Silicon Valley Dynasties: The Conways and Drapers Speak

During the Global Technology Symposium in San Mateo, CA, last week, moderator Heidi Roizen referred to a panel that included Ron Conway, founder of SV Angel; Ronny Conway, founder of A Capital; Adam Draper, CEO of Boost VC accelerator; and Tim Draper, founder of DFJ and Draper University of Heroes as the “first multifamily, multigenerational rock star panel.”

The father-son combos made for an entertaining and educating session.

Ron Conway told the audience he was born in San Francisco, raised his family on the Peninsula and met the Draper family when their children attended school together at St. Joseph. He started SV Angel in 1994, initially teaming up with Ben Rosen. Part of why he began angel investing was because of the encouragement he received from Don Valentine and Pitch Johnson. Since then, SV Angel has invested in 700 startups.

Ronny Conway said he grew up listening to his dad talk constantly about startup companies. After graduating in 2003, he worked at Google and was the first employee at Google Ventures. When he heard that Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz were starting up Andreessen Horowitz (A16Z), he started working there. He headed their early-stage portfolio the past four years. While at A16Z, he learned a lot through osmosis. That is also when he realized he wanted to do venture the rest of his life. A Capital, which he founded, does exactly what its name implies—it invests in companies at the Series A stage.

Tim Draper said he met Heidi Roizen at Stanford when they were in the same freshman dorm. He got to know the Conways in many ways, but mostly on the sports field. After starting DFJ and setting up a network of venture firms around the world, he decided to take some time off to start Draper University and his Six Californias initiative. The initiative stems from his belief that California needs a fresh start, that “Sacramento has gotten rusty and is not responsive to Silicon Valley.”

Adam Draper said he grew up as friends with Topher Conway, and fell in love with tech in seventh grade when he became enamored with Napster. Coincidentally, Ron Conway and SV Angel had invested in Napster. While attending UCLA, he founded a company called Expert Financial, where he worked for four years. That experience taught him a lot, and at Boost he has tried to impart those hard earned lessons to other entrepreneurs. He said Boost VC provides “housing and office space for a three-month program.” Boost brings in mentors and speakers, and has a big focus on Bitcoin. He was an early investor in Coinbase, and at Draper University there is a Bitcoin ATM.

The speakers joked how entrepreneurs can start at Draper University of Heroes, then go to the Boost accelerator program, then receive angel investment from SV Angel, and then an A round from DFJ.

Ron Conway said that in the early days he would see all of the companies and do all the due diligence. But now there are six people at SV Angel including Topher Conway, another son. He said they invest in about one out of every 30 companies they see, so if they’ve invested in “700, then we’ve looked at 700 times 30.”

The elder Conway said the typical investment by SV Angel is $50,000 to $200,000 and that they invest in entrepreneurs who are obsessed. He said the startups they look at typically seek to raise a million dollars, and so the entrepreneurs and SV Angel try to find “six to eight other people who will invest $50,000-$100,000 and create a value add syndicate.” He said that they “stack rank” other investors who “will roll up their sleeves.”

Ron Conway said SV Angel rarely writes follow-on checks but will make exceptions for … Next Page »

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Joe Hansen is a student at Stanford University and a writer for The Dish Daily. Follow @

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One response to “Silicon Valley Dynasties: The Conways and Drapers Speak”

  1. tylerbeerman says:

    Wow this would have been an amazing talk to watch live…. Wish there was some video footage of this somewhere!