CJC Interview: Jesse Draper, Founding Partner of Halogen Ventures
Tell us a little about your path so far— where are you from? Where are you currently? Share a few career highlights.
“I’m from Silicon Valley, born and raised right in the heart of it in a world of technology. I went to UCLA for school and entered the world of entertainment. I was an actress on a Nickelodeon show after college. During hiatus from the show one season, I decided I could be more productive than going to cattle calls all day long. I started my own show. It was the first technology talk show (now there are a million). I called it ‘The Valley Girl Show’ and ran the show for almost 10 years. I tried every distribution deal under the sun from working with Forbes and Mashable to taking it to TV on CBS in San Francisco where I was nominated for an Emmy. I joke that now the show is on hiatus until media is fixed because media is such a broken industry and not a very good investment in most cases. We were barely breaking even.
I am a 4th generation entrepreneur and venture capitalist and the first female. Having grown up in Silicon Valley around some of the greatest entrepreneurs in the world like Elon Musk, I realized how few women in technology there were. I tried to change this through my show. I made an initiative to interview 50% women in technology, which was really hard at first.
I am forever grateful to Sheryl Sandberg, Jessica Alba, Jenn Hyman and Alexis Maybank as they opened the doors and made it ok for women to come onto the show. I began getting pitched hundreds of female run startup companies to be on the show. I would sometimes say, ‘You are a little too early to be on the show but I love what you are doing and would like to invest.’ I would invest whatever I could afford. A few of these companies ended up being Sugarfina, Laurel & Wolf and Carbon38 who are all doing really well now, 5 years later. With this track record, I went and raised money to continue investing in female lead technology companies and I now run Halogen Ventures where we invest in female founded consumer tech.”
Where do you find inspiration?
“All over the place. I am a Mom and just had my second child. Kids give you more inspiration and energy than anything else I think. They motivate me. I also recently learned that Meryl Streep has 5 kids and I have so many questions for her on how she made it work with a career.”
How would you describe your personality?
“It depends on the day. Friendly. Kind. A leader. Spontaneous. Approachable. I never claim to be the smartest person in the room but I know I’m intelligent in my own right. Like anyone, I am confident sometimes. I am happy most of the time. I am sad sometimes too. Overall, I would describe myself as pretty level headed. I am not the first person in a room to raise my hand and speak up but I might be the second. I have no problem walking up to just about anyone and starting a conversation, this has included Miley Cyrus at Nobu sushi where I was almost attacked by security. I care enormously about my friends and family and would do just about anything for them. My brother jokes that I have too many ‘best’ friends.”
What does being an ‘entrepreneur’ mean to you?
“The American dream.”
Who was the last person that inspired you and why?
“My cousin Coulter just got married to an amazing girl Chantelle, they wrote their own vows and their love and vows inspired me in my own marriage. They were beautiful.”
What’s your favorite ‘me-time’ or ’self-care' activity?
“I have a 2.5 year old and a 3 month old so self-care is lacking pretty significantly in my life. If I have a few minutes of ‘me’ time in the morning, I make a mocha latte with my nespresso machine and my Bulletproof hot cocoa mix that I am obsessed with, it’s sugarfree. My friend Caroline Ghosn from Levo League turned me on to it and I’m obsessed.”
What is the biggest lesson you learned in your 20s?
“That I am smart. That I should always follow my gut and my intuition. Ironically, I have made a profession of empowering women in business through mentorship and funding but in my 20’s the older generations of women were not nice to me at all. They made me incredibly insecure. They had to claw their way up in business and any other female was looked at as competition. I now see a lot of those same women trying to jump on the female empowerment train and I will never forget how they treated me. I was mentored much more by older men when I was starting my career. Be nice to everyone. I love meeting with women in their early 20s just starting out because there weren’t many in business who helped me and I know these women I mentor and meet with will never forget the intro I made or the leg up I gave them.”
What is your outlook on your future career? Your career industry?
“I think I have a lot of work to do in order to continue to get women the funding they need so that they can build their companies. I think the venture capital industry needs more women on both sides of the table. Both as an investor and as an entrepreneur and I am seeing small changes made here and there but more needs to happen. I look forward to the future for women in business.”
What’s your favorite quote?
“80 percent of success is just showing up.”
What is the biggest contributor to your personal, inevitable self-doubt?
“That I don’t have all the answers.”
If you could give one piece of career advice what would it be?
“Just do it. Like Nike. Just start your company or take that first step towards your goal. Don’t try and get all your ducks in a row. Your ducks will never be in a row. If you want ducks in a row, go buy live ducks.”
Who do you find in business, a personal mentor or celebrity figure to be most intriguing?
If you weren’t pursuing your current career, what would you want to be doing?
“I’d probably still be acting but I don’t want to be doing that. I want to be investing in women and changing the gender balance.”
How do you define success?
“With love, happiness and family all around. You can’t enjoy anything alone.”
What is your favorite Instagram to follow? Favorite brands on social?
“My favorite Instagram to follow is probably Busy Philipps right now? Because she is real and unapologetic.”
What’s something few people know about you?
“I have an obsessive fear of sharks. I track them on my phone because I do open water swims in the pacific and Atlantic Ocean every summer and I want to know where they are. I have actually gone through the journal of every shark attack documented in the last 100 years and I will now never get in the water off the coast of Florida or in Australia. My husband actually gave me a ‘shark banz’, which is a bracelet that repels sharks for when I swim. It’s definitely one of those things that you won’t know if it works until you have an encounter."
The Crackerjack Collective is a series of informal interviews for These New Walls, featuring my entrepreneur and/or work from home network that continuously inspires me. These interviews are meant to, in turn, inspire others looking for similar insight on what we do and the motivation to get started. Know someone extraordinary that you want to see featured in the CJC? Send us an email. x Kate, Founder, TNW