MATEO, Calif. ó As a third-generation venture
capitalist, Tim Draper gauges the motivation of
entrepreneurs who pitch him. Are they true believers or
opportunists? Are they committed for the long haul, or
just hoping to cash out?
that heís proposed slicing California into six pieces,
the eccentric multimillionaire faces a similar kind of
scrutiny. People across the state have gotten their
first look at the rumpled tycoon with overgrown eyebrows
and a fistful of maps and asked themselves ó "Who
the hell is this guy?"
no question he is one of the most colorful and
fascinating characters in Silicon Valley, a place
teeming with geniuses and oddballs. He co-owns two
safari camps and a luxury island resort in Tanzania, heís
guzzled snake blood in Taiwan, and heís swum from
Alcatraz to Aquatic Park without a wetsuit. He doesnít
touch alcohol but often behaves like heís drunk.
is fueled by an insatiable curiosity about technology
and how the world works and possessed of a missionary
zeal to disperse the valleyís entrepreneurial spirit
into every nook and cranny of the planet.
grew up in the Silicon Valley when it was a bunch of
apricot groves, and now itís this center of incredible
activity," Draper said in a recent interview.
"So I have this sense of what technology has done
for this region and I want to spread it to the
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people who know Draper best insist that none of this is
an act. The larger-than-life persona, the superhero
costumes and off-key singalongs at high-tech
conferences, even Six Californias, which Draper is still
pursuing ó itís all just Tim being Tim.
an unusual guy, if you didnít figure that out
already," said Becky Draper, the elder of Timís
two older sisters. "I mean, just what you read in
the paperís unusual, but honestly it runs deep."
Cook Draper, 56, grew up the scion of Silicon Valley
royalty. His grandfather William Henry Draper Jr. was a
pioneer of Californiaís venture capital industry. His
father, Bill Draper, spearheaded Sutter Hill Ventures
and now runs a charitable foundation.
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a child Tim was competitive and athletic, with an
aptitude for math. Becky remembers him sitting at his
little desk, calculating the batting averages of
everyone on his baseball team.
the time he enrolled at Stanford University, he was a
tall, strapping man-child with a booming baritone voice
and the ceaseless exuberance of a golden retriever. He
combined boundless optimism with a preternatural
tolerance for risk.
about the origins of his sonís personality, Bill
Draper took a stab at an explanation, then laughed.
not sure where he came from, to be perfectly
honest," he said.
attending Harvard Business School, Tim Draper took over
his fatherís $2 million investment fund in 1985 and
grew it into Draper Fisher Jurvetson, one of the top
venture firms in the world. He built a vast fortune with
smart bets on Hotmail, Skype and Baidu, among other
doesnít discuss his net worth. Reporters typically
refer to him as a billionaire, but he does not appear on
the Forbes list.
Hartenbaum, a general partner at August Capital, said
Draper is a "brave new world" investor who
prefers moon shots to incremental progress.
for years has been looking for a flying car," said
Hartenbaum. "Heís not a Ďfaster, better,
took a step back from DFJ in 2013 to focus on Six
Californias, which so far has cost him $4.9 million; his
own seed-stage investment fund, Draper Associates; and
his school for entrepreneurs, Draper University of
Heroes, which will soon be featured in a reality TV
sabbatical from DFJ has given Draper the opportunity to
work more closely with his sons Adam and Billy, who have
followed their father into the world of venture capital.
Draper and his wife, Melissa, also have two daughters.
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is the founder of Boost VC, a business accelerator
located in Hero City, an incubator thatís part of
Draper University and shares the schoolís superhero
theme. Boost provides investment and logistical support
for startups and is currently focusing on bitcoin-related
companies. Tim is one of the worldís leading bitcoin
investors and proselytizers.
is an investor at Draper Associates, also based in Hero
the elder of Draperís daughters, is plugged into
Silicon Valley as the host of "The Valley Girl
Show." The irreverent talk show, which has snared
big-name guests like Eric Schmidt and Elon Musk, was
recently picked up by KPIX, the Bay Area CBS affiliate.
at Draper Associates, Billy has watched his father
create an ingenious pipeline. Draper University is a
magnet that draws aspiring entrepreneurs from around the
world for an intense, often zany seven-week curriculum
dreamed up by Draper. The graduates with the most
promising ideas might wind up at Boost or Hero City. The
businesses that get off the ground could get funded by
Draper Associates and then DFJ.
think his grand master plan is to have every step of the
funnel," said Billy, 26. "You see a lot of
venture capitalists move upstream over time, because
they want to write bigger checks and manage more money.
But my dad has always gotten a real kick out of the
early stage, just a passionate guy or girl whoís
sweating, trying to solve a problem. I think thatís
kind of what gets him out of bed."
of Draperís other passions is his evolving political
philosophy, reflected in Six Californias, that foresees
states and even nations being forced to compete for
need choices of government," Draper said
matter-of-factly, "just like we have choices of
tables or chairs or cellphones or coffee."
vision has generated fierce criticism. Larry Gerston,
professor emeritus of political science at San Jose
State, said he is "dumbfounded" by Six
Californias, which he considers a waste of time and
energy. Former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, chairman
of a committee opposing Six Californias, sounded equally
think heís well-intentioned," Nunez said,
"but as the saying goes, the road to hell is paved
with good intentions."
to form, Draper is completely unfazed by the derision
Six Californias has generated and his failure to collect
enough signatures last year to qualify the initiative
for the 2016 ballot. His team is investigating whether
election workers improperly disqualified any of the
campaignís signatures, though the odds of that tactic
working are slim, and he may gather a new round of
signatures next year, if necessary.
of letting any of it take me down," Draper said,
"Iím just saying, ĎOK, now what? Where do we go
now?í And I think that feels better. I think that may
be why Iím happy."
public image is dominated by his eccentric behavior.
Thatís what happens when you run a school where
graduation involves bouncing off a trampoline into a
pile of beanbags.
his antics overshadow other parts of his personality,
friends and family members say, like loyalty and
generosity. When he learned one December day that the
son of a childhood friend had fallen ill, Draper showed
up at the hospital within hours dressed as Santa Claus.
He is known for thoughtful, sometimes homemade gifts.
Roizen, who met Draper when they were freshmen at
Stanford and recently joined Draper Fisher Jurvetson as
operating partner, said he has warbled songs and written
poems for her on birthdays and other special occasions.
just a spark of light," Roizen said. "I donít
necessarily agree with everything he does. But I just
think the world is so much better off with a Tim in
there is still a Tim Draper for the world to admire or
mock is a minor miracle. His personal risk-taking
borders on recklessness. Draperís numerous brushes
with death include at least three near-drownings and a
terrifying sprint from a Cape buffalo that chased him
behind a small tree before losing interest.
incident etched in family lore is the time about 15
years ago when Draper ran a speeding boat aground near
Fire Island in New York. His father was thrown into an
anchor door in the bow and knocked unconscious. Bill
Draper said he was never mad at his son for almost
have a hard time getting upset with Tim," the elder
Draper said with a smile. "Heís just too much