Bill Silverfarb/Daily Journal
NBC Bay Area's Raj Mathai interviews venture capitalist Tim Draper at his school for entrepreneurs in downtown San Mateo Thursday.
While Tim Draper is looking to create heroes at his new university for entrepreneurs in downtown San Mateo, he is starting to be looked at as a hero himself by some of his students, many who have traveled across the world to learn from the venture capitalist who first funded Hotmail and Skype here and Baidu in China.
His school for entrepreneurs, The Draper University of Heroes, is in full swing now and its current class has attracted a slew of students from the Middle East.
Amr Sobhy and Ahmed Essam, from Egypt, and Ali Chehade, from Lebanon, are embracing the Draper experience and are looking forward to bringing new ideas and new jobs to their home countries.
“Ever since the revolution, we have seen big companies pull out of Egypt. Some seed funders are starting to take the risk and a new economy is starting to be created,” said Sobhy, 24.
Chehade, 21, heard about the university through LinkedIn and even heard there were scholarships available to attend. The economies in both countries are not doing well and they hope to help change that.
Thursday, the three and about 35 other students got to sit in as Draper was being interviewed by news anchor Raj Mathai with NBC Bay Area for a segment called “The Interview.”
Mathai asked the man known as “The Riskmaster” whether his school was the real deal or just some “goofy” idea. After all, the students have their own oath they recite every morning before the school day begins.
Draper laughed at the question and told Mathai he plans to open up similar schools all over the world.
Having the students recite the credo could be beneficial down the road, he said.
The oath starts with the line, “I will promote freedom at all costs” with another line reading “I will fail and fail again until I succeed.”
These type of entrepreneurial schools, Draper said, will completely redefine the business of venture capitalism.
“The goal is to have the students come out better people,” Draper said.
He plans on funding his own students’ ideas, too, he told Mathai as the students lounged on bean bags on the ground floor of the old Benjamin Franklin Hotel on Fourth Avenue. The Collective building, across from the hotel, will open in June as about 80 students are scheduled to attend the summer session, said Carol Lo, the university’s chief operating officer. The university campus will eventually be housed in three buildings downtown.
In Egypt, a group called Flat6Labs has started to invest in technology startups, providing support for young entrepreneurs.
Sobhy and Essam know the group well but it is one of only two funds in the country that support startups, they told the Daily Journal.
The government is the issue, they said, because it supports larger corporations greater than it does small- and- medium-sized businesses.
They are hoping that will change over time.
While the university’s current class has lots of international students, it also attracted Palo Alto resident Alton Sun, who never applied for any college before finding Draper. He is affiliated with a company called Somaxis, which makes wireless, wearable sensors to measure the relationship between the heart and muscles.
One of Sun’s main interests is to build success spirals, helping people become competent in a skill set so that it gives them confidence to achieve even greater things in life.
“So much of life is momentum,” Sun said after he watched Mathai interview Draper.
Half of the university’s students this session are international and another half receive financial aid, Lo said.
In the university’s pilot program last summer, one of its first students, Surbhi Sarna, was able to secure up to $2.4 million in venture capital funding for her medical device company called nVision.
Although entrepreneurship and creating your own business can be stressful and hard work, Draper likes to keep it light.
When Mathai asked Draper to describe himself in three words, he responded, “really, really fun.”
To learn more about the university go to: www.draperuniversity.com
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