'Valley Girl' Jesse Draper moves Internet show to television
Six years after starting her offbeat Internet-based talk show, Draper this week winds up on the big -- well, bigger -- screen on a couple of Bay Area TV stations.
Mixing perseverance with a Rolodex of contacts to die for, Jesse Draper began an Internet technology talk show six years ago working out of her parents' garage.
Given that her billionaire father Tim also happened to be one of the most well-known venture capitalists in techdom, this wasn't the usual Silicon Valley startup. Still, the younger Draper would later find that family connections meant only so much.
"There were times when I thought maybe I'll need to shut the show down," she recalled during an interview this week.
But she stuck with it and her program, "The Valley Girl Show," has since gone on to feature a guest list comprising a veritable who's who from the technology world -- landing everyone from the reclusive Internet billionaire Marc Cuban to technology investor Ron Conway, who Draper somehow convinced to hula the "Entrepreneur Dance" chanting "show me the money, show me the money." (Viewer warning: This may be hazardous to your health.) She also got Vinod Khosla, a venture capitalist who invests heavily in alternative energy, to paint her green.
Draper's sometimes offbeat interviewing shtick may not work for the Wolf Blitzer crowd, but it's definitely established a brand. And the hard work has paid off. On Sunday evening, "The Valley Girl Show" expands from the small screen to television with the weekly series airing on a couple of San Francisco Bay Area channels, KTVU-FOX 2 and KICU-TV36, giving the show a potential reach into 6.5 million households.
Draper, a former Nickelodeon star, knows that while some may always affix an asterisk to her prominence, she makes clear who it is that's the driving force behind the show's success.
"I've been pushing this rock up a hill for a long time," she says. "When I started, everyone would say, 'Well, your dad gave you all these contacts.' And that's fine. But Eric Schmidt's daughter went to my high school. I grew up with these people. That's how I started. From there, I just reached out. Now I go after who I want."
"I want an approachable style," she adds. "I'm not there to find out how much money people are making or about corporate layoffs. I've established a rapport with these people and I'm trying to get them to open up."
Draper, who also does seed investing in startups through her fund Valley Girl Ventures, has promised to conduct about half her interviews with females.
"I realized that there weren't enough female entrepreneurs in business," she says. "We need more female investors to take risks."
More immediately, "Valley Girl" viewers may yet again be treated to Conway strutting the latest dance steps.
"There'll still be dancing," Draper said. "Ron? I'm sure that I'll have him back."