In the town hall of some members of their community, Launch House looked into allegations of harassment and assault surfaced from the Vox Investigation earlier this week. The startup, backed by A16z and Flybridge as well as a group of top investors, said an independent investigation was underway.
“We’ll let the investigation speak for itself, but we’re confident it will show we’re not retaliating against women,” the co-founders said, referring specifically to an incident highlighted in a Vox article about Launch House’s alleged retaliation against a woman. who had been sexually assaulted there in the past. Launch House has denied any retaliation against Vox and reiterated that denial at today’s meeting.
The startup also promised that it is building an industry-leading safety and security program for co-living, which it will share in detail with another community “very soon.”
The town meeting lasted less than 15 minutes and was organized by co-founders Brett Goldstein and Michael Hawke. There was no live Q&A section and the chat was not active. Sources say some people who spoke against Launch House on Twitter were not allowed into the meeting.
After the story was published, a spokesperson for Launch House said it was “inaccurate to say that only certain members of the community were invited. The whole community was invited. In fact, a follow-up message was sent out to the entire community via Discord to try to ensure that everyone gets the Zoom invitation.” The company defines “community” as members of the Launch House program, it is unclear whether investors and advisors are included as part of it.
The initial meeting was scheduled to take place on Thursday. The co-founders said some members asked why the meeting had been moved to the end of the week on Friday afternoon, to which Hawke replied, “Frankly, you’re right. We dropped the ball on answering that quickly enough [and] with enough compassion. And it doesn’t reflect the values that we’ve built this community on since day one and that we care about.”
“Put simply, we absolutely should have met with all of you earlier than today,” Hawke added, later adding, “What I can say now is that we’re ready to talk and we have a plan.”
The conversation focused on three topics: what Launch House says it has done in the past, what it will do in the future, and how it plans to rebuild trust with female founders in their cohorts. The co-founders said during the meeting that the content of the meeting was developed in response to questions submitted by the community over the past week.
“We’re sorry to all of you who were affected,” Goldstein continued. “As we talked about at the beginning, any time someone doesn’t feel safe. It is absolutely not good and not something we can allow. As for the specifics of what happened, we want to wait for the investigation to be completed before saying more.
Houck added: “We are absolutely not closing. We move forward as a community together.”
Launch House, founded in 2020, began as a fresh take on traditional hacker houses. Entrepreneurs were invited to undertake a four-week residency in rented mansions or buildings. In-person residencies are seen as entry events into the broader Launch House community, which includes digital and physical events, services that help startups scale, and internal social networks. The co-founders have scaled the startup through multiple venture capital raises, and announced a $10 million venture capital fund to support LH members.
TechCrunch reached out to Launch House for further comment on the investigation and attendance, but had not yet received a response at the time of publication.
Current and former Launch House employees can contact Natasha Mascarenhas by email at [email protected] or Signal, a secure encrypted messaging app, at 925 271 0912.