Justin Caldbeck, whose venture firm collapsed after six women came forward with allegations of sexual harassment in June, says he’s trying to make amends. His efforts have included handwritten notes to his accusers and others to whom he now thinks he may have acted improperly, as well as emails to women who’ve been critical of him in the media.
But some recipients of Caldbeck’s “apology” emails are not convinced. They believe the disgraced investor is exploiting the public discussion around sexual harassment to recast himself as an ally.
Several women who’ve received the apology emails compared notes and found similar or identical wording in the messages. Two emails viewed by WIRED included the line, “I also completely understand that you may not believe my actions yet to be sincere and it is up to me to demonstrate over time that they are.” Both also included slightly different versions of this sentence, “I want to first let you know how incredibly deeply and profoundly sorry for everything I did to make any woman feel uncomfortable.”
“Look at the language in the email,” says Elizabeth Spiers, founder of the Insurrection, a digital-media startup, who received an email from Caldbeck the day after she criticized a lecture he gave at Duke University about “bro” culture. “If he understood the gravity of it, he wouldn’t be speaking at Duke or sending emails that read like they were scripted,” she says. “He sincerely thinks we’re all too stupid to talk to each other.”
Tracy Chou, a cofounder of Project Include and former engineer at Pinterest, received an email from Caldbeck the same day she was quoted in a Bloomberg article about Caldbeck’s re-emergence in public. Chou found the email “almost plausibly repentant,” but suspected it was written by a crisis communications firm. She has the same suspicion about the apology Caldbeck wrote in June after The Information revealed the series of harassment allegations that began when he worked at Lightspeed Ventures.