Bill Draper knows a successful entrepreneur when he sees one. For Draper, the clues are in the eyes: the energy, the drive, the guts that he detects simmering beneath the surface; the people who won’t take “no” for an answer. Draper’s keen eye for entrepreneurs has served him well. The firm he started in 1965, Sutter Hill Ventures, remains a top U.S. venture capital firm. Draper has also charted his own entrepreneurial path, founding Draper International, the first U.S. venture capital firm to invest in companies in India.
But like his father before him, Draper has always kept his eye on the bigger picture. So, when the White House contacted him in the early 1980s, he eagerly heeded the call to public service. Most notably, as head of the United Nations Development Programme from 1986–1994, Draper oversaw 10,000 development projects. “It was the best job I ever had,” says Draper. It was also an introduction, of sorts, not only to the world’s most pressing problems, but also to the spirited people who could solve them.
In 2002, Draper co-founded the Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation to provide venture capital to nonprofit start-ups. Supporting social entrepreneurs in any field, the foundation offers financial and other supports, including a community of peers, so they don’t have to go it alone.
Today, Draper Richards Kaplan boasts a phenomenal list of nonprofits. And when some, such as Room to Read, strike “bonanza success,” no one’s happier than Draper, who cheers on his entrepreneurs almost daily, saying, “‘Go Harry!’ And, ‘Go Tony!’ It’s a very exciting thing.”