From the days when we founded Esprit Capital in 2006, to Draper Esprit’s public listing in 2016, to where we are now in 2021, the firm has grown and evolved into something much larger, more powerful and more relevant. Our rebrand to Molten Ventures observes and honours that journey.
It’s no longer the small firm that I helped co-found and help build. It is this business which is listed on the London main exchange and is growing through the talents of a much wider team.
Names help tell a story
A lot of people ask me how we got to Molten Venture’s first name, Esprit Capital. And that all goes back to the very beginning. We started the firms through two transactions. The first was taking over the management of the Cazenove Fund. The second, on the same day, we acquired an investment trust manager called Prelude. If you ever wondered how the Esprit name came about, it’s because we couldn't be called Symphony because someone else had it. And then we couldn't be called Rhapsody, because no one really loved it. We were searching through musical terms and came to one through a PowerPoint presentation that one of the brilliant guys in the team had given to a French corporate using the word Esprit, and so that was the musical term that we latched on to.
Brands have got to represent something, signal something to the business that there’s more than one strategy coming together. With Esprit, we were trying to show Prelude, through musical analogies, that there was more than one reason bringing them in house. It wasn’t just their fund, it was their people, expertise and passion.
With Molten, I constantly talk about how when we are looking at the early stage where you have market, tech risk and people risk. And through the growth stage where you have execution risk. The more and more we talked about it, the more and more we understand that our true role is helping companies through this journey, offering our energy, helping them transform from a solid state to a molten state and beyond. But if you also know a bit of physics, you know that if you stop offering energy, things return to a solid state. So you need to keep giving our energy. That’s something that we actually do; that we believe in, and it’s right there in our brand.
Change and continuity
We’ll likely be asked what it means for the rest of the business, specifically whether there is any significance to dropping the term Draper, with regards to Tim Draper and the Draper Venture Network; and the name Esprit, the founding name, with regards to me and my role.
As for the former, nothing changes in terms of the relationship with the Draper Venture Network. We're currently the European partner of that network, and many other partner members have non-Draper related names. We will remain close and involved with Tim. He's always been a champion and cheerleader from the west coast, but he has never had an involvement in the management or running of Draper Esprit.
With regard to me, I’m sure I’ll be asked: does the rebrand mean the business is no longer mine? I think the answer to that question is yes, it is no longer mine, but it has never been mine. I have just been the navigating the ship, just avoiding the rocks. The difference now is that we've got way more talent and a way bigger ship.
There is no point in me celebrating taking our market cap from 100 million to a billion, when actually I'm only three months into the plan to get us to 5 billion. That’s where the excitement is now.
What do we want to keep from our Draper Esprit/Esprit Capital days? There are three guiding principles I’ll be keeping alight and championing and for a long time yet you’ll hear me talk about them. These were principles at Draper Esprit, they’ve helped us get to where we are now, and they’ll follow us into Molten and help drive its growth in the coming years.
I love the word innovation. I think we’re operating in such a sleepy industry that, despite being phenomenally successful at backing world-leading technologies and world-leading approaches, we – as venture capitalists – just don't change. I would hate it if Molten stopped innovating because I think that would be so against the DNA of the business and the team.
I genuinely believe that entrepreneur is a verb, not a noun. The more we feel like the entrepreneurs in our portfolio the better. We are entrepreneurs in terms of what we're building and how we're going about it, I think it’s so important.
I love the word risk. And I don’t mean that in the sense of encouraging big risk-taking or crazy outcomes or taking no risk and playing it safe. I genuinely believe that if you educate people to understand risk, then you can do more. It’s okay to fail if you go into something with a with a clear-eyed view of its potential: what can it achieve, what can we achieve, what can we learn from it? I would hate it if we get to a point where either we're so big that there is no risk. At Molten we say “Leave room for crazy”.
Those are the three words I would want us to stay true to: we continue to innovate, we feel entrepreneurial, and we understand the word risk. With those at our core, I am incredibly excited for the future, in a brand that allows us to grow and evolve.
Molten represents where we are now as a firm. It’s so much more than a name above the door. It’s a recognition that the great venture capitalists of the future will look much more like a waterfront of talent than two founders in a small room.
When I look at our team, we represent so much more than just a couple of general partners. That for me is what this rebrand represents: a rare chance to show off our incredible talent to the world. It is a reflection the talents and responsibility that the wider group of Molten are prepared to take on and take forward and an ambition to show to our peers what the very best venture capitalists can achieve when they innovate.