Frank Artale, a managing partner at Bellevue, Wash.-based venture capital firm Ignition Partners, has resigned at the firm’s request after allegations of “misconduct” against him, according to a statement from Ignition Partners tonight.
In the statement, Ignition said that it received a complaint of misconduct from an anonymous “third party” on July 5. Four days later, the firm asked Artale to resign based on the complaint and a separate accusation last year.
“We took this serious and near-immediate step, in part, due to this complaint, combined with a third-party accusation of inappropriate conduct by Mr. Artale in 2016,” the statement reads. “At that time, we engaged outside counsel and conducted an exhaustive investigation into the event. While the investigation did not substantiate the allegations, it did indicate that he demonstrated poor judgment, which we addressed with him. Following that report, we retained an expert consultant to conduct sensitivity and anti-harassment training.”
Update, 9:35 p.m.: Asked for comment tonight, Artale referred GeekWire to Robert Headley, the firm’s administrative partner, and declined to comment beyond the statement on the Ignition website.
Artale joined Ignition in 2011. Before that, he spent nearly a decade at Microsoft from 1991 to 2000, and was a general manager in the Windows group. He also was an executive at Citrix and XenSource, and founded a startup called Consera Software that was acquired by HP.
According to his bio, which has since been removed from Ignition’s website, he “led Ignition’s investments in Appfog, Couchbase, Cloudera (CLDR), Docker, and ScaleXtreme. He is currently a member of the board of directors for Apprenda, BlueStacks Systems, Bromium, Coho Data, SkyTap, SnapLogic, and Trifacta.”
Founded in 2000, Ignition focuses on early stage B2B startups in industries like machine learning, security, DevOps, and more. The firm has offices in Bellevue and Silicon Valley. Other managing partners include John Connors; Bob Kelly; and Nick Sturiale. Cameron Myhrvold is the firm’s founding partner.
Here’s Ignition’s statement in full:
On July 5th, we learned of a complaint of misconduct by one of our managing partners, Frank Artale, from a third party who has requested anonymity.
Last Sunday, July 9th, we asked for Mr. Artale’s resignation from Ignition Partners. He agreed and resigned, effective immediately.
We took this serious and near-immediate step, in part, due to this complaint, combined with a third-party accusation of inappropriate conduct by Mr. Artale in 2016. At that time, we engaged outside counsel and conducted an exhaustive investigation into the event. While the investigation did not substantiate the allegations, it did indicate that he demonstrated poor judgment, which we addressed with him. Following that report, we retained an expert consultant to conduct sensitivity and anti-harassment training.
We deeply regret any adverse effects to any of the individuals involved in these events.
Kristina Bergman, a former principal at Ignition who now leads Seattle-based startup Integris, published a guest post this evening on GeekWire about her company’s policy of removing board members who’ve allegedly committed sexual harassment. Her piece was posted before GeekWire learned of the allegations against Artale.
Bergman spent nearly four years as a principal at Ignition. The firm is an investor in Integris, and Crunchbase lists Artale as the partner involved in the investment. However, Bergman said via email tonight that Artale was not a director in the company. “There is no connection,” she told GeekWire.
“Speaking more generally, I think we have an opportunity at the moment to create a new standard in the industry where founders and investors can implement a few common sense measures to ensure great people get to focus on building even greater companies,” Bergman added. “I think Integris took that step a year and a half ago when we formed, and I’d like to share that best practice with the startup community in the hopes that we can make mechanisms like our Voting Agreement clause more commonplace.”
Update, July 12: Bergman added that “I learned about the first allegation of misconduct two days before my departure from Ignition Partners, and learned about the second allegation just recently.”
Update No. 2, July 12: Reuters reported on Wednesday that Bergman received a sexual harassment complaint during her last days working at Ignition. According to Reuters, the complaint accused Artale of groping a 20-year old staffer at a happy hour event in March 2016. Here’s Ignition’s statement to Reuters in regard to that incident:
— Salvador Rodriguez (@sal19) July 12, 2017
Here’s a tweet from Moz founder Rand Fishkin:
— Rand Fishkin (@randfish) July 12, 2017
This is the latest allegation of misconduct in the tech industry. The New York Times published an in-depth story last month headlined Women in Tech Speak Frankly on Culture of Harassment, which included interviews with more than two dozen female entrepreneurs who shed light on the disturbing treatment they’ve received by their male peers in the tech industry.
The report, which led to the Dave McClure stepping down as general partner at 500 Startups, came out one week after The Information revealed how Binary Capital’s Justin Caldbeck made unwanted advances to six women, some of whom were seeking funding or advice for their startups. Caldbeck and his Binary Capital partner resigned shortly thereafter, while the firm itself will be shut down.
And just weeks prior, an internal investigation at Uber — sparked by a former employee who wrote about being harassed at the company — revealed deep cultural issues and led to the resignation of CEO Travis Kalanick, along with firings of 20 of his former colleagues.
Heather Redman, who recently helped launch a new Seattle venture capital fund called Flying Fish, penned a blog post last month that stressed the need for more diversity in leadership positions, particularly at the venture capital level.
“Building that diverse team at the VC level, i.e., higher on the capital stack than at the founder level, and at the most senior level of the VC (i.e., full investing partner) creates huge leverage because now you’ve created an entity that is much more likely to fund diverse teams, and one that is a lot less likely to discriminate against diverse founders, consciously or (very importantly) unconsciously,” Redman wrote.