LaunchVic pulls partnership with 500 Startups in wake of sexual harassment scandal

Global accelerator's Melbourne lead Rachael Neumann resigns

LaunchVic – the Victorian government’s $60 million startup fund – has announced it is ending its partnership with global accelerator 500 Startups.

The accelerator had been put ‘on notice’; in the wake of a New York Times article that accused 500 Startups founder Dave McClure of sexual harassment against female entrepreneurs.

LaunchVic last month demanded 500 Startups develop “a remedial plan… to include addressing sexual harassment and lack of diversity in the startup ecosystem”.

500 Startups was due to roll out its accelerator program in Melbourne; a plan that was put on hold until the remedial plan had been formulated.

The resignation of 500 Startups’ local Melbourne lead, Rachael Neumann, prompted the termination of the partnership today, LaunchVic CEO Dr Kate Cornick said in a statement.

“Without trusted local leadership, we don’t believe that 500 Startups will be able to build a strong and inclusive culture and the social capital it needs to be able to successfully roll out its accelerator program in Victoria,” the statement said.

“While I am deeply disappointed at how this has ended, I feel confident in LaunchVic’s strong course of action over the past month to give 500 Startups an opportunity to show leadership to improve culture in the startup sector and fix the issues at hand,” Cornick said.

“Unfortunately, as we’ve expressed to 500 Startups, that without Rachael Neumann at the helm we don’t believe it will work.”

LaunchVic retains the funds reserved for 500 Startups and emphasised that no public funds had been put at risk. The money will be reinvested into another accelerator program.

In a statement on her resignation posted on Twitter earlier, Rachael Neumann said she had just returned from Silicon Valley where she spent time with the 500 Startups to “find the right path forward” for the Melbourne program.

“When I accepted the role…I believed that the program would be able to offer local founder and the wider startup community new opportunities to grow and thrive at a global level,” Neumann wrote.

“I determined that this is simply no the right time for 500 to launch in Australia and so I have resigned from the 500 team”.

The accusations levelled at McClure in the New York Times include him making inappropriate advances towards female entrepreneurs, and their poor treatment by 500 Startups when they rejected them.

The revelations prompted McClure to write an 800 word blog post entitled I’m a Creep. I’m Sorry. in which he described himself as a “clueless, selfish, unapologetic and defensive ass”.

Accusations of sexual assault have since emerged.

McClure attended a launch event in Melbourne in March, just two weeks before the initial scandal, speaking alongside Victoria Minister for Small Business, Innovation and Trade Philip Dalidakis and Cornick.

It was reported McClure had resigned from his role as general partner at 500 Startups in July.