(Yicai Global) Sept. 28 -- "Collecting art is a way to see into the past, and collecting space artifacts lets you see into the future."
It is not unusual to see expensive works of art hanging in the offices of in charge of risk investment companies, but Tim Draper, the founder of Draper Fisher Jurvetson, one of the world's leading venture capitalist companies investing in billion dollar startups is a maverick.
Our Yicai reporter saw many components of space ships displayed in his office, such as a panel from the command module of Apollo 13, the fuel cell of its lunar module, its rocket engine, and also the control panel of Soyuz, from Russia's space program.
As well as collecting historical aeronautical artifacts, Mr. Draper's firm, as of October last year, is one of the six largest and most active investors in the space sector, which has had over USD10 billion of private capital invested in it since 2005
"The pioneers of many industries enable me to see the future world." This, in a nutshell is Mr. Draper's investment ideal. The 1.9-meter-tall gray-suited investor in a colourful red tie beamed throughout the interview, as though he had never experienced failure in his life.
In his over-30-year investment career, Mr. Draper has invested in over 1,000 startup companies, with risk capital of over USD4 billion raised, including 20 unicorns - companies with a value of USD1 billion such as Baidu, Tesla, Skype, Hotmail, Twitch.TV and Parametric Technology being among the most well-known.
During his visit to China, Mr. Draper said that he would attach importance to AI and unmanned driving as key investment fields.
After gaining a degree in electronic engineering at Stanford University in 1980, Mr. Draper went to Harvard Business School. After graduating in 1984, he founded Draper Associates, who also founded DFJ the same year.
In 2000, when other US funds were focusing on Silicon Valley, Mr. Draper instead paid close attention to China's innovative enterprises. DFJ bought into Baidu, which had a valuation of several million dollars at that time. This also helped Baidu's team shape its business mode. It assisted Baidu in its listing in 2005, a venture that netted DFJ a 50-fold capital return.
Though he is no longer a shareholder, Mr. Draper still keeps track of Baidu's recent development in founding an independent risk control company. "Investment companies of major enterprises really work, for instance, Intel Capital is such a success."
While DFJ may not buy into Baidu any more, Mr. Draper thinks they could still share resources and projects in terms of investment. Draper also praised Baidu's investment in driverless cars.
Falling in Love with KTV
From 2008 to 2014, the average annual yields of Draper Associates, the personal investment platform owned by Mr. Draper, exceeded 25 percent. Mr. Draper holds that the phenomenon of high price and poor service is prevalent in promising investment areas such as finance, education, governmental sectors and pharmacy, where sound investment opportunities can be gained with the help of the Internet and attendant technologies.
He recognizes that the Chinese government has invested enormously to encourage entrepreneurship, but that greater innovation could be inspired if the government continued to allow equity holdings by foreign capital in certain fields.
To up their investment in the Chinese market, DFJ and Dragon Venture in Silicon Valley jointly built the DFJ Dragon Fund China. During its ten-year operation in China, three USD funds and three CNY funds have been established, and the new brand Draper Dragon has officially kicked off this year, carrying on startup business investment in China and the U.S.
Mr. Draper says he is a special fan of China's karaoke television, or KTV bars to let off steam and help him relax away from the pressures of investing. In Japan, karaoke, which translates as 'silent orchestra' is traditionally performed in an open bar, whereas in China, people prefer to sing in a smaller room with a group of friends or colleagues.
In a photo he showed to our reporter, he was singing heartily with his eyes closed, his hands in the air his head tilted to the ceiling. The photo shows the human side of this successful investor, collector of space exploration paraphernalia and unicorns and a loud voice in global venture capital.
Timothy Cook Draper, (born June 11, 1958) is an American venture capital investor and founder of Draper Fisher Jurvetson, who invented the concept of viral marketing in conjunction with Hotmail. Mr. Draper is also the founder of Draper Associates and The Draper University of Heroes, which offers crash courses in entrepreneurship.