Draper Fisher Jurvetson founder Timothy Draper announced in late November he would step back from his investment role in the firm’s next fund as part of a series of changes at the organization.
So what’s next for this third-generation venture capitalist? A period of exploration, according to Draper, at a time when the venture business is undergoing significant change.
Sure, he will be an investor in the new DFJ fund, and he will continue to invest as an angel. But a good part of his time will be devoted to his Draper University of Heroes and to understanding a business in transformation.
VCJ — an affiliate publication to pehub — recently had the opportunity to ask Draper for more detail about his new efforts.
One goal, he says, is to make Draper University an agent of change. A lot of schools try to teach people to be entrepreneurs and kill their creative spirit in the process. “What I am trying to do at Draper University is just the opposite,” he said. “We’re trying to fuel the spirit and get them to look at something and say, ”how would I change it?”
Another goal is to examine the venture model. “I’m hoping I can discover a new model that is more positive and doesn’t have a misalignment of interests,” he said.
What follows is an edited transcript of the conversation.
Q: You’ve decided to step back from an investment role in DFJ’s next fund. What’s going on?
A: The reason I am skipping a fund is that venture capital is changing. Every 10 years or so technologies come along (as well as) new ways of looking at things. The innovators survive and the people who hold onto the past don’t. I think in two ways this is good for us. First, DFJ is refocusing its efforts to be more streamlined. At the same time I am going to be kind of like an R&D shop.
Q: What do you mean “R&D shop?”
A: There are venture angels, there’s crowdfunding, there are incubators and accelerators: The world is definitely changing. We really want to be out in front of that, and I don’t think I can experiment quite as well if I am a GP, or a managing director, of (the new) fund. The freedom I get will allow me to go explore. I’ve been able to take DFJ in a new direction several times where we were real innovators. The flexibility is important for the long-term success. So we’re playing around with a lot of different models.
Q: One new focus of yours is Draper University. How does it fit into your exploration?
A: I built Draper University to be a magnet for the best and brightest entrepreneurs of the world…who want to get a sense of what Silicon Valley is like to figure out how to launch their business in the most effective way, and to learn what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur. It is about 55% international. Draper University in effect ends up being deal flow for DFJ and that it is a new way and maybe as big a deal as the incubators and the angels and the crowdfunding.
Photo of Tim Draper speaking at the Venture Alpha West conference in Half Moon Bay, Calif., presented by Thomson Reuters, Oct. 8, 2013. Photo by Oscar Urizar, Red Eye Collection.