Even One Of The Most Powerful Women In Silicon Valley Can't Avoid Getting Hit On By Investors

Alyson Shontell

Jessica Livingston is the cofounder of Y Combinator, a prestigious startup accelerator program she started with her husband, Paul Graham. Yet even with all she has accomplished, Livingston still has moments when she gets hit on by VCs.

Recently, a man approached Livingston at The Wine Room in Palo Alto, where she was early for a meeting with Re/code's Nellie Bowles.

Bowles, who showed up a few minutes later, writes what happened:

He asked what she was doing there all on her own, and whether she was there maybe for a Match.com date. Livingston said that she worked in tech and was meeting a reporter. He said he was an investor. She said she was, too, that she cofounded Y Combinator. He asked if maybe she had some startups in her portfolio that other investors had overlooked and asked for her contact to set something up.

Livingston wasn't sure if the man was hitting on her, but it still made her uncomfortable.

"I’m not crazy, right?” Livingston asked Bowles after. “He was hitting on me? He was offering to invest in our weaker companies as a way to get me on a date, right? Did that just happen?"

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

The difficulties of being a woman in technology have lately shown up often. There was the tech executive who was sent an email, "I'm not leaving until we have sex," and the female startup founder who was unexpectedly massaged during a meeting with an investor. Livingston told Bowles about a YC founder whose butt was grabbed by a VC, although she says sexual harassment occurrences within the YC community are rare.

Still, the situation is bad enough that Livingston felt compelled to "remind" all investors on YC's blog before Demo Day, "Y Combinator has a zero tolerance policy for inappropriate sexual or romantic behavior from investors toward founders."

"Even one inappropriate incident is too many," Livingston wrote.

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