Founder, Draper Associates, Draper University & DFJ Venture Capital
At DFJ, we work with big thinkers to bring their bold ideas to life. We invest in technology companies serving the needs of consumers and enterprises, as well as companies creating disruptive technologies such as commercial space exploration, robotics, and sustainable transportation. Some of our investments include Baidu (Nasdaq: BIDU), Box (NYSE: BOX), Anaplan (NYSE: PLAN) Cylance (Blackberry), Nervana (Intel), Planet, Redfin (Nasdaq: RDFN), Ring (Amazon), Skype, SolarCity (Nasdaq: SCTY), SpaceX, Tesla Motors (Nasdaq: TSLA), Twilio (NYSE: TWLO), Twitter (NYSE: TWTR), Tumblr (Yahoo!), Unity, Yammer (Microsoft), and Zoox.
We back early stage and growth stage companies
DFJ began in 1985 with a focus on early-stage companies. Tim Draper, a third-generation VC with a passion for technology and unconventional thinking, teamed with John Fisher, a former colleague of Draper’s, known for his deep enterprise and tech finance experience. Together they shaped the firm’s foundational philosophy of investing in people first. One of their first recruits was co-founder Steve Jurvetson. Together they went on to invest in break out companies like Baidu, Hotmail, and Skype. A decade ago, we added our Growth team dedicated to late-stage investing. Today, we have two teams investing two funds. Our Venture team works with founders in the early phases of company building. Our Growth team partners with companies entering hyper-growth mode. DFJ has backed 29 companies that have each achieved more than $1 billion in realized value through an initial public offering or acquisition.
Tim Draper is the founding partner of Draper Associates and DFJ. Tim’s original suggestion to use viral marketing as a method for spreading a software application from customer to customer was instrumental to the successes of Hotmail, Skype, and others.
Tim has been recognized as a leading supporter of entrepreneurship with numerous awards and honors. He was listed as #46 of the most outstanding Harvard alumni, #7 on the Forbes Midas List, #1 of the Most Networked Venture Capitalists by Always On, and #98 in Worth Magazine’s 100 Most Powerful People in Finance. Tim also received the World Entrepreneurship Forum’s “Entrepreneur for the World” in 2015.
Tim received a BS from Stanford University with a major in electrical engineering and an MBA from the Harvard Business School.
He served on the California State Board of Education in 1998-1999, and currently leads an initiative to create six new states in California (Six Californias) to encourage competition and choice in government.
In 1994, he created a non-profit for young children to learn about business and entrepreneurship called BizWorld. In 2011, he created Draper University of Heroes, a residential and online school to help extraordinary young people meet their entrepreneurial goals.
I am a hardworker with a mission to spread entrepreneurship and venture capital around the world. Since I have succeeded to some degree. I have a mission to decentralize the world to where borders become meaningless.
My grandfather was the first VC in the Silicon Valley. My father was a pioneer in VC. So it was a natural evolution for me. I went global.
Decentralization of many markets is happening now and there are many opportunities created by Bitcoin, the Blockchain and Smart Contracts. When combined with big data, deep learning and artificial intelligence, these technologies have the potential to transform some of the biggest industries in the world, including Health Care, Finance, Banking, Real Estate, Commerce, Insurance and Government.
Yes. Crowdfunding, tokenization, and transparency are changing things. The business is becoming more automated and the money is getting to be more direct to the entrepreneur. I imagine a time when a VC raises money in Bitcoin, they invest in Bitcoin, and the startups pay their employees and suppliers in bitcoin, and the relationship with the LP is through a smart contract. In effect, our business could take place without a lawyer on either side, an accountant, a transfer agent, a custodian, an escrow agent, a bookkeeper, or any of the bureaucracies who regulate all of this.
I hope to transform the world from being tribal to being global. I want the world to recognize and honor its heroic entrepreneurs. VC allows me to fund companies that will make this kind of an impact.
I expect to see AI start to take all the mundane tasks from workers. I think this will free workers up to do higher value work and the economy will flourish.
Most of my success comes from my initial idea to use viral marketing to spread product. This network effect has been valuable as a suggestion to many of my companies to “make your customers into your salesforce.” I continue to think about funding companies where I think, “How big a deal is this if it works.” I don’t harp on the possible reasons for failure.
Our firm was sued. Lawsuits spread fear through an organization like a witch’s curse. It took all my efforts to keep the business moving forward while we were dealing with a potentially very damaging lawsuit. Eventually it was settled, but it was painful. I don’t recommend ever suing anyone, and I don’t recommend ever being sued.
We have two types of customers. One is our investors, who are really after a return, but they can also benefit from the window on technology that we can give them when they come to see our companies. Our other type of customer is our entrepreneurs. They benefit the best from us if we give advice, make introductions, help them raise money and stay out of the way of their success.
I tell my team where we are headed, I make our business relatively transparent, and then I give them a goal, and try not to get in their way on the way to achieving that goal. The trust is well appreciated and people tend to live up to the trust you give them. The autonomy usually gets a better outcome than I would have had if I had dictated the process to the result.
Meet 4 new people a day and ask them what they do for a living. You will have a much better understanding of the world, and be far less frustrated when things aren’t working the way you want them to.
I was proven to have the largest network of any venture capitalist through a connection analysis that AlwaysOn did, but I think I am the best at modeling (remodeling) businesses to change the way industries operate. I like to go back to first principles and look at what a business is trying to accomplish before thinking about the actual product or service that a startup should produce.
Hard work. I am always working. I don’t stop.
Since I really achieved my first mission of spreading entrepreneurship and VC around the world, I now have a mission to drive humanity from being tribal (with borders) to global (without them).
My biggest success is yet to come. But I have made investments in many startups that are now household names, like Tesla, Skype, Twitch, Robinhood, SpaceX, Hotmail, and many others.
Leaving the institution that I created to start a new, more advanced business. I had the equivalent of an innovators dilemma. I saw that the VC world was changing, but it would not be prudent to try to change the existing institution. So I started over with a new direction and a new mission. It seems to be working now. It was difficult.
I have two:
Promote freedom at all costs.
Fail and fail again until I succeed.
For business, Steve Jobs and Elon Musk. Both total heroes that took on the established ways of doing things and led us to the promised land. Personally, it is my father. He is the best man I have ever known.
Home. I spend so much time on the road that when I get home, my blood pressure drops, and my smile comes back.
The iPad saved me so many times, but my most recent favorites are Bitcoin (makes me feel secure that I have money even if the government goes haywire) and Uber (seems to be able to take me anywhere anytime.)
My passion is my work, my wife is my muse and my children and grandchildren are why I work so hard.
Get caught up so I can do some proactive work.
The world is changing so fast. Be the change, not the Luddite.
Always good to get it done early so you don’t come home and lose the motivation.
Be kind. I now own a tie with hearts on it. It might be more fun than my bitcoin tie.
Make your customers so delighted that they become your salesforce.
A Day in My Life:
What do you love most about Your City?
My work city is San Mateo. I like how proud I am of how it has blossomed since I created Draper University and the Draper Ecosystem here.
Favorite breakfast meal & restaurant?
Bacon and eggs for breakfast.
My favorite restaurant is Buck’s in Woodside.
What are you doing at:
6:00 AM – Working out.
10:00 AM – Meeting entrepreneurs or investors or helping point people to jobs or speaking to groups of people
12:00 PM – Favorite Lunch spot/meal?
I eat at a restaurant across the street from Draper University’s Hero City called “Three.”
7:00 PM – Still at work.
11:00 PM – Emails.
What drink do you need to get through the day and at the end (and how many)?
Water. Pretty much in a steady stream.
Most used App/Favorite Instagram Account?
I like Otter because it does a transcription of my meetings and helps me remember what I need to do. I also like Captio because it helps me jot down my brainstorms and they show up in my email.
What should everyone try at least once?
Jumping out of a helicopter.
Where do you enjoy getting lost?
Everywhere except parking garages. Getting lost is the beginning of an adventure.
What Else to Know?
Read my book. How to be the Startup Hero by Tim Draper. And if that is not enough, apply to Draper University.