It is seriously 1999 all over again here in the Silicon Valley. There’s the revival of Kozmo (OK, that’s in New York, but still…….), the comic run-up of TWTRQ yesterday, and now, right across the street from where I am sitting, there is Draper University.
What’s that, you ask? Well, decades ago, a hotel called the Benjamin Franklin was built in downtown San Mateo. It’s only a few miles away from San Francisco International Airport, so it quickly became the go-to spot for pilots and stewardesses to spend the night and, who knows, maybe join the zero-mile high club.
The Franklin fell out of favor over the years, and it stood as a monument to old-school architecture, in silent testimony to the days when airline travel was as glamorous as the stewardesses. The hotel has been taken over now, and the moniker on the front is as follows:
Perhaps you can just barely make out two photographs flanking the entrance: on the left is a big poster of Steve Jobs, and on the right, harder to see, is Elon Musk. This is, as you can probably already tell, not so much a school as a church, and the saints which flank its narthex are intended, I suppose, to inspire youngsters into being Just Like Those Guys.
The school was founded by famed venture capitalist Tim Draper (as you might gather from the school’s name) and its stated purpose is to accept young men and women, aged 18-24, and have each of them build their own company which, in turn, they get to present to VCs for funding. This is a new spin on the old concept of an incubator, which was all the rage in the late 1990s. IdeaLab was the best known of these, and the curriculum offering is unusual, to say the least:
(Cooking? Lie Detection? Minimum Viable Product?)
I guess if I were 18, I might be really intrigued by something like this. I’ll say one thing, though: Steve Jobs and Elon Musk wouldn’t have gone to a place like this in a million years, and I seriously think the big new companies of the future will still emerge in the serendipitous way that Facebook, Sun, Apple, Yahoo, and all of the rest of them did………..not from some cookie-cutter establishment in a hotel full of wanna-bes.