The Startup Game: Inside the Partnership between Venture Capitalists and Entrepreneurs Paperback – Jun 19 2012
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“Required reading. William H. Draper III, to give him his correct title, has lived an adventurous life, which makes his book more exciting than simply a list of high-tech firms he has backed . . ..If the subject interests you then this volume offers advice from a wise figure.” ―The Financial Times
“Moving back and forth between the worlds of business and international diplomacy, Draper's book uses anecdotes from a varied career to illuminate the partnership between VCs and startups as well as the ever-changing role of entrepreneurship in economies around the world.” ―The Huffington Post
“Reads like a first-person history of the venture capital industry. It includes lots of exposition for those not familiar with venture capital, a generous dose of advice, and anecdotes.” ―Fortune
“Bill Draper has written a gem . . .a mix of practitioner stories with some autobiography mixed in.” ―Business Insider
“Bill Draper is one of the most knowledgeable people in the world about venture capital investments.” ―International Business Times
“His passion for helping startups get off the ground runs deep.” ―San Francisco Chronicle
“It's not a stretch to say that the story of Bill Draper is the story of venture capital.” ―The Wall Street Journal
“Draper comes across as eminently likable . . .If Draper's book were merely a good window into Silicon Valley's past, it would be well worth a read, but he leavens the anecdotes with practical tips for would-be investors and entrepreneurs alike . . .The passion comes through frequently in the book.” ―San Jose Mercury News
“Whether you've experienced the joys and pains of Silicon Valley directly or just want to learn from those who have, you can't do better than this firsthand account of the storied three generations of Drapers. Bill has done a huge favor for those of us who are passionate about technology and innovation by chronicling their experiences. Theirs is a tale worth knowing.” ―Eric Schmidt, Chairman and CEO of Google
“Bill Draper, who began investing back when Silicon Valley was only known for its fruit orchards, tells the story behind some of the most pivotal companies of the last half-century and offers a fascinating look at the inner workings of the venture capital industry.” ―Elon Musk, cofounder of Paypal, cofounder, CEO, and CTO of SpaceX, cofounder and CEO of Tesla Motors, chairman of Solar City
“No single venture capitalist more embodies the best in venture capital; Bill Draper sets the bar high. It is not just his demonstrable success in business, but it is also his high ethical standards that earn him the respect and the following that he has in the world of business.” ―President George H.W. Bush
“I wish I had this book when I started salesforce.com. This is more than a book about how to win over a venture capitalist, or an inside look at this mysterious and powerful industry. This is a book about innovation. Anyone trying to transform a good idea into a breakthrough company with massive impact must read this book.” ―Marc Benioff, Chairman and CEO of salesforce.com
“This is an inspirational tale about using entrepreneurial talent and energy to improve the world. In this book Bill describes a life of meaning and impact that spans venture capital, public service, and philanthropy. We need more Drapers!” ―William H. Sahlman, Dimitri V. D'Arbeloff, MBA Class of 1955 Professor of Business Administration and Senior Associate Dean for External Relations, Harvard Business School
“Bill Draper is one of the most successful and respected individuals in the venture capital industry. Having funded several hundred technology companies, he has seen it all. The Startup Game is not only a captivating account of Silicon Valley, its entrepreneurs, and the venture capitalists who backed them, but it is also an intriguing depiction of how the world of entrepreneurship works.” ―John Doerr, partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers
“An absolutely fascinating and well-told story by one of the great men―and gentlemen―of the Silicon Valley startup world. Must― indeed, required―reading for anyone interested in the American entrepreneurial adventure.” ―Christopher Buckley, author and political satirist
“While Bill has a famous reputation as a venture capitalist, the best untold story is how strategic he has been in backing a cadre of world-class social entrepreneurs who are creating massive change. Consider the stories of Bill as a philanthropist as an unexpected bonus of reading this book” ―John Wood, Founder and Executive Chairman, Room to Read
About the Author
William H. Draper III is one of the West Coast's first venture capitalists and the founder of Sutter Hill Ventures in Palo Alto, California. Former Chairman of the Export-Import Bank of the United States and Undersecretary General of the United Nations, he is currently the General Partner of the venture capital companies Draper Richards L.P., Draper Investment Company, and Draper International. He is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the President's Council on International Activities at Yale University. He received the Vision Award from Software Developers Forum and was inducted into the Dow Jones Venture Capital Hall of Fame. He has also received honorary awards from the Silicon Valley Fast 50, the International Business Forum, the National Venture Capital Association, Harvard and Yale Universities, University of California, and Institute of International Education. He lives in Atherton, California.
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Draper does of course admit that there's an element of luck in his life. He was lucky, he says, to have had a good education, a great father, and superb partners. Draper's father, General William Draper, clearly played a key role in the author's success. It was General Draper who formed the first venture capital firm on the west coast, Draper Gaither & Anderson. It was the General who summoned his son to California from the Chicago area, where he was working for Clarence Randall at Inland Steel. But William Draper the son had done very well for himself at Inland Steel, where he had gone through the "Randall's Ranger's" management training program and had already assumed a prestigious role in the hierarchy of Inland Steel. This is the point at which the son could have gone on to have a very successful but perhaps none too remarkable career as a business man. Back in the late 1950s, venture capital did not have the reputation it has today. Clarence Randall probably summed up the attitude of most businessmen at the time when he said "Venture capital? Sounds risky. I wouldn't do it if I were you."
But Draper took the chance, and it was clearly the turning point in his career. From that point on he had a front row seat to one of the greatest economic and technological developments of our time: the transformation of an obscure community of orchards and fruit farmers into a powerhouse of innovation, a place we now know as the Silicon Valley.
Draper's book relates a good many first encounters with entrepreneurs who would go on to make the Silicon Valley famous around the world. There is an almost Forrest-Gump-like knack for being in the right place at the right time, though I doubt that luck had much to do with it, and the author is certainly no Forrest Gump. Draper relates how he and one of his early partners, Pitch Johnson, drove around the valley introducing themselves to various business leaders. It would have been really something, I think, to tag along on those adventures. It is clear in any event that Draper and his partner made their own luck by sheer reputation and hard work. As Draper himself says "Luck is clearly a factor in life, but I would advise any young person interested in becoming a venture capitalist or an entrepreneur not to be overly fatalistic. Work hard, work smart, and luck happens."
In the middle of the book, there is a fascinating chapter on what Draper calls his "missing decade". First, he ran for congress, though unsuccessfully. But even here Draper showed his characteristic willingness to take bold action. When he realized that he needed a deeper understanding of the Vietnam War, he didn't lay back and read a few books but went directly to Vietnam to see the war first hand. The congressional seat went to Pete McCloskey that year yet, as Draper says, his run for congress was a prelude for what was to come.
What was to come was an appointment to the head of the Export-Import bank for the Reagan administration. Here Draper's rather dramatic showdown with foreign countries over interest rates did a nice job of getting U.S. taxpayers somewhat off the hook. At least, as Draper says, taxpayers would be lenders of last resort. Draper's position at the Export-Import bank lasted for five years, after which point he went to the United Nations to run the United Nations Development program. During all this time, Draper met an amazing array of diplomats around the world. Though he calls this period his missing decade, it is clear that he was missing nothing in terms of establishing new and important contacts. This part of the book is festooned with remarkable characters, including a memorable encounter with Fidel Castro.
Among the entrepreneurs featured in Draper's story none is more remarkable than the story of his own son, Tim Draper, who with his father's guidance founded one of the truly remarkable venture capital firms in the world today, Draper Fisher Jurvetson. Tim Draper, who is arguably the inventor of "viral marketing", has created a network of semi-independent venture capital partnerships with offices around the world. Interestingly, the organizational structure of Draper Fisher Jurvetson, though perhaps new to venture capital, may not be entirely unprecedented. As Niall Ferguson says in The Ascent of Money, the Medici succeeded in 15th century Europe largely because they were organized into multiple related partnerships, each based on a special, regularly renegotiated contract. Thus branch managers were not employees but junior partners who were remunerated with a share of the profits. The network built by Draper Fisher Jurvetson is undoubtedly more sophisticated than this. Still, the Medicis' organization might be seen as an early prototype of the type created by the third generation of Draper venture capitalists.
Near the end of the book Draper explains how he has brought the venture capital approach to funding non-profit startups. This is the third phase of the "Andrew Carnegie Dictum", to which Draper claims allegiance: spend the first third of one's life getting all the education one can, the next third making all the money one can, and the last third giving it all away to worthwhile causes. To this end, Draper and his partner, Robin Richards, started the Draper Richards Foundation, aimed at nurturing "social entrepreneurs", i.e., people with a vision about how to change society in some positive way. Draper and Richards bring to this task everything they've learned in the private, for-profit venture capital world. The list of non-profit organizations to which the Draper Richards Foundation has contributed so far is impressive. Room to Read, Little Kids Rock, Spark, Taproot Foundation, Girls for Change, A Home Within, Education Pioneers, Mapendo International, Upwardly Global, Digital Wish, and Kiva - all of these and more have benefited from stewardship by the Draper Richards Foundation.
Draper concludes his memoir with a look back at his military service in the Korean War, drawing attention to a part of the world that is ironically back in the news even now. He remembers with sadness his buddy who was killed in that war. "I wish", he says, "that somehow ... he could come back and see the difference between North and South Korea today." Nighttime satellite photography reveals that difference all too painfully: the South is ablaze with lights and life, while the North is plunged into darkness, dead to the world. Draper notes, correctly I believe, that the South owes its prosperity to trends promoting free enterprise. As in South Korea, so in both China and India: a freeing up of the people in those countries, the elimination of government bureaucracy, and a greater respect for personal property rights has led to a renaissance of prosperity.
Unlike so many other authors on the contemporary scene, Draper clearly understands that innovation is the true mainspring of wealth. To this I would only add that the innovation set in motion by free markets is not only technological but is also organizational. As the economists like Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek said many years ago, entrepreneurs make use of information about particular facts and circumstances that exists only in the minds of millions of individuals. Free markets are epistemologically superior to hierarchical organizations: this is the true source of their strength and ability to create wealth.
Draper says with some urgency that we have to continue down the path of promoting free markets, and I agree with him. But I'm not sure I can summon enough of the Draper optimism to feel confident that we will do the right thing. The current trend out of Washington D.C. is, I'm afraid, rather un-Draper-like in its attempt to tax and spend our way out of recession. We would all be better off, I think, to take a page from William Draper's memoir. Maybe more optimism is what it will take. In any event, I agree that we do indeed need more Drapers, or at least more people soaking up the Draper vision for a better world. The Startup Game is an admirable step in the right direction. Buy it and do what you love - the money will follow.
First time entrepreneurs may find Draper's chapters "How it Works," "What it Takes," and "Finding the Exit" insightful and useful. Those who have been in the game longer will not find much new here but should find the "Startup Game" a good read due to Draper's role in the creation of the "Valley."
For me, I found the chapters on the creation of the DFJ global network and "The Business of Philanthropy" to be the most relevant and of greatest interest. I have been involved in China for two years and have a real appreciation for the globalization of innovation and venture capital. DFJ has been a leader in both.
I was unaware of the Draper Foundation and its sponsorship of social entrepreneurship. What a grand effort! The author provides information on 23 of their investments in this area. As a result, I am now a full-fledged member of KIVA, a nonprofit focused on alleviating poverty by giving entrepreneurs in the developing world access to capital through microloans. A personal loan of as little as $25 in conjunction with many others goes a long way in helping deserving projects get off the ground.
Bill Draper (officially William H. Draper III) has written a gem called The Startup Game. It's a mix of practitioner stories with some autobiography mixed in. Draper is one of the original VCs - his father (William Henry Draper, Jr.) started Draper Gaither & Anderson, one of the first VC firms on the west coast that coincidentally was the first firm to use a limited partner (LP structure). His son, Tim Draper, started Draper Fisher Jurvetson. And William III started several firms, including Draper & Johnson, Sutter Hill Ventures, Draper Richards, and Draper International. Yup - lots of Drapers, but they've all collectively accomplished some amazing things.
In The Startup Game, Draper talks about the early days of venture capital, the creation and evolution of the industry, and many of the early players whose names are well known to any VC insider. Along the way he tells stories about companies he's funded (or missed funding) and generally teaches at least one lesson in each story. This isn't an autobiography - while he mixes in lots of biographical information, the chronology is self-admittedly random and he bounces between stories of his father and son along with his sojourn to Washington DC which he calls his lost years.
SF Gate published an interview on Sunday titled William Draper, veteran venture investor, reflects and SiliconValley.com wrote a review titled Venture capitalist Bill Draper adds 'author' to his résumé with 'The Startup Game. Both capture the spirit of the book which I view as a must read for any practicing or aspiring VC or entrepreneur.
But, it's fair to say that VC in this era essentially won the lottery. The wealth creation in this era may be unparalleled in human history and was an intersection of: (1) post-war, Cold War military electronic technology and innovations; (2) the mass migration of smart people to California; (3) a long economic up cycle in which businesses were buying technology; and (4) government stimulus of technology and innovation. The venture capital culture certainly promoted risk taking to some degree, but to seriously take credit for much of what happened during this period would be like the rooster thinking that his crowing makes the sun rise.
Also, Mr. Draper had the added benefit of having VC in his family blood, and furthermore was of course well connected because of an Ivy League education and the easy access to the channels of power that come along with that privilege.
I therefore give this book a 3, for telling a story and for being an easy read. I am afraid I need to deduct from the rating because I feel that Mr. Draper's success was preordained, and thus didn't really highlight any significant business acumen that set him apart. I also need to deduct from the rating because he neglects to mention much about intellectual property, which is the cornerstone of technology companies.
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