Silicon Valley holds the reputation for being the premiere scene for technology startups and venture capital firms. But what if that same experience and the resources of Silicon Valley could be replicated across the planet?
Draper Startup House (DSH) does just that; after its formation in 2019, DSH has blossomed into a valuable tool for all levels of innovators and entrepreneurs with locations ranging from its international headquarters in Singapore to its United States (US) headquarters in Austin.
With nine locations globally, DSH is proudly part of the Draper Ecosystem, started by venture capitalist, Tim Draper.
Draper is a renowned venture capitalist who created the Draper Venture Network, a global network of 24 independent venture capital firms, as well as founded Draper University, a pre-accelerator program for early-stage entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley. Recently, Draper added to his ecosystem with his investment in the new entity, Draper Startup House.
Draper University provides an opportunity to all stages of entrepreneurs, college students and anyone who has an innovative idea for a business.
Daniel Wiegand and Katie Russel, co-founders of DSH, each got their start in the Draper Ecosystem by participating in Draper University. Wiegand went on to create the Draper Hero Institute, the non-profit arm of the Draper Ecosystem; while Russel led all Business Development and Marketing for the University, and helped to create Draper University Ventures, a pre-seed fund for Draper University alumni. This opportunity opened their eyes to the possibility of providing Silicon Valley-type resources to all entrepreneurs, no matter their location.
“It's a five-week pre-accelerator program, and for people who just have a business idea or a founder who might have 20 people on their team already. But it is really to get you back to the fundamentals of entrepreneurship and help you really dive into your business and your idea,” Russel said. “Through our experience there, we realized that having the opportunity to come to this program and Silicon Valley itself was inaccessible to most of the world … so we thought, why don't we create Draper Startup House? [DSH] is essentially taking everything that the Draper ecosystem in Silicon Valley has, package it up and distribute through different hubs in cities all over the world.”
DSH provides hostels for the entrepreneurial community in each location. In these spaces, they allow human connection to take place as individuals can connect with other entrepreneurs and immerse themselves in different cultures as well as the local startup ecosystems.
“It's really about keeping that unique aspect of every location that you are in; where you know if you're traveling to Bali, Singapore, or Austin, we are still wanting to maintain that identity … we want each location to have a unique feel while maintaining that consistent brand experience so you know what you're going to get,” Wiegand said. “One of the things we talked about when we were starting this, was that hostels, especially in the US, have a negative connotation. You do not exactly know what you are getting until you get there. But we wanted to standardize that and ensure guests that they are going to have a quality product, while still having those local elements of each location. The teams at each location are locals which helps integrate guests into the local ecosystems.”
Naturally, any organization has competitors; with DSH being in the hospitality business and the startup scene, they have a unique set of competitors. Russel sees their distinctive approach as a way to separate themselves from similar organizations by using the Draper brand.
“We are not an accelerator; we are not an incubator; we are not a fund. A lot of times when people come to us, they think we fall into one of those categories. But actually, the core of our business is hospitality. What really separates us is being able to utilize the Draper brand,” Russel said. “Tim Draper is a very prominent venture capitalist, and he has built this extraordinary brand over the past 40 years. So, us being part of that ecosystem allows us to plug into their resources, as we enter markets with an already a known brand and products i.e Draper University education and access to the Draper Venture Network funds.”
While the Draper brand allows DSH to have an advantage over the potential competition, the nature and goals of the organization open the door for DSH to work directly with anyone who could be considered a competitor.
“The other reason we do not see ourselves as really a competitor to anyone in this space is that we really want to help supplement each ecosystem we go into,” Wiegand said. “Entrepreneurs who come through our space may not be a good fit for a Draper fund. [So,] we partner with the local ecosystems, the local VCs, angels, accelerators and send that entrepreneur to whoever is the best fit for them.”
When deciding where to locate their US headquarters, DSH wanted to choose a place that provided an ecosystem where they and all entrepreneurs can grow. Naturally, they chose the capital of Texas as DSH Austin officially opened in 2020.
“We saw huge potential in Austin. This was always the first place we wanted to go outside of Silicon Valley. Texas is one of the best places in the country to start a business. There's a ton of talent and a ton of colleges and universities nearby; not to mention, with the way the world is also changing, it's a place where people want to be,” Wiegand said. “Texas, in general, is doing all the right things and making it very easy for businesses to start and thrive.”
Russel noted that it is not solely about where DSH wants to be located, but rather where entrepreneurs and startups want to be.
“We really want to go places where our demographic wants to be. So even if you take out all the great things that Texas offers, it's really where people want to live right now,” Russel said. “They do not have to be in New York or California anymore, but they can choose the best place to live and simply go. So, when we think about our next locations, we ask ourselves, where do we want to be? Where do the entrepreneurs we know want to go? [Then we] follow them there.”
For the future, DSH has an overall mission of inspiring one million entrepreneurs by 2030. To successfully carry out this mission and build upon their work so far, DSH is expanding into the next top five cities in the US to reach more entrepreneurs and provide them with the larger Draper resources through education and access to venture capital.
“Our goal is to have a Draper Startup House in every major city, so that no matter where you are in the world, you're able to plug in and connect with your local ecosystem, connect with the resources that the Draper Ecosystem has to offer, but then also with the entire Draper Startup House network so that you know no matter what resource you need as an entrepreneur, you're able to get it through our space,” Russel said. “Our mission is to inspire one million entrepreneurs by 2030 ... so, when we think about the next five to 10 years, it is important that we expand our global presence. And with that, I think will come a lot of great new opportunities for the business but really, it is getting into as many places so that entrepreneurs, no matter where they are, will have access to the same startup resources.”