Review: It is time to look back at the Draper University experience.
This summer in Silicon Valley was great. We did work, had fun and made many new friends. But many of us ask if the experience was worth it? I think it was and here’s my review of Draper University.
Last couple of days have been all about sightseeing, farewell parties and goodbyes. I, on the other hand, do not believe in goodbyes. Instead, I invited everyone to visit Estonia and promised to show them around. But our journey at Draper University has come to an end and it is time to review the experience.
I loved the experience. I feel I learned a lot, developed my ideas and gained many great contacts. But I also feel that many of us came to Draper University with unreasonable expectations. In this review post, I will summaries my experience and show what YOU should expect, when going to Draper University.
First, why would you go there? To meet the people and network. That’s all!
Silicon Valley might be a great place, where people are always open to help you. But you first have to find them. One way is to find all of the contacts yourself. The other way is to go somewhere, where they will come to you. And Draper University is one of the places, where the successful entrepreneurs will come to talk and network. Plus, you will have close to SEVENTY other students, potential entrepreneurs there. Make sure you become friends with them and you might even find your co-founder. Many people have!
Of course, you also have a chance to learn a couple of new things or ways to think. But if you have been reading, learning and building a startup before, there’s a chance you have already come across most of that stuff before. And you might find your potential investor there,but this is NOT the main thing you do. NOT even on the PITCH DAY.
Some of us were disappointed, as they truly believed the investors will come after their (first) pitch and invest $ 100’000 – $ 4’000’000. But they did not. Why? Because it is not that kind of a place. And maybe because most of us did not have any traction, prototype nor a real business to show. That’s something accelerators are for.
Draper University is a place for networking. And you will use those networks to find your investors once you have built a relationship and a real business.
Second, what really happens in there? You and your thinking will be challenged. Be ready for that!
We had some great speakers coming in to tell us the story how they built their company. Tim Draper from DFJ, Sabeer Bhatia from Hotmail, Bill Draper Tim’s dad, Tony Hsieh from Zappos, Tom Proulx from Intuit and Max Mullen from Instacart are only a fewto be named. They inspired us, told us about their challenges and showed what the future will be like.
We also had some business development time. Everyone was assigned a mentor that helped us build our startups. We had a chance to discuss our businesses with many successful entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and Tim’s friends. And finally pitched our startup in front of 30-40 judges.
But non of this is what really matters. You can google the speakers, watch TED talks and go to incubators or accelerators to build your business. Draper University is more than that. It is a place you will have to team up with people you might not like, participate in challenges that are uncomfortable or seem stupid, play games, live in a farm for a week and still smile! It is a place that helps you face your fears (some of us even learned how to swim) and enlarge your comfort zone.
Tim might sometimes be goofy and not all of us liked him, but he is right that we have to lose our fears before we try to change the world. And it works!
Third, what did I learn? Rule number 13. Don’t take yourself so damn seriously!
On the first day, I made sure people knew I am a competitive person, who thinks highly of himself, but also does not take anything seriously. I do work, but I need to have fun at the same time.
Fortunately people I got to my team liked to compete as well, and we were trying to be the best in everything. But we did not win the overall competition. What happened? We found out that having a great team, having fun and enjoying yourself is way more important than just winning. And we really believe we had the best team. Or at least we spent the most time with our team and gained five great friends for life. Thank you Aaron, Christophe, Jose, Luchang and Pearl!
We also learned how to think 10x (bigger than most), ask stupid questions (the best ones), what people really want (to be a part of something new), mediation, how to become a leader, how to build a lean startup, how to use social media, read “cynically”, hustle your way to top, deliver happiness, analytics, focus, raise money when you do not need it, build a culture, talk to investors, do finances, public speaking and pitching. And all the things we did in the Survival Week (that was the best part of the whole Draper University experience).
But all in all, step out of your comfort zone, SAY YES and do not take yourself so damn seriously!
So, should you go to Draper University? If you don’t already have a successful startup, then yes!
If you have a started building a startup, Draper University might ruin your plans and make you pivot. That’s what happened to me, because on the first day, Tim Draper asked if the thing I do is in my heart or in my head. And for me it was more in my head. And since you really have to love what you do and believe in it, as the road will be rocky, I pivoted completely. But I do not regret it, as now I am going for something I did not believe I should go for before going to Draper University.
You will also have to be away from your family, wife or girlfriend and friends for five to seven weeks. But that is worth it if you know why you are doing it. Question is, why do you do it? And if you do not know it yet, Draper University might help you find the WHY.
All in all, I recommend you to apply Draper University. Just go for it and you will never come back the same!
You will get friends, will learn new things, might find a potential investor, challenge your thinking, lose your fears and learn not to take yourself so god damn seriously!
Let me know, how your experience was. Or let’s talk more about mine!