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Tech CEO Apologizes for ‘Insensitive’ Comments About Street Peddlers

Panhandlers' Placards Show Signs Of Continued Economic HardshipPanhandlers' Placards Show Signs Of Continued Economic Hardship

A Silicon Valley CEO is learning a lesson that seems obvious, but so many people fail to heed: Saying something before considering the repercussions can have very bad consequences.

Mark Woodward, CEO of telecommunications company Invoca, apologized today for critical comments he made late last week about unlicensed fruit vendors in San Francisco. Specifically, he said in a once public (but now deleted) Facebook post, he would “make their life miserable” if they opened near his house, later adding “If that meant destroying some of their produce, or standing out there with signs to chase everyone away, Or [sic] just making them very uncomfortable, I would do that in a heartbeat.”

But on Tuesday, in a post on Medium, Woodward said his “heated” comments were born from fears for his safety after a previous incident.

“I recently posted some comments on Facebook about my frustrations with a situation affecting my family and our neighborhood. My comments were heated, but also insensitive and offensive to some people. For that I am terribly sorry. Shortly after realizing the gravity of my words taken out of context, I removed my comments. While my comments were understandably offensive to some, I made them in response to several incidents that have made me and my neighbors feel unsafe, including one that required me to call the police because individuals were physically threatening me at my home. In reading a post in which a neighbor wrote about fears for the privacy and safety of his family, I responded from the hip based on my own experience and concerns for the safety of my family. I did so without taking into account the larger implications and repercussions of my words. That was not in good form.”

(Fortune reached out to Wood for further explanation. We will update this post if we receive response.) Here is the initial Facebook post:

 

Invoca is a company that aims to help marketers boost their revenues through “call intelligence,” an analytics system that measure which marketing campaigns are driving calls. Founded in 2008, the company recently raised $30 million in Series D funding, bringing its life to date funding to $60 million.

Even with the apology and explanation, Wood’s comments might be insensitive and offensive to some. However, he’s hardly the first San Francisco/Silicon Valley executive to complain about the city’s lower income residents.

In 2013, Peter Shih, co-founder of e-commerce company Celery, posted a Medium story titled “10 Things I Hate About You – San Francisco Edition” that said the city “has some of the craziest homeless people I have ever seen in my life” and talked disparagingly about its late night “transvestite to taxi ratio”. He’s no longer listed among the company’s founding team on its Website.

And earlier this year, Justin Keller, founder of Commando.io, raised hackles in an open letter to San Francisco’s mayor and police chief calling the homeless “riff raff” and saying “The wealthy working people have earned their right to live in the city. They went out, got an education, work hard, and earned it. I shouldn’t have to worry about being accosted. I shouldn’t have to see the pain, struggle, and despair of homeless people to and from my way to work every day.”

The frustration about the state of living in San Francisco isn’t limited to executive gaffes on social media. A recent poll by the Bay Area Council found that one-third of the residents it spoke with were considering moving, due in part to the cost of living.