SF Chronicle: Millionaire VC Tim Draper’s latest: “Shark Tank” for good government?
This article originally appeared in the SF Chronicle
By Carla Marinucci
Millionaire Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper — who floated the idea of splitting California into six states — is “disrupting” politics again, this time proposing a kind of “Shark Tank” incubator for government reform ideas.
In a move that takes its cues from the Silicon Valley tech startup culture — where Draper has made millions — the venture capitalist said he will formally announce plans Wednesday to propose the “Fix California Challenge,” to encourage residents to pitch solutions to major governance problems in California.
“I’m a venture capitalist..and I’ve been able to fund some really interesting companies that were transformative to industry,” Draper said in an interview with the Chronicle Tuesday. “Government is slow, but it doesn’t have to live in the 1970s…I want to help innovate the state.”
Draper has launched a website, www.InnovateYourState.Org, to push what he calls this new “venture governance”-style effort to innovate “public engagement.”
The unusual new startup dangles the possibility of getting Draper’s seed funding — as much as $2-4 million — for putting an idea on the state ballot. But he says he’s also willing to provide seed for non-profits and for-profit ventures, or to help fund a campaign to push an idea through the legislature.
Draper told us he and a team of judges will sift through the ideas in a format that may borrow from the popular TV show, “Shark Tank,” where entrepreneurs make their pitches to VCs for financial backing.
Here’s an exclusive look at his personal pitch on the new idea:
“I see great ideas all the time that change the way” the world works, Draper says.
“We’re diverse, we’re industrial, we’re creative,” he says. “We can change California, we can make this the greatest state in the land — and we’re looking for ideas that will transform California.”
Draper says he’s looking for “serious proposals,” and people who are willing to carry through with innovative ideas for ballot measures, legislation, non-profits and for-profit ideas that would “boost opportunities for all Californians” in areas like education, accountability, and civic engagement.
“If you have an idea that does all these great things…I will put it on the ballot,’’ he promises. “My idea was “Six Californias” — what’s yours? Submit it at www.FixCal.org.”
The latest Draper idea comes after the Silicon Valley millionaire dropped $5 million of his own money on an unsuccessful attempt to put a controversial “Six Californias” measure on the state ballot in 2014. Signature-gathering came up short for the controversial plan, which would have split the state into six parts and included the richest state in the union — Silicon Valley — and the poorest.
Draper argued that smaller states would have allowed more local solutions to problems like education reform and jobs, but polls showed most voters were opposed to the plan.
This time around, Draper says a “team” of well-known and “influential” judges from a variety of fields will help him in the “Shark Tank”-style judging — which could even become a longterm project.
“Venture governance” can be very interesting,” Draper predicts. “And I think we’re going to get a lot of interesting ideas — from all kinds of places.”