Demo Day

Published August 13, 2014 5:13PM (EDT)

 Y Combinator    (<a href="">Gil C</a> / <a href=""></a>)
Y Combinator (Gil C /

Yesterday, Y Combinator partner Jessica Livingston stated the complete obvious in a blog post innocuously titled "A Reminder to Investors." The contents of this "reminder" were far more charged that the title would suggest: Investors are not to sexually harass/engage founders at the upcoming Demo Day.

Y Combinator is well-known in the world of venture capital and start-ups for its approach of not just providing seed money for start-ups but also for acting as an incubator for a 10-week period in Silicon Valley. One of those 10-week sessions is up this month, concluding with Demo Day where investors meet founders.

The full blog post, written a week prior to the Aug. 19 Demo Day, is below:

"Sam wrote about this in his recent blog post, but I've found that important and seemingly obvious things often bear repeating. So with Demo Day approaching, I'd like to make the following point explicit:

"Y Combinator has a zero tolerance policy for inappropriate sexual or romantic behavior from investors toward founders.

"Don't even think about doing it. I will find out. Y Combinator will not continue to work with you.

"News also travels fast around the YC community. Past and future YC alumni will likely find out about your actions and find them equally unacceptable.

"Nearly all the investors we know are completely upstanding and professional, but even one inappropriate incident is too many."

Yes, Livingston felt the need to explicitly state that sexual harassment and engagement was a "zero tolerance" offense. Not just something that decent human beings shouldn't do.

Companies, across industries, often have HR courses regarding inappropriate behavior in the workplace, and I cannot discount the importance of education. However, this post underscores the many examples of sexism and sexual harassment that run rampant in the tech industry.

I'm glad Jessica Livingston and Y Combinator take this issue seriously; yet disheartened that the post needed to be written at all.

h/t BetaBeat

By Sarah Gray

Sarah Gray is an assistant editor at Salon, focusing on innovation. Follow @sarahhhgray or email

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Innovation Sexual Harassment Silicon Valley Startups Tech Venture Capital Y Combinator