Draper, co-founder of Silicon Valley venture firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson, has called for a breakup of California into six self-governing states: Jefferson, North California, Central California, West California, South California, and Silicon Valley. His central thesis is that the state has become too unmanageable, with 38 million Californians vying for attention from the state government in Sacramento.
Many have dismissed his proposal, but Draper thinks this is an idea whose time is now.
"I think New York might split into three states, and Florida might split into a couple of states, and they might create a few new states for Illinois," Draper said during a press conference on Monday to discuss his plans. All told, he thinks the union could end up with around 60 states.
Unlikely as the split is, he has at least made some headway. Late last week, the California Secretary of State's office granted initial approval of the proposal. Draper's camp now must round up 807,000 signatures by mid-July to bring the item to ballots come November. Draper said he is still weighing whether to aim for a 2014 or 2016 vote, saying he wants to do things right and not rush the process.
Of note is Draper's inclusion of Silicon Valley as a separate state, which would include San Francisco and the counties along and below the region's peninsula, home to the world's largest tech firms like Google and Facebook. The proposal comes at a time when tensions are high among the tech set and the nontech community. Leaders of tech companies have butted heads with government regulators, and residents in the Bay Area have complained of gentrification and sky-high rental costs.
Notably, a new breed of startups like car-hailing service Uber and vacation rental service Airbnb have disrupted industries and tangoed with the government.
For his part, Draper told CNET in December when he first unveiled his plan that it was not motivated by tensions in the region. "People throughout the state are disenfranchised, not just in the Silicon Valley," he said. Asked how much of his proposal was born out of recent frustrations the tech industry has had with government regulations, he said, "None. I've been working on this for years."
Still, during his press conference on Monday, Draper harkened back to the trouble Napster had 15 years ago with the record industry -- making a larger point about the specific needs different regions have toward their governments. The peer-to-peer music sharing company ended up in a bitter legal battle with the music business that eventually caused Napster to shut down. More currently, Draper pointed to Bitcoin and its regulatory gray areas. Regarding the other regions, Draper pinpointed a government more attuned to the needs of Hollywood for West California, and water rights for Central California.
The plan is ambitious, and faces numerous challenges. Even if Draper gets the more than 800,000 signatures he needs, and Californians vote in favor of the proposal, Congress would have to approve the decision. Weighing on the approval would be Congress' reluctance to give the region an added 10 senators (since each state gets two). Logistics regarding the state's debt and water system are other obstacles. Regarding some of those logistics like water, he said the state could still make pacts to remain united on various issues.
In any case, proposals to break up the state aren't new to California, which has obviously remained intact despite efforts to split it up throughout its entire history. Still, Draper said he remains undeterred. "We really should be able to make a change when we feel that change is necessary," he said.