The Moms

Jesse Draper

Halogen VenturesLos Angeles, CAStory & Photography by Lauri LevenfeldMakeup & Hair by Irmina Martinez Loeffler

There is no question that 2018 will be yet another year where progressive women band together to create new realities and ensure justice for their own and others’ personal and professional lives. This holds true in regards to women’s health, equal pay, and gender equality, as more women become breadwinners and independents. For Jesse Draper, a former actress and now venture capitalist, the path to her current fund Halogen Ventures (which supports women-founded consumer technology) wasn’t always easy to imagine due to the lack of women leaders in technology and finance while growing up.

Yet by starting with small investments, Jesse gained meaningful success and proved to her male counterparts that she had a vision and talent for finding women who doing extraordinary things. If you are a female entrepreneur with questions on vc funding or have never invested in the stock market, today we have the tips to help you become the boss lady you dream of. As Jesse Draper welcomes her second baby boy into the world, her hope is that one day companies will understand that diversity and equality are the best path to success. 

 1.Who are you? What were you like as a child?

My name is Jesse Draper and I run Halogen Ventures, a venture capital fund focused on investing in women-founded consumer technology. I started my career as an actress on Nickelodeon. I then created and ran an Emmy nominated technology talk show for the last 10 years. Through this experience, I realized I could help support women-founded businesses by giving them media exposure and also by funding them so I started writing small checks. Some of those companies I funded were Sugarfina, Carbon38 and Laurel & Wolf which have done incredibly well for me. Through this success, I raised a venture capital fund to keep doing what I had been doing at a larger capacity.

As a child, I was curious and shy, creative and silly. In first grade I remember my teacher asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up and I said either an actress or Vice-President of the United States. At the time Vice President was a bigger word than President in the mind of a first grader, so I assumed it was the most important job in the world.  I’ve been an actress and funding diverse companies is what I am most passionate about, so maybe Vice President will be down the road…

 

2.You are a 4th generation VC, what did this mean to you growing up and now?

I think I appreciate it more as an adult. While I grew up, it was normal in my family to hear about and often test out new technologies. I participated in the first ever Skype video chat from their first board meeting in Estonia. I was 16. I was also one of the early testers of AIM (AOL Instant Messenger) when I was in 3rd grade. Back then Silicon

Valley wasn’t as Hollywood-ized as it is now. I have learned a lot from my family as far as how to look at everything as a business and how to evaluate new technologies. My mom calls our family dinners board of directors meetings, and my brothers are both Venture Capitalists now as well and my sister works for one of my startups. There’s definitely a lot of business talk at the table.

 

3. You are in the business of finding the next woman billionaire…how have your investments propelled women entrepreneurs? What I have learned is that because men control the majority of the capital, they typically invest in men and according to significant research, they invest much less in women, especially at the early stages. Because of this, I am betting bigger earlier on women’s companies because that is where they need the capital the most. Growing up, I knew a lot of technology founders but I didn’t know any who were women, I want to change this to let other little girls know that the next female tech CEO can be both male or female.

 

4. What advice do you have for women entrepreneurs looking for funding?

Stop perfecting your business plan and get out there pitching. Women want to get all their ducks in a row much more than men who throw paint against a wall and call it a masterpiece. Ladies, you will learn the most from networking and pitching your company. It will help you fine tune your business plan while on the road to growth and let me tell you…it will NEVER be perfect. You are always going to be improving your prototype. Get out there!

 

 

 

 5.Who and what inspires you most?

I find inspiration in so many different forms. From my parents to my children. I think right now, I am incredibly inspired by women out there doing it all. I just had my second child and I am the oldest of four. My mom is a huge hero in my eyes because I would love to have a million children but I don’t know how you do it. While watching the Academy Awards the other night, Jimmy Kimmel mentioned that Meryl Streep had 4 children. I spent the entire rest of the show googling Meryl Streep, and then, Maya Rudolph who also has 4 children as well and was presenting at the Oscars. I think right now, women who have children and somehow make it all work inspire me second to my Mom.

 

6. Before Halogen, there was Hollywood, tell us more about how these two stories intertwined.

I knew I wanted to go into entertainment and that is what I studied at UCLA. After school, I did the acting thing with auditions, cattle calls and the whole thing. I did fairly well being a new actress, I got roles in quite a few indies and I produced a feature of my own. I was also a series regular on a Nickelodeon show for 3 years called ‘The Naked Brothers Band’ in the Miley Cyrus era which feels like a different world to me now. It was an absolute blast and I am so grateful for the opportunity. That encouraged me start my own show ‘The Valley Girl Show’ which taught me so much about production and distribution in the early days of digital media.

Through a technology talk show and having grown up in a very technology oriented family and world, I was able to merge my two passions. Through that show I began funding early stage companies. I was writing ‘The Valley Girl Show’, booking, producing, hosting, and CBS KPIX told me that even though our ratings were the highest locally, they needed to cut the season short because their sales team couldn’t work fast enough, I then began bringing in sponsors. When they told me they wanted to launch other cities, I was staying up all night overseeing editing.  

I was pregnant with my first child and my husband said to me, ‘This is not humanly sustainable. You are not eating or sleeping and you are about to have a baby.’ We were also barely breaking even. That was the moment I realized how broken media is. Recently, I saw that Buzzfeed announced they were launching their shows in thousands of hotels and airports. I did that deal 10 years ago and I know you can’t make a profit the way that deal works. Media needs a makeover and it’s on its way but it will take awhile. I loved running the show and it’s not over for good, I say I will bring it back when the media business model is fixed. Now I invest in media.

 

7. You just had your second baby boy in February (congrats!!), with the current political climate and #metoo movement, what is most vital for mothers raising young boys?

I worry about this daily and am happy I have a few years to figure out how to raise my boys. I think that my husband will teach them more than I can. We both work incredibly hard and he has always supported my career although he has an incredibly successful career of his own. He has never made me feel like mine is lesser than his and I often hear him standing up for working women or pointing out misogynistic behavior. I am so proud to be married to him. He is a true supporter of women and we need more men like that to help change the behavior in our young men.  

 

8. What ways can women be more savvy about money, investing and the stock market?

1. Never let your significant other take a financial meeting or make a major financial decision without you

2. Play around with your money. The more risks you take, the more you will learn.

3. If you have never invested in the stock market there are great apps that make it incredibly easy like Robinhood & Acorns. You don’t need millions of dollars to invest in the stock market.

4. Don’t invest in anything you don’t understand. 

9. Five best books for women entrepreneurs or entering the tech world?

1. Million Dollar Woman by Julia Pimsleur

2. Learnvest by Alexa Von Tobel

3. American Kingpin by Nick Bilton

4. My Dad’s Book “Startup Hero” and my grandfather’s book “The Startup Game”

5. ‘By Invitation Only’ by Alexandra and Alexis, Gilt Founders

10. Where do you see Jesse Draper in five years?

I will be running Halogen Ventures and hope to have backed the best women in technology. I hope to have had a few nice exits by then and to have raised another fund. In the big picture, I also hope that traditional venture capitalists realize that diversity breeds success and are investing more diversely when it comes to gender and race because they now understand that this makes the best companies.

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