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Venture capitalist expands downtown portfolio
June 19, 2012, 05:00 AM By Bill Silverfarb, Daily Journal Staff

Bill Silverfarb/Daily Journal Students enrolled at Draper University in downtown San Mateo listen to a guest speaker yesterday as venture capitalist Tim Draper, left, sits in.

Venture capitalist Tim Draper has bought up another prized piece of real estate in downtown San Mateo directly across the street from his new school for entrepreneurs at the former Benjamin Franklin Hotel.

Draper bought the Collective Antiques building on Third Avenue from Steve and Merry-Lee Musich, who have owned it since 1994.

The building was not for sale but the owners have struggled with finding a retail tenant for part of the ground floor of the building and had no luck with getting the city to allow an office use on the site.

"The property was not on the market,” owner Merry-Lee Musich told the Daily Journal. "Draper approached us.”

The sale was finalized May 31 and Collective Antiques will officially close its doors Sept. 30, Musich said.

The Draper University of Heroes is currently conducting its first semester of school under a pilot program and Draper told the Daily Journal what will happen to the 18,000-square-foot Collective Antiques building depends greatly on the success of the pilot program. Draper also owns the Wells Fargo building on Fourth Avenue.

Startup SnapLogic currently leases basement space in the Collective Antiques building and wanted to expand to the ground floor as it grows. San Mateo, however, mandates that ground floor space downtown be used for retail uses although the city is currently revisiting the issue.

About 45 students are now enrolled in the university’s pilot program. Yesterday, Andy Chase, a financial adviser with Morgan Stanley Smith Barney was a guest speaker at the university. The school has about six instructors with Draper also teaching some of the classes.

"So far, everything is working well,” said Frank Creer, a managing director at Zone Ventures who is helping get the university off the ground.

The students are eager to learn, Creer said, and lots of effort has been put into the curriculum.

"I don’t think they knew what they were getting into,” Creer said about the students.

The school offers group discussions, creative projects and guest speakers. The students even participate in day-long murder mysteries, cooking classes and watch movies at night, picked by Draper, often with a business twist to them, Creer said.

The pool, behind the old hotel, was meant to be filled but that plan may change, Creer said.

"We are having fun with it,” he said.

Musich has watched the students come and go from the university and visited it herself recently.

"Once you walk into the door, you can feel the energy,” she said. Musich thinks Draper will be a good fit for downtown San Mateo.

"He’s got money, energy and vision,” she said.

Creer calls Draper an eternal optimist.

"Nothing gets Tim down, nothing,” Creer said. "He’s a patient guy with a big vision.”

Closing the doors on Collective Antiques, however, will be a sad day for Steve and Merry-Lee Musich, who have run the antique shop since 2002.

About 40 to 60 dealers rent space and sell their antiques on site. All the store’s inventory should be gone by the end of September, Musich said.

"It’s out with old and in with the new. We want to exit on a positive note,” Musich said.

Draper and his wife, a San Mateo native, bought the historic hotel in an auction last year and toyed with many ideas for the building before deciding a university for the world’s top business-minded youth would be the best fit for the Benjamin Franklin. He paid just under $6 million for the building.

He is the founder of the venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson and funded Hotmail, Skype and Baidu in their infancies.


Bill Silverfarb can be reached by email: silverfarb@smdailyjournal.com or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 106.


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