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Venture Capitalist Plays Air Guitar, Offers Advice

Seeing venture capitalist Timothy Draper play air guitar and sing a rock tune he penned about entrepreneurial risk takers was certainly memorable. But the founder and managing director of Draper Fisher Jurveston (DFJ) was more intent on driving home his overall message encouraging aspiring entrepreneurs to “change the world.”

“Go out there and do something,” Draper told his audience of 200 students at an event hosted by the Michael P. Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship at the Hyde Park Center April 11. It’s the people who “go after the world and say ‘this thing needs changing’” that his seed and venture capital firm tends to back. He said he personally responds to pitches in which entrepreneurs have creative ideas on how to “overthrow those lazy bureaucratic incumbents.” He pointed to such DFJ investments as free e-mail provider Hotmail and Internet phone provider Skype as examples. “We have focused. We have dedicated ourselves pretty much exclusively to entrepreneurs who go out into the world and make all those supreme sacrifices, with one thing in mind—that the world needs changing.”

Draper offered pointers for assessing motivation. “We’re looking for an entrepreneur with the passion and energy that will take them through whatever it takes to make this thing happen. If they do it just for the money it’s a fair-weather thing; they’re there for a short period of time.”

Entrepreneurs face financial, social, and career risks, and Draper called them heroes. Instead of seeking “steady, stable jobs,” he said, “go for something fun. Go for something you love.”

—Jenn Q. Goddu