A two-day conference meant to inspire innovators and entrepreneurs hit a low point on Friday when a speaker swore throughout his talk and directed an expletive at a woman attending the event.
Dave McClure, founding partner of 500 Startups, a global seed fund and startup accelerator from Silicon Valley, took to the Big Omaha stage Friday afternoon, calling a female attendee "a lying (expletive)" in an exchange about a smartphone. McClure noted at the beginning of his talk that he was "kind of hungover, so give me a break."
He also encouraged attendees to use the hashtag "everythingsucks" on Twitter while he was speaking and, at one point, told the audiences that they "are all wannabees."
It was quite the shift for an event where attendees were constantly encouraged to high-five fellow attendees, meet new people and greet and thank speakers with standing ovations. More than 650 people attended the conference, which is celebrating its five year.
Immediately following McClure's presentation, Silicon Prairie News co-founders Dusty Davidson and Jeff Slobotski, who produce Big Omaha, got on stage, saying that McClure warned them about the swearing and said they "ultimately don't have a problem with that." But, they apologized for McClure's use of the b-word.
"That's not our tone. That's not what we're about," Slobotski said.
Said Davidson, "Our community is stronger than that. While the messages are strong and I think they're well-intentioned, we don't mean to single anybody out or we don't want anyone to feel singled out or offended in that way."
People took to Twitter over McClure's talk, expressing shock over his "aggressive" and "pessimistic" nature. Among the reactions:
>> Watching @davemcclure was an awesome live lesson in losing an audience despite great intentions and valid points. #bigomaha
>> You don't get extra points for admitting you're being sexist #sorry #bigomaha #stopsucking @davemcclure
>> Having a #Bigomaha speaker call someone in the audience a "lying (expletive)" for answering their question not how they wanted is disappointing.
>> the word (expletive) is an awkward blind spot for most men who enjoy the power to not be marginalized by it #bigomaha
>> #everythingsucks talk at #BigOmaha apparently swearing is big in the Midwest despite popular opinion
>> That was actually low-key for Dave McClure. FYI. #bigomaha knew his rep coming in
After the talk, McClure tweeted "ahhhhh, (expletive)" and "apologies 2 (woman he directed comment at) -- did not mean 2 hurt u, offend u, degrade or marginalize. seems I did, and I'm sorry. #bigomaha #bigidiot"
McClure was one of about 14 speakers over two days.