Tim Draper Bio: A Billionaire Who’s Not Afraid of Failures

Tim Draper is one of the most famous, successful, and unmistakable individuals in venture capitalism. American billionaire often referred to as a man with “diamond hands,” helped dozens of small and often out-of-the-box businesses to stardom.

Nevertheless, he is also not afraid to admit his past mistakes and failures. In fact, by his own words, anyone who wants to succeed must be ready to fail and fail again – until they finally make it.

Draper’s name is associated with such brands as Tesla, SpaceX, Twitter, Twitch, Baidu, and Skype. Besides that, he is also one of the world’s most vocal supporters of cryptocurrencies, making himself huge investments, mostly in Bitcoin.

Let’s look at Draper’s life and career in more detail and find out what stands behind this man’s tremendous success and seemingly undefeatable enthusiasm for investing.

Tim Draper’s Bio Facts

Full Name: Timothy Cook Draper  
Birth Date: 11 June, 1958  
Birth Place: East Chicago, Indiana, U.S.  
Nick Name: The Diamond Hands, Riskmaster  
Nationality: American  
Siblings: Polly Draper and Rebecca draper  
Children: Jesse Draper, Adam Draper, Eleanor Draper, Billy Draper  
Partner / Spouse: Melissa Parker Draper  
Profession: Venture capital investor  
Salary: Undisclosed  
Net Worth: $1.2 – 2 billions  
Social Media: Facebook: @tim.draper, Twitter: @TimDraper  
Companies Associated With: Draper Fisher Jurvetson (DFJ), Draper Venture Network, Draper Goren Holm, Draper University, Draper Production  
Last Updated: May 2022  

Tim Draper’s Key Facts Summary

  • Paid $19 million for 30,000 bitcoin confiscated from Silk Road in 2014
  • He claims to have taken all his money out of stocks and invested it in bitcoin
  • Established private Draper University in California in 2012
  • Invested in many prominent businesses, including Hotmail, Skype, Tesla, SpaceX, Twitter, Ancestry.com, Twitch, and Focus Media
  • Spent $23 million in 2000 on a failed effort to back school vouchers
  • He is a long-time backer of Elon Musk
  • Owns an island – Lupita Island in Tanzania’s Lake Tanganyika and two safari parks
  • Openly calls for the release of Silk Road’s Ross Ulbricht from prison
  • He says he is “more wrong than right” with his investments despite his huge success

Tim Draper’s Birthplace and Early Life

Timothy Cook Draper was born on June 11, 1958, in East Chicago, Indiana, to Phyllis (neé Culbertson) and William Henry Draper III.

The couple, which stayed together for over 65 years despite knowing each other only 3 days before William proposed, already had two daughters: Polly Draper, who later became a successful actress and producer, and Rebecca “Becky” Draper, who is also in the venture business.

Tim’s mother graduated from Smith College and received her Master’s in Early Childhood Education from the San Francisco State University. She served on the boards of Peace Corps, Save the Children, Children’s Health Council, and other institutions. She also wrote poetry.

Phyllis died in 2018 at 87 as the longest surviving patient of the Parkinson’s Institute. She reportedly fought the disease for 35 years.

Tim’s father was also a venture capitalist – just like his father was. William “Bill” Draper also served as Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (1986-1993) and Chairman and President of the Export-Import Bank (1981-1986). He is 94.

Despite being born in Indiana, Tim Draper grew up in Atherton, California, a beating heart of Silicone Valley. He wanted to be an entrepreneur from his early days, selling apples by the roadside as a child. He was also, according to himself, great in maths and quite stubborn.

Tim says his childhood was very free as he was allowed to experiment and explore the world on his own, including trekking alone with his friends from 15. As an adult, he believes this trust and freedom from his parents helped him become who he is now.

Tim Draper’s Early Business Success

Thanks to being the third Draper in line in venture investment, Tim had the opportunities many young businesspeople lack.

His career took off while he was still studying. Draper went to Phillips Academy in Andover (a prep school), followed by Stanford, where he graduated in electrical engineering.

During his time at Stanford, Draper interned as a marketing engineer at Hewlett-Packard for a couple of years. He also gained notoriety by creating a popular board game, “Stanford – The Game” (with Heidi Roizen as coauthor). He was also on the university’s football team.

Later, Tim attended Harvard Business School, where he got his MBA in 1984. He recalls HBS as a challenge because while Standford was very math-oriented (which was always his dominant field), Harvard focused on case studies. Tim says this was the last piece he was missing.

DFJ and first steps in venture capital investment

After his studies, Draper shortly worked as an assistant for the president of Apollo Computer, one of the first vendors of graphical workstations in the 1980s. After that, he worked in the first American investment bank, Alex, Brown & Sons. In 1985 he left to start his first own business.

The firm became known as DFJ – Draper Fisher Jurvetson (the company was later joined by Draper’s former colleague John H.N. Fisher and a talented business student Steve Jurvetson). As of May 2022, the company is still in operation, although Draper left it in 2013.

Why did Tim Draper decide to be a venture capitalist instead of a classic entrepreneur? In his own words, he had “a new idea for business every couple of weeks”, and classic entrepreneurship would require him to focus on just one, which would be a pity.

Of course, establishing a venture capital investment company was also about following the steps of Draper’s ancestors.

So, what does DFJ do? The company primarily manages a loosely interconnected network of semi-autonomous venture capital enterprises in the U.S., Asia, Latin America, and Europe. DFJ’s prominent investments include Coinbase, Baidu, Anaplan, Ring, Sisense, Tesla, Skype, SpaceX, and Twitter, and the company is considered one of the world’s most important players in its field.

As of today, Draper’s “first business child” boasts $5 billion in total assets.

Viral marketing & Hotmail

Tim Draper’s name is associated with several huge business phenomena of our age. One of them is viral marketing. According to many sources, Draper was the first to start using the methods like advertisement emails in the middle of the 1990s.

It all began with Draper’s investment in Sabeer Bhatia and Jack Smith, owners of a small yet ambitious company called Hotmail. By his own account, Draper himself came up with the idea to attach a brief automated advertisement message to each outgoing Hotmail email.

Although the term virtual marketing was already documented earlier in another context, Jurvetson and Draper from DFJ called their invention by this name and the term was soon widely used all across the communities of marketers and entrepreneurs.

Bitcoin

Tim Draper is one of the world’s most vocal and prominent advocates of cryptocurrencies, firmly believing in their great future and investing millions of dollars in them.

He is famous for predicting that crypto will soon replace ordinary currencies completely and that FIAT will no longer be needed soon. Although cryptocurrencies fluctuated dramatically over the last couple of years, Draper reportedly still trusts their potential wholeheartedly.

In 2014, Draper spent more than $19 million for about 30,000 bitcoins seized from the persecuted Silk Road’s founder ​​Ross Ulbrich (sentenced to life in prison) by the US Marshals.

The darknet godfather’s wealth was officially auctioned to the public and Draper was one of 45 bidders. Tim turned this investment into almost $1,335,000,000, becoming one of a few people who truly became billionaires thanks to crypto.

What is probably the most fascinating about this success is that Draper actually predicted in 2014 that bitcoin would reach $10,000 per unit in just three years – and it crossed this milestone exactly in three years in November 2017.

Surprisingly, despite making a fortune on Ulbricht’s downfall, Draper is a vocal supporter of the Silk Road’s founder, calling for his release, as “the world needs brilliant minds like this, and who knows what else could he come up with.”

Tim Draper’s Youtube Videos

Tim Draper was a speaker at ​​Crypto Finance Conference 2018 in California. In his 16-minutes long speech, he explained why he believes that crypto is the rocket fuel of the 4th industrial revolution and gave some valuable tips to anyone willing to invest in them.

Where is Bitcoin in 20 years? And where will it be in the next 15? In this interview for Foundr magazine, Tim Draper shares his visions, predictions, and even some good tips for those who would like to become the next Elon Musk.

In this 29-minute speech from 2020, Tim Draper explains everything he believes we should know about investing. The video was recorded at Startup Istanbul, which Draper attended as a guest speaker.

See also: Carvana Competitors Analysis

Tim Draper’s Business Failures

Tim Draper has always been very open about the risks and downfalls of venture capitalism. He also has no issues admitting that he has often been a bit too aggressive and brisk in his decisions.

As he famously says, he has been more wrong than right in his career, but it somehow still worked out well.

Draper’s first losses were associated with his first company, the DFJ. Tim started the business with his own capital of $2 million and an additional borrowed $6 million and invested all the money in private companies and exciting projects in about 3 to 4 years.

This allowed Tim to build his track record, but he also ran out of cash, and at some point, he was just a few months away from bankruptcy. Draper was even on SBA’s (small businesses administration) dirt list. Luckily, the fortune has shown her smiling face to Tim again.

After establishing a risky yet successful fund between Silicon Valley and Alaska, the company was able to get its record back on track. Then, in 1991, the market boomed with companies like Banyon, Parametric, and others going public, and Draper skyrocketed to the SBIC of the year.

School vouchers

In 2000, Draper invested $23 million in a failed effort to support so-called school vouchers. The whole project was born out of Draper’s frustration with public schools, fueled by his personal experiences as a father of four.

Known as Proposition 38, Draper’s proposal would provide $4,000 vouchers to students selecting to attend parochial or private schools. Draper hoped it would start a whole revolution in how Americans are educated.

Nevertheless, more than 70% of California residents rejected his proposal, turning the whole initiative into a huge debacle.

Split California Proposal

In early 2014, Draper submitted his petition to collect signatures for the division of California into six independent states to California’s Secretary of State Debra Bowen. Draper argued that the state becomes “increasingly ungovernable” as a single body.

Nevertheless, his plan fell short as the initiative did not raise enough valid signatures to land on the ballot in 2016.

In 2018, Tim Draper followed by collecting more than half a million signatures for the cause, but this time he proposed the division of California into three states only. Although the proposal officially qualified for the 2018 general election, the California Supreme Court blocked it from the ballot.

Theranos

Tim Draper was one of the first to invest in the laboratory start-up called Theranos. However, the company’s founder Elizabeth Holmes was later charged with committing massive fraud and faced up to 20 years in prison if found guilty.

Draper defended Holmes, once a promising entrepreneur worth $4.5 billion, for a long time, claiming that she was just “bullied into submission”. Although Theranos investors lost more than $600 million in total, Draper still respects Holmes and states she never lied to him.

Tim Draper’s Family

In 1982, Tim Draper married Melissa Lee Parker at the First Presbyterian Church of Burlingame, California. It happened after Tim’s graduation from Stanford and before he entered Harvard a few months later.

At that time, Melissa was a graduate of the Crystal Springs School in Hillsborough and Smith College, and worked as a public-relations coordinator for Macy’s California. She was also a member of the Junior League of San Francisco.

Tim and Melissa have four children together. Jessica Cook “Jesse” Draper is a venture capitalist and TV personality. Adam Draper follows his father’s footsteps as a Silicon Valley investor. Bill Draper and Eleanor Draper are both actors.

Tim is known to be supporting all his children enthusiastically, whether it is about their business careers or personal lives. The family seems to be close-knitted, and none of Draper’s children are associated with any significant scandals or controversies.

Tim Draper’s Net Worth and Career Earnings

Tim Draper avoids answering direct questions on his net worth and earnings. He is, obviously, usually referred to as a billionaire, but estimating his assets is quite difficult.

Some media evaluate his current net worth as somewhere around $2 billion, whereas Forbes estimates it should “only” be around $1.2 as of 2022.

Tim Draper’s Real Estate Holdings

Tim owns a house in Atherton, California, which he reportedly lives in with his family. Besides that, he also has quite an eccentric collection of real estate holdings, including a private island resort on Tanzanian lake Tanganyika and two safari parks in the same country.

Lupita Island Lodge recently opened its gates to tourists. The compound contains 11 thatched-roof villas for two 1,800 square feet each, plus two 2,400 square feet family cottages. If you would like to try it out, beware that a single night for two will cost you around $1,900.

Besides enjoying the luxurious environment of the lodge itself, you can also try helicopter sightseeing trips, safari adventures, or lake kayaking in your spare time. Tim Draper, however, will most likely not be there to greet you in person.

Tim Draper’s Quotes

“Bitcoin frees people from trying to operate in a modern market economy.”

“​​Free markets are amazing.”

“You’re best off when you’re part of the center of the creative universe.”

“We need choices of government, just like we have choices of tables or chairs or cell phones or coffee.”

“Monopolies are bad because people get bad service for high prices. Competition is good because people get good service for competitive prices.”

“If you want to be a visionary, go out and have some accidents!”

“Fail and fail again till you hit success. Winning comes from the willingness to fail.”

“Cryptocurrency will force out ordinary one in five years.”

“NFTS is going to be applied to real estate in the physical world.”

“Make sure your market is big enough and margins are high enough.”

FAQs

Question: What is Tim Draper investing in?

Answer: Tim Draper is a venture capitalist with a wide range of investments worldwide. Some of his most notable projects include Tesla, SpaceX, Skype, Baidu, Hotmail, and many others. He is also known for large investments in cryptocurrency.

Question: What crypto is Tim Draper buying?

Answer: Draper is mainly known for investing in Bitcoin and predicting a great future for this cryptocurrency despite its regular fluctuation. But Bitcoin is not the only currency that caught Draper’s eye. The billionaire has invested in about 50 cryptocurrency-related companies.

Question: Is Tim Draper associated with Meet the Drapers?

Answer: Yes, Meet the Drapers is a popular TV competition where young creatives and start-ups compete for a $1 million investment from Tim Draper. The series involves several members of the Draper family, including Tim, his sister Polly, and his daughter Jesse.

Recommended Reads:

Research and Citations

https://www.library.hbs.edu/Entrepreneurs/resources/persons/timothy-c.-draper

https://www.mercurynews.com/2015/02/05/tim-draper-venture-capitalists-eccentricity-runs-deep/

https://www.forbes.com/profile/tim-draper/?sh=3a7feecaf341

https://wealthypipo.com/tim-draper-net-worth

https://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/02/petition-to-split-california-into-six-states-gets-green-light/

https://fortune.com/2013/11/19/exclusive-tim-draper-is-leaving-dfj/

https://www.nytimes.com/1982/08/15/style/melissa-lee-parker-becomes-the-bride-of-timothy-cook-draper-in-california.html

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2000-11-05/tim-drapers-voucher-crusade

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