Who Is Tom Preston-Werner? GitHub Co-Founder Resigns After Being Found Innocent Of Harassment Charges

 @ryanWneal
on April 22 2014 12:25 PM

After an investigation into Tom Preston-Werner cleared the co-founder of GitHub, an open-source code platform, of sexual harassment allegations, the software programmer resigned as president of GitHub anyway.

“Unfortunately, the investigation and all the attention surrounding it have me concerned that remaining at GitHub would be a distraction for both me and the company,” Preston-Werner wrote in a blog post announcing his resignation on Monday. “I’m incredibly proud of what I’ve helped build at GitHub and I don’t want the events of the past month to jeopardize that.”

GitHub Logo GitHub Logo  GitHub

Preston-Werner said that a visit with the Oculus VR team convinced him of the potential of immersive computing and virtual reality, and he will now dedicate his time working on code in this new medium.

“It felt really good to get back into a code editor and challenge the deeply logical and analytical part of my brain. I’ve enjoyed the challenges of learning how to lead a company with hundreds of people, but it’s very hard for me to deny the allure of coding a system that could once again change the course of history.”

Preston-Werner grew up in Dubuque, Iowa, and started programming when he was 8 years old. He attended the Harvey Mudd College and dropped out after two years to create Gravatar, a global avatar service, in 2004. Preston-Werner sold Gravatar to Automattic, the company behind WordPress, in 2007.

While working at Powerset in San Francisco, Preston-Werner met Chris Wanstratch and PJ Hyett. The team built GitHub as a tool for developers to share code and collaborate on projects. GitHub grew into one of most powerful software development tools, and even became a place for nonprogrammers to share and collaborate. An investment from Andreessen Horowitz in 2013 valued GitHub at $750 million.  

The company was criticized for its lack of diversity, especially when it was found that programmers added racial and sexist slurs into lines of code. Preston-Werner pointed to hires like engineer Julie Ann Horvath as evidence that GitHub was trying to improve, so her sudden departure in March with allegations of gender-based discrimination was particularly damaging.

 
 

 
 

In an interview with TechCrunch, Horvath said Preston-Werner's wife bullied her and created a hostile work environment. An independent investigation found Preston-Werner to be innocent of any legal wrongdoing, but Horvath sent a number of tweets disputing the result.

 
 

 
 

Preston-Werner was adamant that neither him nor his wife never engaged in any form of harassment or discrimination, though did admit to making mistakes.

GitHub is now left searching for a new public face for the company. 

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