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Investor Tim Draper's key to success: Admitting mistakes, being diligent, meditation

What makes investor Tim Draper tick, and the one question he almost always asks before investing in a startup.

June 30, 2021 / 06:51 PM IST
An April 2018 photo of venture capitalist and CAL 3 Chairman Tim Draper speaking at a press conference. (PC-REUTERS/ Stephen Lam)

An April 2018 photo of venture capitalist and CAL 3 Chairman Tim Draper speaking at a press conference. (PC-REUTERS/ Stephen Lam)

“Why are you doing this?”

That’s the one question billionaire investor Tim Draper almost always asks startup founders. And the answer that usually impresses him the most is, “because my boss did it all wrong and the customer wanted this. This is where we got to go.”

Speaking to CNBC Make It, Draper said, “They (the founders) don’t have to be crazy cheerleaders. They just have to have this certainty or confidence that what they’re going after is important.”

Draper, 63, comes from a privileged background. His grandfather started a venture capital firm in 1959. His father was an investor too. That said, he was not served everything on a platter. In fact, as a child, he was encouraged to explore the world outside and become independent.

Among other things, Draper sold apples and delivered oysters in his youth. At 14, he climbed the tricky Mount Rainier with a 15-year-old friend.


“My childhood was great and it was very free. I worry when people don’t allow their kids to do anything (out of concern),” Draper said. “I’m going to give my mother a lot of credit here. My mom just said, ‘go explore’. I think she may have just wanted me out of her hair but for me, that was like, ‘Wow, the world is completely open’.”

Life is not as simple anymore, and it would be foolish to let your kids out on a mountain by themselves, unless they are trained for it. But the gist of this type of parenting – not over-protecting or curbing children - can still be beneficial.

Read more: Maye Musk, mom to Tosca, Kimbal and Elon Musk, on the art and fight of raising successful kids

Draper’s persona is a blend of the quirky and the no-nonsense. He has performed with rock star Carlos Santana to unflattering reviews, swum in the San Francisco Bay without a wetsuit and drank snake blood in Taiwan.

At the same time, there are certain things that are non-negotiable to him, such as not beating around the bush if a mistake is made.

“I have found that if you do screw up, it’s best to get the word out right away and not hesitate. Don’t spin it. You have to be willing to take the heat or just say, ‘Hey, we screwed up. We’re gonna try to do it this way next time,” he told CNBC Make It. “That will save you countless troubles, trials and tribulations.”

He spoke about the role of meditation in his life. Draper has been doing it since his 20s.

“I did it a lot when I was in my 20s and now I can actually do it in a very short period of time and get the same benefit,” he told CNBC Make It. “I count down to 20 and back up to one as I take two or three deep breaths between each (number). And I allow my mind to wander. Different people meditate in different ways, but it’s a way for me to identify the problems that I’m dealing with, and then when I come back out of it, I go, ‘Okay, now I know what I have to do’.”
Akshay Sawai
first published: Jun 30, 2021 06:18 pm
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