A broken California badly needs transformational solutions

Tim Draper turns in petitions last year for a ballot initiative on splitting California into six states. The measure failed to qualify, but now Draper is seeking ideas for possible new ballot measures.
Tim Draper turns in petitions last year for a ballot initiative on splitting California into six states. The measure failed to qualify, but now Draper is seeking ideas for possible new ballot measures. Associated Press file

Last year, in response to the ongoing problems that have plagued our state, I proposed the Six Californias initiative to allow people to be closer to the government that serves them. Maybe you liked the idea, maybe you didn’t. Maybe you had your own idea for how to fix California.

The intent with Six Californias was to fundamentally transform the political system and force real change so we could have a government that really serves its people and that prepares well for the future.

As a venture capitalist, I see innovative ideas and solutions every day. I recognize that most good ideas come from collaborating. This works in business and technology, so we should be able to do the same with government.

Unfortunately, our government is still stuck in the 1980s. It can’t complete a project, like building a bridge, a desalination plant or updating a computer system, without being late, over budget or even obsolete by the time of completion. It has become clear that we simply cannot rely on our current system to solve our problems. We need to take an interest in our future. We need to collaborate to fix our state.

To that end, we are launching the “Fix California Challenge.”

I challenge you, Californians, to come up with ideas that will transform your state. Do you have an idea better than Six Californias?

If so, I want to hear it. Bring your idea to me and maybe we can get it on the ballot.

California is a state that boasts the world’s seventh-largest economy. It is rich in diverse communities, and has enormous economic engines in technology, media, entertainment, tourism, energy and more. Yet not everyone in California benefits due to problems that are innately structural.

The education system is not built to prepare California for the 21st-century workforce and to compete globally. Our prison system is overburdened, expensive and produces poor outcomes. The state’s infrastructure – highways, waterways and utilities – are failing, and now it’s catching up with us during one of the worst droughts in history.

Our elected leaders have an impossible job trying to fix these problems. They’ve inherited a system developed in the 1800s that was designed to serve a population of less than 1 million. That kind of system doesn’t work in the 21st century with a population of nearly 40 million. In addition, the rules and culture around the politics of Sacramento seem designed to guarantee and protect only the status quo.

Government is overanalyzing and underperforming. This cannot continue. We need a government that is as forward-looking as the people it serves. There needs to be something that looks to the future, that breaks the inertia.

We are looking for ideas that incentivize government to be accountable to “citizen customers,” that provide a fresh start and an entrepreneurial mindset, and that provide for better representation and engagement of our citizens. We want ideas that improve the quality of life across key sectors such as jobs, housing, water supply, energy, infrastructure and the environment.

And most importantly, we are seeking ideas that immediately improve education in a fundamental way to achieve long-term economic and social stability. Submit your idea at

As someone who invested in many transformative businesses that started from the gem of an idea – including Skype, Hotmail and Tesla – I recognize we are a state built by innovators and sustained by entrepreneurs.

What will drive our next generation of innovators to California? I hope it is you, Californians, stepping up to change your state for the better.

Tim Draper is a Silicon Valley venture capitalist.