Founder Story: Jesse Draper
Jesse Draper has a penchant for fabulous, and in an industry that most would argue has trouble ligthening up, she has found a place in the hearts of some of Silicon Valley’s most formidable players. Draper’s web-based talk show, The Valley Girl Show, focuses on individual interviews with technology’s brightest minds. Names like Schmidt, Kohsla, and Cuban have all courageously set foot on Draper’s pink set to discuss anything and everything the 28 year-old hostess wants to know. What sets Draper’s unique brand of journalism apart from other press outlets that cover Silicon Valley is her innate ability to show a rarely seen jovial side to these serious tech tycoons. Whether she is playing Segway Polo with Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak or talking aerobics with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, Draper ensures that her guests, and her audience, are having fun.
The daughter of third-generation venture capitalist Tim Draper, Jesse grew up Silicon Valley royalty. She earned a degree from UCLA’s premier theatre program and has used it to fuse her passions for arts and business. Utilizing her vast network of connections and her unmatched determination, Draper has blazed her own trail to entrepreneurial success.
A proud Santa Monica resident, Jesse graciously agreed to chat with us about her journey. We discussed everything from her thoughts on LA’s digital revolution, why you need to care about every detail when building your personal brand, and how she plans on becoming the Ellen Degeneres of business.
Name: Jesse Draper
Company/Position: Valley Girl, Inc./CEO
Hometown/Current City: Silicon Valley/Santa Monica
Entrepreneurial Icon: Sheryl Sandberg & Ellen Degeneres
Words To Live By: 80% of success is just showing up
Can you give us a background of who you are and what you do?
I would call myself a new age media personality. I created and host a talk show called “The Valley Girl Show” (like “Silicon” Valley). We interview CEO’s and entrepreneurs in an approachable and digestible way. We are, in essence, the first FUN business talk show. One of the things that makes our digital model different is that we started on the internet and have grown a following through all non-traditional media outlets. We quickly realized that on Youtube we were competing with cats and laughing babies and let’s face it…you can’t compete with those! They’re too cute! We are a professionally produced talk show and we were competing with user-generated content. We now distribute on every screen we can find, we are everywhere from on screens in restaurants and airports to TV boxes like Boxee and Roku and we also partner with various news outlets like Mashable and distribute our content on those sites as well.
I grew up around entrepreneurs during the dot com boom with a Dad who was a Venture Capitalist so I literally knew nothing else. My Dad would bring home the first proto-types of technology products and programs and my brother Adam and I would test them and play with them. My Dad brought me into pitch meetings and raised my siblings and I like entrepreneurs. I went to the first Skype board meeting in Estonia and I told the founders about Facebook when I was there (they had never heard of it back in the day).
We (my siblings and I) were told to look at everything as a business. I went into acting and was on a Nickelodeon show for a couple of years called “The Naked Brother’s Band”.I quickly learned how the acting profession worked. I definitely respect it, but I couldn’t sit in auditions for hours every day, so I decided to turn the entertainment profession I had chosen into a business like my father had instilled in me to do. Growing up around all of these incredible entrepreneurs, I would see them on CNN or Bloomberg being grilled on their numbers and I would think to myself, they are much more creative and interesting people than just their numbers. I had this idea for a fun business talk show, so, I just went for it! I started it in my parent’s garage and had no idea what I was doing!
Bright futures are definitely hard to predict, but I do often see companies that I get really excited about when I meet the entrepreneur. Recently I have been seeing a lot more e-commerce, data and digital media companies. In the e-commerce space, there is one early stage company called Crane and Canopy that I believe in. They are starting focused only in bedding and have figured out a way to cut out the middle man and get you the same quality bedding that Vera Wang makes and sells at Bloomingdales’s for a fraction of the price by going straight to the manufacturers (in India), literally, the same one as Vera Wang. And, its GREAT bedding! I think this is an interesting e-commerce model we may be seeing more of. Cutting out the middle man. One company not necessarily in these categories that I love is TaskRabbit! These guys help you get done anything you don’t have time to do! It’s like a well oiled Craigslist for anything you need, complete with background checks and driving record checks, I have used them for: errand running, administrative work, driving places and more. I’m obsessed! And their TaskRabbits are quality people who know exactly what they’re doing.
You need to care about every detail.
- Keep in mind, if you are the face of your brand, everyone you are surrounding yourself with represents you; that includes companies you work with, people within your company and even friends. Surround yourself with great people who represent you well.
- A brand is like a product you are always trying to improve. This year, we re-evaluated my wardrobe for the show with my amazing costume designer Valerie Iida (http://www.valerieiida.com), in the past I had been wearing very girly pink dresses on the show and this year we decided to grow up a little bit and created a more professional pink, business savvy look that has helped age up our brand a little which was inspired by the amount of skin I appeared to be showing in my interview with….wait for it…Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.
I feel like I am still building my career, I will probably always feel that way. There are so many. I am regularly surprised at which interviews I do on my show that are memorable to me.
- Ted Turner singing the “Captain Planet” theme song with me.
- Elon Musk eating escargot with me.
- Sheryl Sandberg is a huge hero of mine, so interviewing her.
- Smashing a TV with a sledgehammer with the founders of Justin.tv
However, I think the most memorable moment in my career would be the moment I realized that people were taking my show seriously. There was a point where I went from a goofy pink girl, to a newsmaker and that changed my game.
The LA tech scene is where old Hollywood and new media intersect. I believe we are still in the beginning of this digital movement and I am now committed to it and a part of it. If you are in entertainment at all, you have to be in LA… and if you are in entertainment at all, you are a goner if you don’t accept the digital age upon us. As far as startups are concerned all the best digital media startups are here: Big Frame, Maker Studios, Machinima, Chill…
I want to be the Ellen DeGeneres of business and I was put on this Earth to encourage women in the workplace. So those are the two directions I am headed.