Girl Problems

Charlie Hit On Me! One Silicon Alley VC’s Quest for Love and Other Startups

Venture man Charlie O'Donnell wants to take you on a meeting.
web charlie odonnell paul kisselev Charlie Hit On Me! One Silicon Alley VCs Quest for Love and Other Startups

Illustration by Paul Kisselev.

Charlie O’Donnell has long eyelashes, an athletic build and a shiny shaved head: a 32-year-old in his prime working at one of the most highly-respected startup investment firms in New York, First Round Capital. The kayaking enthusiast and devotee of the fitness Bible The 4-Hour Body is known to broadcast his nine-mile cycling commute on Twitter, where he goes by @ceonyc, a reference to his initials.

A power networker, Mr. O’Donnell has made himself a fixture at tech parties in search of the next Mark Zuckerberg, or as it were, the next Margaret. Trouble is, he’s also looking for the next Mrs. O’Donnell.

“For men, if we are single, any single female that we are hanging out with has the potential, at least at first, to be a potential date,” Mr. O’Donnell wrote in 2004 on his popular blog, This Is Going To Be Big. “But for girls, you never really know. You can be doing all of the dating type stuff… showing interest, asking them out, etc… and they’ll seemingly go along with the whole thing, until the point that you’re sitting across from them and you realize, ‘Hey… wait a second… this isn’t a date at all!’”

Business and pleasure often mix in the Silicon Alley startup scene, where investors are known to karaoke with their portfolio companies. By now, everyone knows a pitch and a drink can be one and the same—but what about a pitch and a date? With more women on the tech scene, uncertainty is increasingly common.

“I once scheduled a meeting with someone and it turned out to be a date,” one well-connected female techie told Betabeat. That someone was Mr. O’Donnell. One female founder was “asked out to dinner on the pretense of it being a meeting, but it turned out to be a date” with a local venture capitalist, who followed up with an extended series of flirtatious text messages. That man also turned out to be Mr. O’Donnell. In fact, Mr. O’Donnell’s name came up repeatedly in the course of reporting a more general story about women in tech.

Even so, there are far more nefarious scoundrels on the scene. Betabeat heard some stories of other investors that sounded like fodder for Mad Men. “I’ve even heard of VCs trying to sleep with their potential female investees,” said one female founder who used to live in New York and now lives in the Bay Area. “Pretty sketchy stuff.” One woman who organizes tech events said she was stalked for years by a consultant who stopped only after her brother intervened; one female founder met with a Silicon Valley investor who followed up with an invitation to his hotel room via a midnight text message—“and he was married!”

By contrast, Mr. O’Donnell’s dalliances aren’t perverse—just pervasive. And by most any standard, the energetic VC would seem to be a catch. A Brooklyn boy at heart, he still lives in Bay Ridge near his family. “To my mother’s chagrin, I’m her last hope for local grandchildren,” he told Betabeat in an interview. A product of the Jesuit-run Regis High School on the Upper East Side, he started at the General Motors Pension Fund as an intern in high school and eventually landed a job there. He works hard, plays hard (in addition to kayaking, he runs a pick-up softball game and a dodgeball team), has good taste in restaurants and seems earnest about matters of the heart. “I want to find someone who not only loves me, but lets themselves experience love and doesn’t worry about the chances of things actually working out,” he blogged in 2008.

[Disclosure: While Betabeat was reporting this story, we discovered that an Observer Media employee had briefly dated Mr. O’Donnell. She had no involvement in this article.]

Mr. O’Donnell is exceptionally well-connected in the scene and yet still puts his calendar online so anyone can request some face time. He’s something of an industry gatekeeper—or as he puts it, “more like a concierge.” Mr. O’Donnell, though he says he doesn’t drink, attends a vast number of events; socializing is practically a job requirement. “The reason I get the results that I do is because I’m a part of the scene,” he told Betabeat. “I have a big social network, and that leads to a lot of inbound. I get an early look at a lot of good deals because I am out at the parties.”

Comments

  1. tech scener says:

    Charlie is the best. He is the best thing that has happened to NYC tech scene.

  2. tech scener says:

    Charlie is the best. He is the best thing that has happened to NYC tech scene.

  3. Julia K says:

    Is this article really necessary? Why would you want to tear down someone who has been nothing but a positive influence on the NY Tech Scene? Charlie has been a friend and mentor to SO MANY of us, both men and women. I believe in my heart that he’s always had the best intentions. This article is totally pointless and a senseless attack on a really great person. I think the writers come to terms with that at the end, but the very existence of this article and its headline is a damaging force. 

  4. I know Charlie, with whom I have had a solid professional relationship for years, to be the kind of guy who will hold open doors for women and politely compliment them on their choice of dress at fancier tech events.  Let’s not kill chivalry, please!

  5. I know Charlie, with whom I have had a solid professional relationship for years, to be the kind of guy who will hold open doors for women and politely compliment them on their choice of dress at fancier tech events.  Let’s not kill chivalry, please!

  6. Charlie is great and has always been nice and professional to me. He helps so many people in this community, women and men. 

    While this is a real issue that has come up for me (not with Charlie) even though I am married and wear my rings everywhere, I think you could have called out other men who are much worse, where there is no innocence or ambiguity about whether or not they are propositioning you once you get to the “meeting”. Charlie is not one of those men. 

    I think you should be more careful when making accusations of this sort – and how come none of the women who went on ‘dates’ came out in the article with their names?

    1. FirstRoundDebacle says:

      I think it’s pretty apparent why the women entrepreneurs would not want to publicly reveal their names. If it was a number of women involved however, that doesn’t make any one of them less credible.

  7. Rachel says:

    I
    have monthly breakfasts with Charlie and think this article was not only unnecessary
    but absurd. First, since there is no formal accusation here, it makes me
    question the validity of the accusations and the entire piece.  Also there are some details missing – are these
    women who are suggesting these things also representing companies he didn’t support
    as a potential investment?  Or not like
    him for other reasons and this is a good angle? 
    I don’t know any of them but there is not much not being reported here
    and what is reported is anonymous and vague.  I advise a handful of successful start-ups in
    the community and Charlie is beyond supportive and giving of his time in a
    constructive and helpful manner.  There
    are PLENTY of male entrepreneurs and investors who i can name who are at every
    party hitting on people….where is that piece? 
    And more importantly, do we even need that story?  If you are going to write something that boarders
    on slander from unnamed sources, than you just lost another reader.

    1. Michael Brooks Taylor says:

      There are accusations in this piece?

  8. Seph250 says:

    Lame article.  Way too personal.  Nobody deserves to be attacked like this. 

  9. Hey New York Observer, look at me logging a comment here with my Facebook profile! Isn’t it curious that I attach my name to my opinions, insights, and criticisms?

    It is a pity that in the pursuit of readership and attention that you fall well below standards of journalistic integrity while writing a piece that has little to do with the reality of working or breaking into tech for women.

    How funny it is that the women the article alludes to who were “baited and switched” by Mr. O’Donnell lack names. What a pity for them! And the women who agreed that he had a “problem” after following up with Ms. Jeffries, well THAT will teach them to respond to a reporter via emails! Their words will be attributed anonymously and perhaps completely changed to support the thesis of this article.

    Now instead of focusing on his work and aiding others with advice and insight, Mr. O’Donnell will be forced to defend his job.

    This article- and many like it that are written by betabeat- discourage and damage the tech community (look how cute it is that everyone is giving up their REAL jobs to run a start-up, they all need a flu-shot so they don’t catch start-up fever! Lol).

    Articles like this that are anonymous, vague in their accusations should be seen as what they are: gossip journalism not worth the attention that they will receive.

    I wonder how those involved in “Change the Ratio” being quoted in the watercolor cartoon that accompanies this article feel? Their work just got harder to do because of this trivial piece. There are more important things that could be written about that are serious hindrances for women in the professional world.

    I’ve met with Mr. O’Donnell on numerous occasions for advice and insight. He has been professional, courteous and very honest. Most industries that I’ve worked in profoundly lack professionals like Mr. O’Donnell. This candor and helpfulness in the tech scene has always attracted me. 

    1. I’m just going to pick this one to reply to since it seems to cover all the bases: Your notions of “journalistic standards” are nonsensical. Anonymous sourcing is a journalistic tool, not a transgression, and if it didn’t exist, a lot of stories would never get reported. (Watergate? Deep throat? Anonymous source.) 

      Your understanding of how anonymous sourcing works is also misguided–to put it mildly. Where commentary is attributed anonymously, it’s because the source is talking to the reporter off the record. Which is not only kosher, it’s common practice and an integral part of core journalism. And the notion that we would “completely change” quotes is false–we don’t do that, and no news organization can do that, ethnically–and that accusation is technically libelous. (And unlike some of the people commenting here, I know what “libelous” means–and it’s not Anything Negative I Don’t Agree With.)

      As for whether stories discourage the tech community: our job is to cover the tech community, not to support it–and certainly not to cheerlead it. We’re a news organization, not a PR vehicle, and not an advocacy org.  And when people in the tech community do things that are wrong, or inappropriate or when there’s something wrong with the culture that no one wants to talk about, it’s our job to shed light on the subject. Far too few people do that in tech coverage and it tends to be fluffy and boosterish as a result. The tech industry certainly enjoys the benefits of overly boosterish coverage, but it’s bad journalism. And we’re not going down that path.

      I’m Ben and Adrianne’s boss and the editor of the Observer, but I’m also a female ex-entrepreneur who’s been a part of the tech community for a long time. And I also don’t think it’s in the industry’s interest  to collectively stick its head in the sand and dismiss actual problems on the basis that people are well-intentioned. Guess what? Nearly everyone is well-intentioned. Road to hell, etc. It’s not enough. If you get venture funding and blow it all through bad decision-making, no one will look at your career and say “Well, it doesn’t matter. Manpriya had good intentions!” We forgive children on that basis, but adults have to take responsibility for their actions.

      And lastly, your assumption that your interaction with Charlie (and the assumption of some of the other commenters) somehow mirrors everyone else’s is naive at best. I’ve met Charlie a few times and he was perfectly polite and appropriate, but I don’t assume that means there hasn’t been any gray area with any of his other interactions.

      Adrianne and Ben did a ton of reporting and it’s incredibly well-sourced–and heavily sourced– precisely because stories like this are difficult.  You may not like what it says but the story wasn’t done to get a round of applause; it was done because there are some things about tech community that a lot of people would prefer to conveniently sweep under the rug and that need to be brought out into the open , no matter how uncomfortable they make people.

      1. Anonymous says:

        BS.

        1) You lost me when you compared this article to Watergate reporting

        2) You can’t claim to be journalists on the one hand and then link to “alternate headlines” as a joke in your Twitter feed (while including a link to Charlie’s): http://betabetabeatbeat.tumblr.com/post/12512064872/rejected-headlines-for-charlie-odonnell-story.  

      2. 1) Your reading comprehension skills need improvement.
        2) Yes, we can. Journalism does not preclude wit.

      3. Anonymous says:

        BS.

        1) You lost me when you compared this article to Watergate reporting

        2) You can’t claim to be journalists on the one hand and then link to “alternate headlines” as a joke in your Twitter feed (while including a link to Charlie’s): http://betabetabeatbeat.tumblr.com/post/12512064872/rejected-headlines-for-charlie-odonnell-story.  

      4. GoodTimeCharlie says:

        Thank you for having the courage to publish this great investigative piece. 

      5. Mark Coatney says:

        So, a few things. 

        1) There’s a difference between using an anonymous source and completely relying on them; this story would have been helped by the presence of at least one name. This obviously does not invalidate the story, but it does signal to me as a reader that I should proceed with caution.2) The reason you can, of course, get away with these anonymously-sourced attacks is that there are no allegations here that they guy has done anything that’s against the law (had there been, I’m sure you would have been much more circumspect with your anonymous sources). So what we’re left with is a story that says “several people that we talked to say this guy is a creep.” Which, OK! Good to know. But perhaps underwhelming. 3) More problematic is this: We’re presented with two full pages of anonymous people talking about what a jerk this guy is, and it’s not until halfway down page 3 that Mr. O’Donnell gets a chance to defend himself. Even then, it appears from the story that his primary chance to do so occurred in an ambush question at a lunch. While that’s a perfectly fine journalistic technique, this story at best reads as completely unfair to its subject. It appears that far more reporting time was spent collecting allegations than in seeking a response; certainly, far more space is devoted to detailing these charges than to allowing this supposed monster a chance to give his side of the story.

        4) Then there are the reporting problems. For instance, we’re told on page two: “No one accused him of molestation, or harassment, or even talking dirty (with one very nerdy exception)”. and then–nothing? What was that very nerdy exception? Who is the person, even anonymous, who has reported this thing? Earlier on that same page we see this:

        “But in light of his influential position, Mr. O’Donnell’s flirtatiousness has come close to getting him in trouble. One woman complained to Josh Kopelman, the managing director at First Round. When Mr. O’Donnell was confronted, he tried to guess who had complained—and guessed wrong. Another well-connected woman in the New York tech scene said she has spoken to Mr. O’Donnell about toning it down. “A few women who have offered their guidance and feedback to him only to be met with defensiveness and a refusal to hear it,” she said.”

        OK, so–did Kopelman confront O’Donnell about this? What was the nature of the ‘confrontation’? Does Kopelman confirm this happened? And this “well-connected woman” on the NYC tech scene–who are these woman who have offered to help poor Charlie? What does Charlie have to say about either one of these allegations? Honestly, as I’m sure you know Elizabeth, one of the key distinctions between journalism and gossip is that a real journalist provides answers to these questions

        5) This story is at its heart dishonest because, while it wants to say Charlie O’Donnell sexually harasses women, it in no way is able to make that case. Instead it relies of vague tales of poor behavior, and tries to paper over the difference by following paragraphs from these anonymous accusers (“One female founder was “asked out to dinner on the pretense of it being a meeting, but it turned out to be a date”) with entirely unrelated stories of other people who did far worse (“Even so, there are far more nefarious scoundrels on the scene. Betabeat heard some stories of other investors that sounded like fodder for Mad Men. “I’ve even heard of VCs trying to sleep with their potential female investees,” said one female founder who used to live in New York and now lives in the Bay Area. “Pretty sketchy stuff.” “) The implication here is–what? That we don’t have any evidence that Charlie did these bad things–but we have stories that other guys have? So, you know, that’s pretty close?

      6. We reached out to both Mr. Koppelman and Mr. O’Donnell to discuss this story well before we went to press. Neither offered up any comment beyond what you see in the piece. 

        It’s hard to see how we’re being dishonest. We make it perfectly clear that Charlie doesn’t sexually harass women and that we’re not accusing him of this. The context you refer to in point #5 is to establish that, not to sling guilt by association. 

        What we are pointing out is that there is a fine line to be walked when investing in startups and dating female founders. After hearing from many women who felt Charlie crossed the line, we felt compelled to report the piece you see here. As someone who’s job is to cover the NYC tech scene, I believe that we did the right thing. 

      7. Mark, you make far too many (wrong) assumptions that things were not checked out and people were not called. We called Kopelman, Charlie, everyone. I don’t feel the need to take up space in a story with “Mr. Kopelman declined comment” when it’s implicit contextually.

        Secondly, would I love it if all of the sources went on the record for a story like this? Yes. Would I kill it if none of them choose to? No.

        re: 2) It’s not underwhelming from where I sit–and where many female entrepreneurs in the industry sit.  Charlie’s in a position to fund the women who come to him for advice and that alone creates a power dynamic that makes certain types of behavior inappropriate. If that’s not implicit to you, it may be because you haven’t been on the other side of it.

        3) Charlie has plenty of opportunity to defend himself in the article, and he does inasmuch as he can. But as you know, it’s not our job to coach the subject into defending himself more rigorously.

        4) I fail to see why you think the wording of the nerdy exception is relevant. It’s not included because you can’t agree to off the record provisions then include identifying information that obviously outs the source. re: Kopelman – again, you wrongly assume these people we’re called. As you well know, we can call, but we can’t necessarily make people talk. And we don’t have to present every bit of fact-gathering methodology in the article to demonstrate that we made the effort–we merely have to present the facts. Just because X number of sources were mentioned in the article, it doesn’t mean we only talked to X sources. As an ex-journo yourself, you know that.

        5) That graf is there specifically to contrast Charlie against some of the more insidious behavior in the industry.  Not only is it not papering over the offenders; it’s explicitly talking about the difference and giving Charlie the benefit of the doubt.  That you read it the opposite way is just frankly baffling to me.

      8. Also (Mark), if you need some light shed on why a female entrepreneur raising money wouldn’t go on record for this, look at commenter “Female CEO”‘s remarks below, and imagine yourself in that scenario.

      9. Mark Coatney says:

        Elizabeth: I’m certain you and your staff did everything you thought was proper. 

        But your last comment is kind of the point, right? It’s a good exercise for any journalist to say “were I the subject of this story, would I have thought I was treated fairly?” So: Put yourself in this situation: I publish a story about you that says that, according to multiple, unnamed sources, Elizabeth Spiers abuses her position as editor of the NYO, causing distress to these people. I talk to you; you say “that’s absolutely not true.” When I publish my story, every one of your accusers is given space to talk (multiple times!) before you’re allowed to present your side, and your “that’s absolutely not true” comment is buried at the end of the piece. 

        Would you have felt you were treated fairly in that situation? Would you have thought “well, I was given every chance to defend myself?”

        This lack of fairness is why I as a reader start to call into question the rest of the piece. You all say that “we contacted everyone in connection with this story, but we didn’t need to note that in the piece because, well, it’s implied that we did.” To accept this is to give the story a level of trust that it hasn’t really earned, not when it a) is entirely anonymously sourced and b) doesn’t let the accused respond until the story is nearly over. So when we have a statement that says, according to some (again, unnamed) source that O’Donnell’s boss confronted him about bad behavior, when you haven’t told me what Kopelman says about this (and–did he have no comment on this, or was he just unreachable?) am I as a reader just supposed to trust you that this accurate? Every story has to  make the case that is an honest accounting of events; it’s not up to the reader to make a series of leaps of faith. So when there are obvious holes elsewhere, the parts that can be detailed should be.

        Thanks for your answer.

      10. Anonymous says:

        We were told by a source and saw evidence that Kopelman was contacted. At first Kopelman said he would answer questions by email, then he never did. Perhaps we should have said that in the story. Feel free to call or email me if you have more concerns.

      11. Anonymous says:

        >> What was that very nerdy exception? 
        Would have loved to include. We left it out for the same reason we left out specifics from other sources. We didn’t want to accidentally out them by revealing identifying details. 

        >>  It appears that far more reporting time was spent collecting allegations than in seeking a response; certainly, far more space is devoted to detailing these charges than to allowing this supposed monster a chance to give his side of the story.
        Does it really come off as trying to paint him as a monster?”Trouble is, he’s also looking for the next Mrs. O’Donnell.”
        “Not that attention from a young, long-lashed VC is always a bad thing.””Mr. O’Donnell, having established his reputation as a notorious asker-outer””The greatest offense Mr. O’Donnell actually stands accused of seems to be that of casting a very wide net—which raises the question of whether his detractors aren’t perhaps overreacting. “It’s a joke. No one takes it seriously,” one female founder said, of Mr. O’Donnell.”

    2. Anonymous says:

      >> What a pity for them! And the women who agreed that he had a “problem” after following up with Ms. Jeffries, well THAT will teach them to respond to a reporter via emails! Their words will be attributed anonymously and perhaps completely changed to support the thesis of this article.

      No one’s words were changed or twisted. Mr. O’Donnell told people that someone was planting a story about how he doesn’t support women. That was false: 1) no one tried to pitch us on this and 2) the story doesn’t say he’s unsupportive of women. When we explained, some of the women who wrote in were like, ‘oh, okay, yeah that is a thing that Charlie does, but we still like him.’ 

  10. This article is the very reason why I try to keep my dating out of the tech scene as much as possible (here in DC). It’s too easy for either a) a line to be crossed or b) a line to be perceived to be crossed and then perhaps c) you get tagged with “serial dater” rather than “serial entrepreneur/investor/mentor”.

  11. Anonymous says:

    I don’t work in the NY tech scene, and I don’t know Charlie O’Donnell, but I know an underreported phenomenon when I see it. Thanks for being the ones to say it. 

    1. PC ambiguity says:

      Mixing business with pleasure? Opposites attract. Life as usual etc. This is not newsworthy, but all these posts were highly enjoyable to read!

  12. Anonymous says:

    I don’t work in the NY tech scene, and I don’t know Charlie O’Donnell, but I know an underreported phenomenon when I see it. Thanks for being the ones to say it. 

  13. For the record I love this article :D I’ve also had this happen to me (though not with Mr O’Donnell)

    The people who don’t think this article is important need to understand what it’s like to get completely side-swiped when you’re told something is a “business dinner” and it turns out not to be. It’s humiliating. 

    Plus if someone can’t be honest about their intentions when I’m still a stranger, how can I trust them when money or feelings are involved? For me this sort of thing is an automatic shut down for either future dates or a business relationship. If I can’t trust you to say what you mean then you are useless.

  14. Deepthroat says:

    does this really change anything?   i feel like this could have been in a middle school newspaper… Jimmy asked Jane to the movies and said it was with a group, but it was actually one on one!!!!  Lolzzzz

  15. Maybe I’m not alluring enough to be hit on by Charlie but when I met with him – in his office! – his behavior was entirely professional and I never felt he was treating me any differently than he would have had I been male. After our meeting he kept in touch, inviting me to a great number of events, and none of his communication was ever untoward. In fact, he’s probably been the most supportive guy I’ve met in the New York Tech scene (side note: I also happen to love the weekly newsletter he sends out every morning reporting on the best startup events in the city).

    Though I can’t pretend to know what the women in this article experienced, I did feel it was my responsibility to chime in and share my personal experience with him.

    1. JustNotAttractiveEnough says:

      “Maybe I’m not alluring enough to be hit on by Charlie”
      >looks at your avatar
      >yep, it’s that

      1. eliminatedicks says:

        wow, you are a dick. 

  16. FemaleCEO says:

    Why would anybody want to step forward and publicly accuse Charlie of acting inappropriately? So they character can be questioned and humiliated. Have their business torn apart or better yet have them painted as “bitter” he didn’t invest?  I for one would not like that. Dinner under the context of talking business which then turns into him rubbing my back. BARF GROSS YUCK! Also totally humiliating left me feeling violated, got me thinking  “is this my fault” “did I send mixed signals?! “does he think I’m a hooker?”

    Just because he has helped tons of women doesn’t mean he hasn’t been inappropriate to others. It is his job to connect, mentor, and work closely with entrepreneurs. It is a total abuse of his power/position at First Round Capital to use his title as  a way to get a second meeting with a girl he would otherwise have no chance with. If he is blurring the line between VC and Entrepreneur I wonder if he also blurs the line between Professor and Student (he teaches at a university). 

    I’m confident that FRC has known about the Charlie issue  for over a year and STILL promoted him from EIC.. Shame on them!! No better way to encourage female entrepreneurs then let a known predator source deals for you. 
    The fact that this article has taken SO long to come out is shocking! Charlie’s creepy and inappropriate behavior is not only well known but a running joke in the tech industry. When telling other women of my bizarre experience with him, they joke “oh its a rite of passage to be hit on by Charlie, welcome to NYC tech scene”.

    For those of you who are running to his side to defend him, let me tell you this:

    A guilty conscious needs no accuser.

     When Charlie caught wind that the article was coming out he reached out to MULTIPLE women trying to silence them by intimidation.

    What is most appalling is that he thought he could get away with such behavior in an industry that is based on transparency! Bravo.

  17. Matt Stern says:

    What a horribly lame, useless story about a private individual (oh yeah, sorry, he Tweets, let’s get him!) 99% of Observer readers never heard of and probably never will hear of again. What is this article about, again?

  18. I am fine with the content of the article. I disagree with the image of Charlie that’s depicted, but, hey, it’s a free country and the press is free, thank god. Nevertheless, I agree with some previous comments: this is a piece of gossip rather than serious journalism, and I am honestly surprised that BetaBeat and The Observer start featuring this kind of stories. This is clearly not a sex scandal, it’s an irrelevant rumor used to profile a person’s character. I did not reply to the journalist’s questions on this because I did not want to take part on such a low profile story (that mines the credibility of BetaBeat much more than Charlie’s), and not because he told me so. 

    Do we really need to know that some girls experienced awkward moments with Charlie? I did not, and now that I read the comments I am pretty convinced these are girls who, in the best cases, never learned how to say a clear message to men, and in the worst cases, tried to took advantage of Charlie’s interest for their own goals (and not vice-versa: if I invite you out because I like you, and you pitch me your company, of course I cool off!), which something I personally despise, since it does not help to change the ratio, for sure. But again, a moral issue of too little spectrum to be relevant. If Charlie starts creeping off female founders for whatever reason, I am pretty sure the business of his company would suffer. Since that’s clearly not the case, yes, I do believe this article was written to get a round of clicks (not sure about the applause). And I am kind of unwillingly helping out with that now, but a reality check was due.

    PS for girls: if you are invited to a “business dinner” which turns out to be not that much about business, yes it’s humiliating. Humiliating for the man that needs to use his status to get a date. And if you really see your dignity at stake, call out  the bad behavior when it happens, instead of playing along and feeling frustrated afterwards: dignity is more important than a business deal.

    1. With all due respects your comment here reads as if you are saying it’s the woman’s fault for having the audacity to be uncomfortable and just not saying no loud enough. That’s unbelievably offensive.

      Tech’s relaxed professional standards put women in incredibly difficult positions where there are no clear and easy answers on how to proceed. Just because you don’t want to date a man does not mean you want to embarrass him or destroy a potential friendship over what could very well be an innocent misunderstanding. Have you seen this post (http://www.metamorphblog.com/2011/08/subtle-reasons-why-women-dont-rule-the-world.html) from Matt Mireles? These are the types of situations tech places ALL PEOPLE (not just women) in, situations where they are shamed for going against the warm~ welcoming~ open~ spirit of the industry by wanting to maintain a modicum of common sense.

      Is it unreasonable to expect a business meeting to actually be about business? Is it unreasonable to think that a woman shouldn’t have to preface every interaction with a powerful man by screaming I’M NOT GOING TO DATE YOU?

      It’s striking to me how many white knights are behaving as if this article implied Charlie O’Donnell was some kind of rapist. It didn’t. What it did do was put this information out there so that ‘girls’ (btw nice touch, I’m sure all of us who have ended up in this situation enjoy to implication that we’re children and that it was our own damn fault) know that they have to ‘send a clear message’ about their interests in this case.

      1. Sorry you took it personally. Of course that’s not what I meant. I’ll try to rephrase. Every business meeting involves personal interaction. Many people meet in business settings, like each other, they date and they live happily ever after. In those, minor, cases when the personal interaction starts becoming too invasive for your taste (a taste which is of course in part subjective) it is up to you to take it to the path you want, because if you don’t do or say anything, the other person would think you’re ok with that. Any person, not just men. It’s like correcting somebody who’s changing subject.

        I believe the informal interactions of the tech environment actually help you do this in a much more natural and easy way, sparing you some struggle and allowing the other person to save face – thus preserving the relationship. Honestly, in my experience even just mentioning a partner works. No screaming involved.

        I am not saying that you don’t have the right to a professional meeting. I am saying that the more you call bad behavior when you experience it, the less the same guy is going to play that part to another girl (“girl” as in “girls develop it”), meaning that maybe our daughters will have the luxury of a 100% chance of business-only meetings.

      2. Lreader says:

        Veronica: I completely agree with all the statements you’ve made– well said! Betabeat and the Observer would do well having someone like you on board, instead of the low grade reporters that wrote this article!

  19. Shimon Gilder says:

    Hello everyone Shimon Gilder here from Ra’na’na in eretz Yisrael. Maybe all bald men be the same like Herman Cain. I have the same experience with this bald man Charlie O’Donnell when meeting with top money men in New York raising money because I was a co-founder of ICQ and also with Radware another Israeli gem. This bald man ask me to meet for drinks to here the story and next thing he is all over me like hummus on pita. I never seeing such behavior in my life, and now I know it’s not just other men! Crazy times in the USA with famous men!

  20. Lea says:

    Think women aren’t MORE SLEAZY than men? THINK AGAIN: http://goo.gl/f4pXo

  21. Pageviews says:

    SLIDESHOW OR IT DIDN’T HAPPEN

  22. There
    is simply no news in this article. Further, to use unnamed sources to tell a story (a journalistic tactic that is allowed but only under the right
    circumstances) is questionable. If that VC used his power/deals for sex, then
    of course that would be unethical and newsworthy. But this is simply
    sensationalism by definition. No women in the story claimed Charlie used his
    role as a VC to develop an inappropriate relationship that went beyond
    mixed signals over one meeting. The assertion that women thought they were
    going to a professional meeting but found themselves on a date is also highly
    subjective. The context of each meeting, woman and the pretense would need to
    be examined and even then it would be up for debate. This article is childish
    at best and culturally sets women back by trying to put them in a different
    bucket of entrepreneur. The women of nyc tech are adults, they don’t
    need coddling. No one in this article claims their meeting or date amounted to
    anything damaging or even important as it pertained to their career or personal
    life, so what does this article accomplish or shed light on? 

    1. FemaleCEO says:

      Adam, it is pretty evident that Charlie has attempted to use his power as VC to manipulate women. The sad thing is any woman running a business who was put in that bad position gains NOTHING by coming forward. So it gets brushed under the rug and he continues on.

  23. Anonymous says:

    The fact that so many women are coming to Charlie’s rescue is absolutely frightening to me. Here is a guy who abuses his power as a VC, to the point where a story that was originally intended to be a general article about women in tech and awkward situations, was instead turned into a story centered around Charlie – solely because almost EVERY SINGLE WOMAN interviewed for this article mentioned the abuse of power issues with Charlie. 

    In my experience, he hit on my Co-Founder so unabashedly, so relentlessly, that even when she told him she was not interested, he sent her a text saying “oh, but you are too sexy to give up on…” This abuse went on for months. My Co-Founder would call me at least once a week with a new Charlie story. And the sad thing was that she felt incredibly uncomfortable calling him out on this behavior. He is a senior member of the team at one of the most prestigious VC funds in the country, and it is his responsibility to not abuse this power or cross ethical lines. 

    Beyond my personal story, I have heard multiple accounts (from both men and women) of his attempts to manipulate and take advantage of first-time entrepreneurs. From talking a percentage of equity in exchange for his ‘advice’ in companies in which he has no intention of investing (there is a thread on thefunded.com on this topic under the title ‘Charlie O’Donnell: Friendly But Not Your Friend’) to stealing ideas, to trying to eliminate competition for funding for Path 101 by manipulating another (now very high-profile) entrepreneur who was also seeking funding at the same time.

    Just because he is nice to a portion of the tech community, does not undo the manipulation, abuse of power, and unethical actions towards the rest. He is a disgusting person that does not deserve to be a part of this community. 

    1. Rachel says:

      If
      you are going to write these things why not use your name instead of
      “FEMALE CEO” That is cowardly and frankly discredits both BetaBeat
      and the validity of your accusations.  Given the response being more positive than negative, and those like yourself who aren’t even using your name, doesn’t sound very solid of an argument or case.  Just slander.  Abuse is a very strong word.  And it is hard to want to take you seriously or listen when you aren’t willing to be honest with your identity.  And why you chose a public forum to attack someone suggests you may have other motives or emotions driving this…

      1. Michael Brooks Taylor says:

        A news website was discredited today when an anonymous commenter made unverified claims in support of the site’s reporting. Credibility analysts viewed the comment as a final blow; a previous straw poll of several non-anonymous internet commenters had revealed “the response being more positive than negative.”

      2. Anonymous says:

        Wow – you are a fucking moron. Use your brain for one second. What do you think would happen if the women targeted by Charlie went on record to talk about this experience? It’s called a career limiting move or “forget about ever getting funding from First Round.”  But whatevs, go ahead and believe that I made all of this up – just don’t fucking complain when Charlie does the bait-and-switch on you…

      3. Anonymous says:

        Wow – you are a fucking moron. Use your brain for one second. What do you think would happen if the women targeted by Charlie went on record to talk about this experience? It’s called a career limiting move or “forget about ever getting funding from First Round.”  But whatevs, go ahead and believe that I made all of this up – just don’t fucking complain when Charlie does the bait-and-switch on you…

      4. why would you ever want funding from First Round after all of this? I don’t understand why he’s still there, frankly. Maybe it’s too complex given the structure of venture firms, but I feel for the other partners there, who have great reputations. You’d never hear anything like this about Josh. Or Fralic.

  24. Duchiest Bag says:

    Dude has a tribal tatto end of story

  25. Tell It Like It Is says:

    I am a woman tech entrepreneur.  This story isn’t new to me; 

    - at a “business dinner” a giant australian man twice my age grabbed me and tried forcing his tongue down my throat.  I pushed him away and never spoke with him again.  
    - invited into his office to by a supposed mentor and a married man, after meeting his staff, I was told there was a “connection” between us as he tried to force himself on me.  I ran out, never returning or speaking with him again. 
    - my first investor took me to dinner to talk “business”.  Afterward, he grabbed me and tried to kiss me and asked me back to his house.  I said “no, I’m sorry you misunderstood.  If you don’t want to invest, that’s fine.  But I’m not interested in sleeping with you for a check”.  
    - To date, not one single investor has not tried to sleep with me.  It’s incredibly frustrating and disheartening.  
    - A recent “stalker” I’ve had for over a year I finally was able to make stop, or at least, back off a little bit.  He would constantly say “I just want to be friends” but, I always got that “creepy” feeling.  It doesn’t matter what actually happens – I wasn’t raped, I wasn’t taken advantage of, but I felt awkward, grossed out, favored inappropriately (to the point where I said please take me off your rss feed and stop tweeting about me, people are asking if we are in a relationship and I’ve told you repeatedly no, and it’s hurting my professional reputation) – what matters is how it makes you feel.  

    Because the lines aren’t black and white, a lot of people have a hard time seeing it, and therefore are attacking.  But, this article is legit.  

    In a male-dominated industry, and the tech lines blurring (I guess??), I can understand that there can be overlap.  

    However, how are we, women (or any gender or any new entrepreneur that’s taken advantage of), supposed to be taken seriously, and supposed to know any better?  

    I agree that we need to be more upfront.  But, let me ask – who is the one responsible for initiating the straightforward conversation?  When someone says “let me take you out to dinner, let’s talk about your business” and then, as in a case that happened to me last year, says – “hey, let’s watch a movie first, I need to get my mind off things, then we’ll talk about your financials”.  Also a VC, I wasn’t sure how to react.  I mean, he’s human right?  Maybe he takes personal before professional?  We can be friends right?  He said I work too much and that I need to relax (I felt guilty).  He’s a VC, he knows more than me, I can trust him, right?  

    A wolf in sheep’s clothing.  You’re telling me he doesn’t know any better?  Guess what – he did.  And so did I.  

    I’ve learned the hard way that being nice or friendly can get you into incredibly awkward situations.  I too have gotten the “you’re sexy, let’s just forget about work” or “but, I’d rather date you than work with you” and “I like you and I’m not apologizing for it” and literally backed into a corner at a recent conference by the president of a reputable marketing association who kept offering to buy me drinks as he looked at my chest…. awkward.  

    I’m listing many situations – and there are many more – because I am backing up the women who, understandably are remaining anonymous, because it is very common.  Sadly, too common.  For that, I’m grateful that this article was written.  Was it a little bit controversial, yes.  Was it your typical article?  No.  But, it was important.  We need to learn – ALL of us – how to be more straightforward.  I believe that if there is ANY professional tone at all that we should assume first that it’s business only, and NEVER cross the line – that is, without at least bringing it up first.  No more “business meetings” that accidentally turn into personal.  If Charlie wants to put personal first, then fine Charlie, put personal first.  But never ever say business meeting as friends and end up hitting on the woman.  Low class and offensive.  Whether this article was written or not, you’d better believe your reputation and actions have already been noticed.  

    It turns out, like poor Charlie, that at least 5 other women have talked about the known stalker and said he was creepy.  Guys noticed too, not just women.  I wasn’t the only one being stalked.  But, one woman said “but, he’s got a lot of twitter followers and he’s really influential”.  Really?  If you are talking behind someone’s back but staying connected because it works to your advantage, shame on you.  There is a lot being said and kudos for bringing this to light because it’s not isolated to just Charlie. 

    It’s sad when people take advantage of their position.  I believe that Twitter and Facebook, and any power position, only magnifies a stalkers presence and personality.  Saying you’re helping, but being suggestive, is not only abusing your position, but it’s of very poor integrity.  I have chased money in the past, thinking that the friendly investor (another story – was kicked out of an angel group after finding out that he was stealing money from first-time entrepreneurs) was interested in you.  He/she was/is using you. 

    I often say, as a woman, that guys in business either want to f you or f you over.  Sorry, that’s been my experience.  It doesn’t stop me from wanting to learn how to overcome it!  Stories like this (sorry Charlie that you had to take the fall – I’m sure you’ve done many great things) are important because they are common.  If we are going to try to level the playing field, we need to put business first and personal second.  

    Solution?  Have a dating night for single people in tech.  Why?  Because when you are honest and upfront about intentions, there is no confusion.  If you lead with dating, there’s no mystery.  

    Current situation:  We are holding tech events to connect entrepreneurs to investors, businesses to mentors, etc.  Where in the event description does it say “Warning, you are about to get hit on and not taken seriously, but rather asked to dinner to see if you’ll put out” ??  

    Let’s start being honest.  

    Why do the women remain anonymous?  Think about it.  They are getting bashed by the community, anonymous or not.  It reminds me of the salem witch trials.  Are we really ready to hang people who just want their voice heard?  Great to defend Charlie – I’m sure, like everyone, there is both good and bad.  But, if this hasn’t happened to you, then you have no voice.   If it has, share how you overcame it.  Help women grow and learn from your experiences. 

    1. Melanie says:

      Salem Witch Trials indeed…. 

      Thanks for posting this. 

  26. Tell It Like It Is says:

    p.s. the ones choosing not to remain anonymous … could they have browns spots on their noses, maybe?  

    ‘hey charlie, look, I stuck up for you’ 

  27. Ha says:

    I don’t think this is what people usually mean when they say “play hard”

    He works hard, plays hard (in addition to kayaking, he runs a pick-up softball game and a dodgeball team),

  28. Curious Man says:

    HUH! Eye opener?

    I am intrigued, at least from the perspective of a “successful” straight man in his mid 20s, that the career-oriented women offended by odonnell’s sexual advanced never took him up on a date!

    He def doesn’t seem ugly (although i could be wrong. im straight).  He seems wealthy, ambitious, athletic, and perhaps smart.  I figured most women would find (not just odonnell) a man like this a “good catch.”  Why don’t any women flirt back?

    I still remember back in college, most of my engineering male friends who happened to be good looking, had girls running TO them, not the other way around.  One guy, who was only a student at a top school and didnt even have an “established” career yet, was deemed “total marriage material” by most of the girls who knew him and was cited as “hot and smart”.

    Now I’ve been out in  the “real world” for 3 years having founded a $5MM funded start up in NYC. In this scene,  I come into contact with successful men, many of whom my sister (a smart ambitious woman herself- NYU Medical resident) deems “handsome, ambitious men” and would probably marry in a second.  I’ve been out to dinners with men, some who are successful but aren’t close to the position that ODonnell has, and scores of women, from waitresses to random female restaurant guests, would hit on THEM, instead of the other way around.  I once even had a very pretty lady who’s father was a law partner at Cromwell say to my friend “well, you seem smart, ambitious, and know where you’re going and are quite damn cute i should say. of COURSE i’ll have dinner this friday!”

    so back to ODonnell’s case:  why, ladies?  why would he be different?  is it the aggressive way he comes off?  because in my reality, successful men have women running to THEM, and def not minding such advances.  If my reality is far off, please knock me upside the head and show me reality.

    Also, Elizabeth Spiers, being a successful career-oriented woman yourself, feel free to answer this one :)

    1. BK says:

      It’s the bait-and-switch–you think he’s interested in your professional ideas/ opinions, then it turns out he really just wants you to have his babies. It’s insulting and an abuse of his position.

      Until this article came out, I thought I was going to have to go out of my way to somehow right my relationship with Charlie, after making it clear I didn’t want to date him. I hated to be in that position, but what could I do? It is such a relief to longer feel that pressure. 

    2. BK says:

      It’s the bait-and-switch–you think he’s interested in your professional ideas/ opinions, then it turns out he really just wants you to have his babies. It’s insulting and an abuse of his position.

      Until this article came out, I thought I was going to have to go out of my way to somehow right my relationship with Charlie, after making it clear I didn’t want to date him. I hated to be in that position, but what could I do? It is such a relief to longer feel that pressure. 

      1. Lreader says:

        I’m a female entrepreneur and here’s a tip for you: If you are trying to be a successful female entrepreneur, and you feel you are in a compromising situation, you should learn how to stand up for yourself. Just be straight forward and tell them their behavior is inappropriate. If you can’t do this, chances are you won’t be able to stand up for your company, clients and employees in tough situations.

  29. Lana_Lodge says:

    I feel like they were fair with this article. Sure it might make the guy feel uncomfortable that his dating habits are being addressed publicly and maybe the sensationalism of the title/image could have been toned down, but I was just left thinking “Aaws what a sweet guy, too bad he’s unlucky in love.” I don’t think they lied or exaggerated. They coloured the whole thing with humour, and sexual harassment is no laughing matter. Obviously there are women who have a problem with this guy who would rather remain anonymous, all that it tells people is just that, nothing more. It shows both sides of the story and ends and starts on commentary that put him in a positive innocent well meaning light. People are smart, they can figure it out from there.

    Female founders are women with drive and initiative. They’re sexy haha Bate and switch isn’t fair, but there can be ambiguity in these social situations that the women could have misunderstood and the founders may have been defensive considering they probably felt vulnerable. If he can’t understand that vulnerability maybe it’s because they come off strong and confident. I do that, even and probably especially when I’m terrified lol You have to when you pitch your business don’t you? 

    It makes me sad that guys in tech and women in tech get so defensive around each other. They both feel vulnerable, women because of the ratio, men because of the ratio leading to lack of dates…and men and women can sometimes think of each other as invulnerable, especially when we have a crush on someone, just cuz someone is good looking doesn’t mean they’re not vulnerable  and I’d like to point out that it’s not just guy nerds that are picked on in grade school. It’s not an excuse to use defence mechanisms with women in which you OFFEND them. Best offence is a good defence. Men and women in IT have to understand each other more, it’s not a one way street but guys think about how it is for the ladies a bit more please. I find opening up to guys about my vulnerability helps but you know some people can still be dicks.

     I’d been bullied right up until hs and gone to an arts HS where the girl to guy ratio was 7 to 1, so I know how the guys feel, but at the same time I get to uni for comp sci and BAM suddenly I become a scary confident girl to all these people that don’t know that on the inside I look more like one of them, so on top of being a self concious nerd you’re also hated and feared by a bunch of people for no good reason, and it alienates you from your peers who you just want to relate and fit in with as fellow nerds. Either they’re just too intimidated to talk to you at all or coming on to you really hard, through either making overt offensive sexual comments, trying to help you with all your programming assignments that you didn’t need or ask for help with or being all secretly romantic then getting pissed off at you when they tell you their “secret” and you tell them you just want to be friends, but guess what you can’t be friends with that guy any more either even though he was actually nice because now it’s awkward for the poor guy…lol ok end of rant haha

    But yeah… all in all I thought it presented both sides of the story, he may not have spoken for himself to them, but they certainly spoke for him in an attempt to put him in a positive light in loo of all the gossip. The piece is obviously trying to be a comedic commentary on the dating scene in start up NY and on this great enterprising guy who they make us laugh at a but shouldn’t we all learn to laugh at ourselves sometimes? I think also that the comments about other men being worse are good to have in there to acknowledge that this stuff isn’t always innocent, and it draws the line between wrong and right here. They even end on HIS comment which I thought summed up the problem nicely ” If you kept your dating life relegated to Luddites, you would get pretty lonely.” Men and women on the scene are attracted to each other and it’s hard for both of them to date anyone outside it because that’s their life and they like it better than a humdrum one and it’s hard to date anyone inside it because of the issues presented by the ratio.

  30. Lreader says:

    Wow, thanks Adrianne & Ben for the worst article ever. This is not newsworthy and should be removed. OMG, was there a questionable situation between a girl and guy?! Big freaking deal– it happens in every industry. Why don’t you write about something interesting and stop wasting everyone’s time. 

  31. Robert Smith says:

    Once a tool, always a tool.