It’s the second week of 2014, and I’m on my way to visit the world’s innovation center, Silicon Valley, for the first time.
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My destination: 2882 Sand Hill Road, Menlo Park in California. I’m to meet Tim Draper, founder of venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson.
(Tim Draper On Venture Capital Returns)
DFJ’s office is surrounded outside by fountains and manicured lawns. The air smells of flowers and the fragrance of clean earth. I started taking deep breathes. Clean air like this is something that a mountain of gold can’t buy in the Chinese big city from where I come.
Draper is intimately involved with the potential solution to alleviate China’s environmental disaster. Tesla Motors Inc., an electric car company that DFJ invested in, is building a Tesla Motors dealership in Beijing. The company says that hundreds of its Model S sedans have been pre-ordered by Chinese customers.
DFJ has also invested in numerous clean tech companies in China through its affiliate programs, including hybrid electric vehicle magnet motor producer Jing Jin Electric, power-line communicate technology firm Miartech, Inc. and smart grid software provider GridNt.
I met Draper at his office in a conference room named Millenium Falcon, with a Lego display of the namesake spaceship. The entire office is filled with interesting artifacts such as a 4 billion year-old rock, a dinosaur sculpture and spaceship models.
Tall but unimposing, Draper is warm yet it’s clear that he has no patience for dull conversations. So I ask him what new technologies excite him.
“I like Bitcoin. I think it’s a great opportunity for some country to capitalize on the new currency – that includes China if the country opens itself up for the currency,” he says.
In the summer of 2012, Draper invested in a Seattle startup, CoinLab. And Draper University of Heroes, an immersive boarding school for encouraging proactive entrepreneurship recently founded by Draper, is accepting the virtual currency for tuition payment.
Other exciting new technologies on his watch list are 3D printing, global positioning technology, drone technology and wearable devices. He wears a Pebble Watch on his left wrist himself. This, of course, is another company that Draper invested in.
We also talked about DFJ’s investment activities in China. Draper, like many investors I’ve talked with and unlike most commentators on China, is enthusiastic about China’s economy and investment opportunities.
He notes that DFJ’s investments in China have a much higher success rate, something like two failures out of 30 companies, compared with maybe 15 failures in Silicon Valley.
Draper is also not shy from admitting that a tech bubble, at least in the U.S., is on its way. He believes that the next two to three years will be the golden age for venture capital, just like 1999 and the early 2000s.
“Now is a great time to invest in venture capital,” he says with a grin.
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