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Tim Draper’s proteges are ready for take off

Wearing superhero capes and masks, they hopped from trampoline to trampoline to trampoline and yelled “Up, Up, and Away!”

Sound like an activity at kindergarten or summer camp?

Well, you’re wrong. The 40 jumping men and women finished up venture capitalist Tim Draper’s Draper University of Heroes last week in Silicon Valley. The journey chronicled in the weekend’s New York Magazine may sound corny and juvenile, but it’s just Draper’s way of instilling in the next generation of entrepreneurs the “magical thinking” he believes Silicon Valley requires.

Wrote the magazine’s Kevin Roose:

Draper’s school is typical of Silicon Valley writ large, in that thick layers of do-gooder idealism overlay the core capitalistic motives. During the first day of classes, I barely hear anyone at Draper U. mention money or the possibility of wringing Zuckerberg-like riches out of a tech start-up. Mostly, students speak about the value of Draper’s “network” and the vague “opportunity sets” that will result from getting to know so many prominent techies. Rather than thinking of this as an M.B.A. lite, or a computer-science boot camp, they view it as an eight-week lesson in dreaming big and thinking futuristically—essentially space camp without the rockets.

Draper’s goal, after all, is to repeat his success in investments like Skype, Tesla, Path and Pebble, and make the third and fourth generations of Silicon Valley Drapers as successful as the previous two (Draper’s son Adam runs a partnering accelerator called Boost VC across the street).

But it’s fair to call Draper’s the most innovative approach. With race car driving, martial arts, painting and music training and repeat-after-me mantras similar to the Girl Scout Promise, Draper wants participants to come away with the confidence required to leave a boring corporate job, the carefree-thinking necessary to dream up the next world-changing innovation or disruptive industry and the exuberance to inspire and be inspired along the way.

The UpTake: Tim Draper’s strategy might seem silly, but his new Draper University for Heroes might have what it takes to get more young people to do the dreaming that starting a company requires.

To Roose, he said:

I want these guys to be active performers in life,” Draper says. “If they’re bored in a classroom, they’re not maximizing their lives.”

A year ago, Draper tested out the concept. And despite its high price tag, $9,500 for the eight-week program, people responded.

But some got the symbolism more than others. A woman named Collete canned an aspirational non-profit idea to pursue a startup business in an industry she knew and loved, IndyCar racing. And rather than starting his own company off the bat, a man named Scott is moving to Seattle to find a job at a medium-sized tech company, a place he believed would be just as much fun.

Others plan for a social network for submitting and sharing funny smartphone screenshots, an idea that may have benefited more from the Draper genre of financial knowledge than superhero.

Then again, Draper saw business potential in the controversial and litigious hookup site Bang with Friends.


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