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January 24, 2018

Knox admits to 'inappropriate' behavior toward female associates

Photo / Tim Greenway
Photo / Tim Greenway
Jess Knox, founder of Maine Startup & Create Week, at center, leads a planning meeting for the event in Portland in this file photo from 2016. Knox resigned from both the event and from Venture Hall, a Portland startup accelerator, this week after acknowledging he had behaved inappropriately toward two female associates.

Jess Knox, co-founder of Venture Hall whose sudden resignation for "personal reasons" prompted the Portland-based business accelerator to shut down on Monday, acknowledged in written statements to the Portland Press Herald and Bangor Daily News that he had behaved inappropriately toward two female associates.

Venture Hall's closure resulted in the immediate cancellation of a $475,000 three-year grant from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation Entrepreneurs' Policy Network awarded on Jan. 11 as part of a nationwide initiative intended to remove policy barriers hampering new business creation.

Additional fallout quickly followed, with least two additional entrepreneurial organizations severing ties with Knox.

The Portland Press Herald reported that the Maine Accelerates Growth Initiative, launched in September 2015 by the Maine Technology Institute, and the annual Maine Startup & Create Week event that Knox founded, no longer would be working with him or his business consulting firm, Olympico Strategies.

Katie Shorey, organizer and fundraising chair for Maine Startup & Create Week, told the Press Herald that the other organizers of the event were discussing its future following the revelations about Knox's behavior towards at least two female colleagues.

"We are deeply troubled by the news," she said. "We are meeting within the week to have an all-hands discussion about what to do."

In his written comments published by the Press Herald and BDN, Knox acknowledged he "exchanged inappropriate text messages with a colleague at Venture Hall and was reprimanded at the time" and that he also "made a colleague uncomfortable during a business trip."

"None of this should have happened, and none of this type of behavior should ever happen," he wrote. "They were right to call out my behavior, and I recognized that I could no longer continue to serve in my role at Venture Hall or Startup & Create Week. My behavior has hurt friends, co-workers and my family, and I'm deeply sorry."

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