Github, a social network for programmers that’s worth hundreds of millions of dollars, came under fire this weekend when one of its engineers publicly quit.
The employee, Julie Ann Horvath, alleged that one of the co-founders and his wife had verbally harassed her and physically intimidated her. That co-founder has since been asked to leave while Github investigates the situation. “I’ve been harassed by ‘leadership’ at GitHub for two years,” she wrote on Twitter.
The co-founder wasn’t named by either Horvath or Github, but a source familiar with the matter tells Business Insider the allegations are about GitHub president Tom Preston-Werner and his wife, Theresa.
Preston-Werner came up with the idea for GitHub in 2007 at a bar. There, he pitched “some sort of website that acted as hub for coders to share their Git repositories” to his eventual co-founder, Chris Wanstrath. (In software development, Git, or “/ɡɪt/,” is a source code management system.) Preston-Werner’s wife, Theresa, was returning from Costa Rica with a PhD at that time.
A few days ago, Theresa announced that she’d been accepted into the TechStars NYC program for her startup, Omakase. Omakase is a charity that targets wealthy people in tech and encourages them to make donations. It’s the first not-for-profit to be accepted into the accelerator program and unlike other startups in the program, it won’t receive a financial investment for its participation.
Horvath’s harassment claims are targeted at both Tom and Theresa Preston-Werner, a source says, even though Theresa was never directly employed by Github.
According to Horvath, there was an uncomfortable meeting between the two women over drinks.
“I met [the Github co-founder’s wife] and almost immediately the conversation that I thought was supposed to be causal [sic] turned into something very inappropriate,” Horvath told TechCrunch in an email.
“She began telling me about how she informs her husband’s decision-making at GitHub, how I better not leave GitHub and write something bad about them, and how she had been told by her husband that she should intervene with my relationship to be sure I was ‘made very happy’ so that I wouldn’t quit and say something nasty about her husband’s company because ‘he had worked so hard.'”
The conversation, Horvath told TechCrunch, left her “confused and insulted to think that a woman who was not employed by my company was pulling the strings.”
After that, Horvath says she had to put up with evil glares and “intimidation” from Theresa. Her relationship with Tom allegedly soured as well, and Horvath recounted a bad meeting with him that left her “shaking uncontrollably.” Github has hired an outside firm to investigate Horvath’s statements, a source tells Business Insider.
The Preston-Werners have yet to tell their side of the story.
The source, who is close to Github and Tom Preston-Werner, told Business Insider that the situation sounds very out of character for Github’s president.
“I feel terrible for Tom that he has to go through this,” this person said. “I’ve never had an experience with him that was less than professional and delightful. What’s been described has been less than consistent with my experience … He’s in a very tough spot. He wants to do the right thing for his company and it’s hard to get accused of doing something like that.” This person wasn’t as familiar with Preston-Werner’s wife.
When reached for comment, Tom Preston-Werner replied, “We’d love to respond, but we can’t talk about things right now.”
Similarly, Github wouldn’t elaborate when reached for comment. “All we can share at this time can be found in CEO Chris Wanstrath’s blog post,” a company spokesperson said.
TechStars managing director David Cohen says the allegations will not affect Theresa Preston-Werner’s acceptance into his startup accelerator.
Theresa Preston-Werner has not yet responded to a request for comment. But on her Omakase profile she says she believes “so strongly in transparency and efficiency.” She also recently tweeted: “Good advice — value your spouse as much as you value your biggest investor.”