William Draper III: What’s Wrong With A Little Cooperation?

If you counted the number of times William Draper III used the word “cooperation” at a public event last week…well, you might not think you were in Silicon Valley.

But there you were – right at the heart of it – at the Rosewood Hotel on Sand Hill Road, next to where venture firms syndicate large rounds for important deals and where cooperation isn’t what it used to be.

This is according to Draper, one of the fathers of the modern venture business and still an active investor who will be 83 this year.

“There was cooperation in the olden days,” he said. “It was a cooperative environment.”
Then came the right hook. “You don’t want to lose that.”

Draper was celebrating the release of his book, The Startup Game, with a book signing that brought luminaries from across the business and country: Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers Partner Ted Schlein, National Venture Capital Association President Mark Heesen and son Tim Draper, managing director of Draper Fisher Jurvetson.

The book looks at the relationship between entrepreneurs and venture capitalists through the personal recollections of this lifelong business man, who came to Silicon Valley in 1959 to join the West Coast’s first venture capital firm. It was an organization named Draper, Gaither & Anderson that included his father.

But rather than dwell on how the script was written, Draper felt inclined last Thursday to weigh in on the issues of the day – a venture industry struggling to find liquidity for its portfolio companies, with sagging fundraising and a shakeout anticipated to endanger second tier firms.

“In the current situation, be careful of being too greedy,” he told the small crowd. If VCs can’t share a deal, “that’s not so good for the industry.”

Then came several other pearls of wisdom.

“Silicon Valley will always be the mother church” of the industry,” and “I think the world is still young for venture capital.”

Finally: “there is a hell of a lot of luck in how this fits together.”

Now you know.