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Startup Hero: Gesche Haas & Senate Zero: Kirsten Gillibrand

Startup Hero: Gesche Haas & Senate Zero: Kirsten Gillibrand

August 19, 2014


UPDATED: September 2, 2014

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand spoke out about some of her male counterparts who noticed her weight  with unkind phrases like:

 “Good thing you’re working out, because you wouldn’t want to get porky!” Her response: “Thanks, a—hole.”

A southern congressman once held Gillibrand’s arm while walking her into the House chamber, saying: “You know, Kirsten, you’re even pretty when you’re fat,” he said. (“I believed his intentions were sweet, even if he was being an idiot.”)

The worst example occurred after Gillibrand had a baby and eventually lost 50 pounds. An older senator approached her from behind, squeezed her waist and declared: “Don’t lose too much weight now. I like my girls chubby.”


Kirsten Gillibrand is part of the problem and not part of the solution when it comes to the way men treat women in the workplace; and, her refusal to name names justifies their illegal behavior and allows them to continue without any forced accountability.  If she’s going to write a book (and she did) “Off the Sidelines” then she needs to stop protecting the actions of the guilty and start forcing some accountability.  Most likely there would be denials from these men or comments about how she couldn’t take a joke.  I’d argue that Kirsten Gillibrand didn’t take herself “Off the Sidelines” rather she benched herself with the inability to use her position of power to create positive change. Doesn’t give much hope to other women in the workplace who are encountering the same issues to have a Senator roll over and take one on the chin for the “boys.”

Gillibrand would be wise to follow in the steps of the strong women below: Whitney Wolfe, Ellen Pao and Gesche Haas who either took legal action or named the men who did not understand their behavior was illegal and not going to be tolerated.  Perhaps she more concerned over her parties upcoming elections than defending women in the workplace. And to that I’d say to the women of New York, vote her out when you can!


Former Tinder VP Whitney Wolfe

It’s often been discussed on this page that startups run by their own set of rules. The first rules broken are usually EEOC violations (Retaliation, Race or Sex discrimination) and any company willing to overlook employee rights are likely to engage in far more unethical or illegal activity. Tinder’s former VP Whitney Wolfe is an excellent case study example of The Sociopathic Business Model™  that usually triggers inconsistent and contradictory language to action from the company trying to hide their unethical illegal activity.

EEOC Violations lead to other unethical or illegal activity killing my careerEEOC 2012*

Breakdown of EEOC from 2009-2013 broken down per State and Claim

Checklist-of-Characteristic-of-The-Sociopathic-Business-Model (1)

Another example: Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers Silicon Valley’s most fabled venture capital firm according to San Jose Mercury News (9.20.2013):


 Says it’s ready to do battle with a former partner who’s filed a sex-discrimination lawsuit. (If a company is willing to overlook EEOC violations they are far more likely to engage in greater unethical or illegal activity).

Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers had hoped to compel  (is that fancy law talk for bully and not recognizing the right’s of others?) Ellen Pao to take the case to binding arbitration, keeping the suit’s scandalous accusations — and the firm’s inner financial workings — out of the public eye.

Kleiner spokeswoman Christina Lee also echoed the firm’s earlier contention that Pao’s complaint is “wholly without merit.” (demean, insult and intimidate)

Pao’s lawyer, San Francisco-based Alan Exelrod, said he’s been unable to add the wrongful termination claim to the suit while the case was under appeal. The lawsuit already asserts that Pao’s punishment while employed at the firm cheated her out of millions of dollars.

“The next step is then starting with discovery, doing the depositions that are necessary, gathering the documents,” Exelrod said.

While he declined to estimate when a trial date might actually be set — or comment (on whether the two sides may pursue an out-of-court settlement) – several legal experts said it could be a year until jury selection occurs.

I’m feeling lucky and the crystal ball says this will settle out of court; and, it didn’t surprise me to read about the latest hero to women in startups Gesche Haas a New York based techie, formerly of WunWun and now working at a startup named Conjure.io. According to ValleyWag her story was brought  forward by two other women in the east coast tech community, Amy Vernon and Allyson Kapin, who wished to go on the record and spread Haas’ story. Haas, on her end, had shared a couple of posts about the experience with women she’s close with, but hadn’t gone fully public with the experience until Sam Biddle from ValleyWag reached out to her.

Haas (below right) was in Berlin to meet industry peers, which included a 20-minute sitdown with Curda (below, left).  Pavel Curda is a European angel investor, contributor at TheNextWeb, and advisor to a bevy of companies and Seedcamp, an annual accelerator program for startups. As such, he makes the rounds at industry events, including a July networking event in Berlin.

Sam Biddle ValleyWag Haas

And below is the email she received after their 20 minute business meeting.

Pavel Haas Sam Biddle ValleyWag

Some deal! And because I clearly have not met this man or else he would have already been told- iron on your W-2 on the front and your net worth on the back of your cheap suits.  (Do it backwards though) because you’re the only one who cares (and when you’re staring at yourself in the mirror) it will enhance your image (if only in your own mind).  Harsh? Yep.  Accurate?  You bet.  But he decided for a more subtle email with his  link to his About.me profile.  You cannot make this stuff up!

The gift of  The Sociopathic Business Model™, the victim blames themselves for the actions of a corrupt model. Haas told Biddle “I was so flustered, I couldn’t sleep for an hour or two. What did I indicate to him?” But don’t be too alarmed, the corrupt model always exposes itself in a pathological way without shame, remorse or guilt: another woman at the conference said she’d received the exact same email: “that eliminated the factor that I’d brought this on myself.”

More women like Whitney Wolfe, Ellen Pao, and Gesche Haas need to stand up to the broken system and demand respect from the startup community that feels the rules do not apply to them.  We all need to work together and Force Accountability from those who do not feel they need to be accountable and use their positions unethically or illegally.

Even One Of The Most Powerful Women In Silicon Valley Can’t Avoid Getting Hit On By Investors
Jessica Livingston cofounder of Y Combinator, a prestigious startup accelerator program she started with her husband, Paul Graham recounts a recent event while waiting for  reporter.  It’s tragic when strong and accomplished women such as Livingston blame themselves for unwanted attention: 

Livingston, who doesn’t often wear makeup, wondered  if wearing lipstick invited the unwanted attention.

Women in business should not blame themselves for unwanted attention and keep telling stories like this to place shame back on the shameless,


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