Draper University of Heroes Takes Holistic Approach to Teaching Entrepreneurship

Tim Draper, founder of the VC firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson,  is taking a holistic approach to entrepreneurial education with his “Draper University for Heroes” in San Mateo. Here is a promo video from the school’s website.

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In a planning document submitted to the City of San Mateo on March 16, 2012 Draper made the following representations for his plan for the University:

The proposal is to provide a school for entrepreneurs, ages 21-24 with a few exceptions, who will come from all over the World. The school generally will teach fundamentals in business combined with creative encouragement.

lt is expected that the school will have regular guest speakers (successful entrepreneurs, lawyers, accountants, bankers, real estate brokers, headhunters, investment bankers, venture capitalists, scientists, artists) from industry and a steady stream of events connecting the students with the entrepreneurial world of the Silicon Valley.

The school will be boarding, both single and double occupancy with a capacity of about 150 […]

The school will have 4 ten-week sessions that ideally coordinate with the Stanford quarterly system, and we expect to be a good fit for top students who want to take a quarter off to try something different. We expect to be able to give students academic credit for their work, but that has not yet been arranged. […]

We expect to easily recruit top students from China, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Russia, Brazil, Vietnam, Korea, India, Pakistan, Europe, as well as the US, because we have strong relationships with people who are well connected with universities in each of those countries. […]

The final two weeks of class will be dedicated to applying everything the students have learned toward creating a business plan. At the end of the ten week period, students will have the opportunity to present business plans to venture capitalists in bullet sessions and follow up with them in a Q&A forum.

The school will also feature an online option for students who fall outside the age group or are not admitted to the boarding school, but still want to participate in the curriculum, the discussions, and the speakers.

It’s interesting that the focus will be on developing a business plan not a working demo for presentation. This is a departure from the focus of a number of recently formed Web 2.0 oriented accelerators and incubators but will allow students to focus on a broader set of entrepreneurial opportunities than web and mobile apps. It’s interesting that the video shows students touring the Tesla plant, a manufacturing/hardware oriented venture.

An announcement in the April 2, 2012 digest for the Business Association of Stanford Entrepreneurial Students (BASES) reads

DFJ Draper University | Students/interns

Monday, June 4th-Friday, June 29th | Ben Franklin Hotel, San Mateo

Draper University is looking for student/interns 18-24 (exceptions up to 29) to come to our pilot entrepreneurial experience from June 4th to June 29th. Interns will have an immersive experience boarding at the Ben Franklin Hotel in San Mateo. They will learn basics of finance, marketing, production, as well as some unusual classes like “future,” yoga, painting, speed reading, public speaking, negotiation, game theory and practice, and hydroponic gardening. There will be a four day offsite for team building and survival training, and there will be a week of business planning and mentoring. The final day will include a pitch to a panel of venture capitalists. Since this is a pilot program, we will not be charging tuition, but will ask the student interns for feedback. Contact Theresa Johnson if interested.

To the extent that innovation requires making connections with people and between diverse bits of  know-how and that successful entrepreneurship requires an ongoing commitment to self-improvement, creative expression, and stress management this is probably as useful a curriculum as any and perhaps better than most traditional MBA school or more recent accelerator programs.

The San Mateo County Times profiled Draper’s efforts June 25 as “Unconventional University Takes Shape in San Mateo

“I hope that when in their travels the students come to a fork in the road, the pledge will help guide them to make the right choices,” he said in an email.

Draper, who already owns the Benjamin Franklin and a former bank on Fourth Avenue, recently purchased a third building in downtown San Mateo. He paid $6.75 million for the Tudor-style edifice on Third Avenue across from the hotel, bringing his total investment in downtown real estate to $15.15, plus more than $1 million in renovations to the Benjamin Franklin.

“With the town’s support,” he said, “we hope to open what we expect to become the premier entrepreneurial development school and environment in the world.”

Draper has pursued a career in in venture capital like his father and grandfather before him. I get a clear sense of his carrying the family business, especially in the closing scenes of the promo video that highlight a conversation with his grandfather. I think this commitment will enable him to persevere with this holistic approach to fostering entrepreneurship until it achieves his goal:  “teaching students the importance of doing well while also doing good.”

h/t to Peggy Aycinena for pointing out Draper’s new initiative.

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