Jesse Draper is not afraid of the term “Valley Girl.”
In fact, the 25-year-old daughter of venture capitalist Tim Draper is using the phrase to build a brand.
In her “The Valley Girl Show,” Draper chats with Internet and startup celebs such as Tony Hsieh and Eric Schmidt.
At first, Draper used her father’s influence to help her land guests, but she has developed her own contacts and now scores big names on her own.
Last week, we spoke with the actor and entrepreneur about the new season of her show, the making of a Valley Girl, and throwing boomerangs with Michael Lewis.
Tell me about the new season.
We’re doing 50 new episodes, I’ve never done that many in my life. We typically do about 20. It’s bigger, it’s better. We have amazing guests. We have Michael Lewis, Joe Saunders, the CEO of Visa, Tony Hsieh from Zappos and just great people who are heroes of mine. I’m humbled to have them on my show. I think it’s something everyone should watch.
Why? How is it different from a typical business show?
We’re not trying to be Bloomberg, or CNN, and grill these people. We’re trying to show a different side of them, and I think this year there are a lot more take homes as well. You learn about their company, but we want a different audience. The audience that doesn’t typically watch a business talk show. We want to inspire and encourage them in a different way. These people are incredibly amazing, and I want them to inspire the world as they’ve inspired me. We hope to be an Ellen DeGeneres of Business, if you will.
You’re in bootstrapping mode. How has it progressed from season to season?
This is our fourth season and yeah, we bootstrapped this. We started in a garage, and we’ve grown. My first cinematographers were my brothers. They were in college at the time. They had no idea how to operate a camera, and I was really lucky because my Dad is a venture capitalist and he got me a few of my very first guests. He got me Eric Schmidt for the first season, and while Eric was there, my brother got bored and put down the camera in the middle of the interview, and I was like, “What are you doing, what are you doing? Excuse me, Eric.”
From there, we have a professional crew. We’re a three-camera shoot, not just a girl talking to her Web cam. We’ve grown in that way, in terms of professionally produced content. Informationally, I think you’re going to watch and learn all about technology. We’ve also grown in terms of industries. We’re exploring a lot of industries this year. We still think as a low budget production. I filmed 40 episodes in a month and knocked them all out because that’s the cheapest and the easiest way to film. We’re a startup just like anyone else, and I think a lot of people don’t look at new media companies that are content producers like that, but they’re startups just like any technology startup with a product. Our product is our content and that’s what we’ve been honing in and working on.
How do you get seen by as many people as you can?
We decided to do as many biz dev deals as we could. We’re working with a company called Indoor Direct. They’re in restaurants across the country. McDonald’s, Arby’s, Taco Bell, and we’re on the screens in restaurants, and those get 13 million regular views. We’re also using a company called MediaFly. They build our apps on the iPhone, iPad, and Android, and they’ve put us on over 200 television boxes, including Roku and Boxee. We’re doing a lot of distribution deals with sites that are licensing our content to air with companies like AOL. Pearson Publishing runs a few websites, and there’s one call Alley Oop that we’re on. That’s a cool one, because we’re actually educational content, and you watch an episode and then you take a quiz after. We’re hopefully going to be everywhere we possibly can. We’re navigating this new world of media and we want to be there when everything is on one screen.
How does the business model work?
Right now, I say we’re staying afloat. We’re not making zillions of dollars. I don’t think anyone has figured out how to do that unless you’re Ashton Kutcher and you start a Web show and you already have the following, or you have PepsiCo writing your checks for you. We have a lot of sponsors, we licence our content to different sites, and we also do advertising. We’re doing distribution deals with about 30 different companies right now and every single deal is different. No one knows how to structure a deal like that. I think we’ve really become an expert in this new media space and in this world that no one understands.
Does it make it easier to be very small and flexible and have the ability to, if someone comes to you to do X and Y, you say fine.
It’s definitely not easy. We’re working our asses off. We’re working really really hard because we’re doing everything. Jonathan and I are full-time. We have a few people who freelance for us. When we produce, we use freelance camera and lighting guys. We have a really great intern. We’re small, and if we could expand I think that would make things a lot easier, but for now we’re doing the best we can.
…If you guys were part of CBS, it would be a lot of harder, I would imagine, to sign different deals like that…
I think that’s true, but I think if we went with CBS, we would maintain control of our brand. If you own the brand, you just work out different deals with everybody. I hope to stay that way, but I think growing would be easier in some ways and harder in others. The difference between making a $100,000 movie and a $50 million movie. We just made a movie by the way, as well.
Who’s your favourite guest been so far?
This season, we had some heroes of mine. Michael Lewis was a lot of fun. He has a new book coming out called “Boomerang” and we threw a boomerang, and he threw a boomerang and it hit his neighbour’s house, so we ran away (laughter). That was pretty fun. I gave him a Moneyball. And Tony Hsieh of Zappos is incredible. He’s walking me around downtown Las Vegas, and he’s bought up a couple of the buildings there. He’s literally building a city. It’s like, “I’ve built companies, and now I’m building a city.” He’s a real hero of mine. He’s always thinking beyond what you can possibly think. I think those were two of my favourite guests from this season so far. They’ve all been really fun. Julia Hartz of Eventbrite is just awesome, and she’s a character.
What’s the goal? Where does this go from here?
World domination. That is the plan. We are building a new brand that is fun, light business. We embrace that, and I think that it is something that everyone can watch and enjoy and we don’t really have a specific age. I think young entrepreneurs like it, but we also are branching out to a lot more women and it’s just growing we hope that it will eventually be something for everybody.
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