REDWOOD CITY, Calif. – How much is about two hours of your time worth?
Venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson of Draper Fisher Jurvetson, thanks to a recent charity auction on eBay, can give a precise market value for the time it takes have breakfast with him: $9,400. That’s the cumulative price two entrepreneurs paid to shoot the breeze with Mr. Jurvetson over Huevos Rancheros and coffee at Buck’s, the Silicon Valley eatery that is to venture capital what Sardi’s is to Broadway.
The auction, an idea conceived of by a friend of Buck’s owner Jamis MacNiven, was held to benefit the Emergency Housing Consortium, a network of eight homeless shelters scattered throughout Silicon Valley. By virtue of Buck’s proximity to Sand Hill Road, Mr. MacNiven has grown friendly with many of the Valley’s top VCs, who often dine at the restaurant with hopeful entrepreneurs pitching their business plans.
When Mr. MacNiven contacted his regular customer Mr. Jurvetson about the idea, the VC was more than happy to oblige. Mr. Jurvetson, who estimated that he dines at Buck’s several times a week, has a particular interest in the homeless, as he did some pro bono work with shelters in San Francisco while he was at Bain Capital.
But did Mr. Jurvetson believe that a breakfast with him could command so much money?
“I didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “I thought, Maybe a friend will put up a few hundred dollars as a joke.’ I didn’t think an entrepreneur would be a real factor.”
One aspiring entrepreneur proved Mr. Jurvetson wrong. Mark Hernandez, a New York investment banker and Internet investor, was briefly introduced to Mr. Jurvetson once before though a mutual acquaintance. He wanted another opportunity to discuss a few of his Internet investments with the VC when he heard about the eBay auction.
“A friend called me and said, You’re not going to believe this, but Steve’s being auctioned on eBay,'” Mr. Hernandez said. “I thought, What a great sort of angle to meet Steve.'”
The would-be entrepreneur looks forward to his chance to pick the brain of the well-respected VC. “Steve is quite possibly one of the most impressive people I’ve ever met,” Mr. Hernandez said. “He’s very down-to-earth. He just gets it.”
Remarkably, however, Mr. Hernandez’s $4,400 winning bid was not the end of the story. Soon after the week-long auction ended, another undisclosed entrepreneur contacted the Emergency Housing Consortium complaining that he had been unable to log onto the auction, but offered to pay $5,000 if the charity could arrange a second breakfast. Again, Mr. Jurvetson agreed.
The auction was such a success, the Emergency Housing Consortium is considering making it a regular fund raising event. “We had no idea going in if the concept would ever fly,” said Maury Kendall, communications manager for the charity. The organization sought bidders’ feedback after the auction, and the response was unequivocally positive, Mr. Kendall said.
Can a VC’s time really be worth about $80 a minute? Well, the money is for charity, and at least everyone gets a free meal out of the deal. Buck’s is picking up the tab.