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Peggy Aycinena
Peggy Aycinena
Peggy Aycinena is a freelance journalist and Editor of EDA Confidential at She can be reached at peggy at aycinena dot com.

Draper University: On the street where you live

October 10th, 2013 by Peggy Aycinena

Was just trying to get downtown in time for happy hour at my favorite wine bar tonight
, when what should I stumble upon but the ribbon cutting for Draper University.

The new darling of downtown San Mateo, this one-off school of entrepreneurialism is housed in the iconic Ben Franklin Hotel, which has stood as art-deco sentinel over the historic center of San Mateo for nine decades. Now re-painted, spruced-up, and re-named Draper U, the folks founding this trendy school have closed the entire block of 3rd Avenue this evening in order to celebrate their launch.

No matter that the 3rd Ave Sports Bar, Kaffeehaus, or Masu Japanese Bistro – not to mention the original Amicia’s Pizza – might want to draw in their own Thursday evening foot traffic, Draper University is King of the Hill here this evening. A way-hip band blares away mid-block to pump up the crowd, enormous oversized beach balls roll up and down the suddenly-pedestrian-only street, and a 2-story climbing tower can be spotted above the noisy, shifting crowds.

Importantly, the band wailing away here (“Wild Thing, you make my heart sing …”) is stationed across the street from the 8-story Ben Franklin Draper University and right in front of the school’s new ‘retail space’ – formerly the Collective Antiques, now re-branded Draper’s Hero City. (wow …)

Therein, Draper U students – after honing their entrepreneurial skills across the street in their bean-bag strewn classrooms – will be able to launch short-lived, pop-up storefronts and retail outlets to market test their fabulous ideas. (In this age of minimalism, probably a better revenue bet than antiques.)

Gleaming and glowing this evening with freshly finished floors and lotsa space, Draper’s Hero City will be an important street-level showcase for the plethora of undoubtedly earth-shattering ideas set to emerge at the speed of light – or at least at the speed of the Internet – out of the lively brains of the students of Draper U.

Clearly, coincidental karma was on my side this evening as I ventured onto 3rd Avenue, because as I arrived amidst the crowds the ribbon-cutting was about to happen, yet I was able to push my way to the front of the crush, past the cameras, well-wishers, and effervescent students to capture a few seconds of interview time with Man of the Hour and Founder of the university that bears his name, Tim Draper.

Quite effervescent himself, given that the ribbon cutting had just happened (with an assist from a San Mateo City Councilman) using scissors ‘delivered’ by costumed superheroes repelling down the outer walls of Draper U to the din and applause of the awaiting crowds, I found Tim Draper totally jazzed as I pushed my way past his fans to reach him for my brief, impromptu interview.

“Good job!” I yelled.

He yelled back, “Thanks!”

I yelled, “I know your Dad’s a legend in the Valley, did he invest in this?”

Draper laughed loudly (really loudly, if I was able to hear him over the din) and yelled, “No! Not at all!”

“Okay, tell me about the school,” I yelled. “How many students?”

Draper yelled, “About 50 students, 55 percent from outside the area, not all of them focused on technology, but all of them learning how to be heroes in our 6-week program. They arrive as ordinary human beings, and leave as heroes 6 weeks later!”

“Wow,” I yelled. “Impressive!”

He laughed heartily and turned to great more well-wishers. I also turned to go, when somebody tapped me on the elbow.

“Did you say you’re with the press?” a man yelled, handing me his card, which is how I learned that Prof. Thomas Kosnik, Consulting Professor in the Stanford Technology Ventures Program, was here for the ribbon-cutting as well, as a special guest of Tim Draper.

Over the bedlam (I was barley able to hear), I think Prof. Kosnik told me that Draper University is working on a special relationship with Stanford, that Tim Draper has a BSEE from Stanford, an MBA from Harvard, and is really smart.

Perhaps he described Tim Draper as “the real thing”, but to be honest, I could barely hear Kosnik, even though I was just inches away from him in the crowd. Yelling politely, I thanked him for his card and promised to try to learn more about all of this, and then I really did move on – still in search of that glass of wine.

Now I’m here in the wine bar, pounding away on my keyboard just off the street, but still within earshot of the noise reverberating through the wind-swept urban canyons of San Mateo. A table full of cops are sitting nearby, just in for a quick cup of coffee in this eatery, swapping complimentary comments about Tim Draper: “A real good guy,” they’re concurring.

Okay, enough for now, I’m sure you get it. Something very exciting involving oversized balls, superheroes, and the end of antiquing is happening here in San Mateo.

If you want to learn more about Draper University of Heroes – or perhaps even enroll – here’s the website.

If you want to understand Draper University’s relationship to Stanford Technology Ventures Program, contact Prof. Thomas Kosnik.

If you want to know how Tim Draper’s related to William Henry Draper III, Wikipedia’s got your back.

And if you want a fine glass of wine or a great cup of espresso, sitting under the enigmatically grinning head of a wild boar, San Mateo’s Kaffeehaus is your destination. Just look for the towering edifice on 3rd Avenue, now branded Draper University, walk 150 yards to the east, and enjoy.

We’ll all be here waiting for you – me, the cops, the students, the superheroes, the beach balls, and best of all – Tim Draper.


One Response to “Draper University: On the street where you live”

  1. Val Sarabashyan says:

    Example of solid journalism…writing that informs but also provokes healthy cynicism .
    My favorite: ” They arrive as ordinary human beings, and leave as heroes 6 weeks later!”
    Folks looking for deals, $10K is bargain for 6 week miracle transformation into hero!
    sign me up!:)

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