24 Apr 2014
A founding father of Silicon Valley venture capital guides entrepreneursTopics:
Throughout his long career as a venture capitalist, Franklin “Pitch” Johnson (MBA 1952) has worked primarily in the biotech industry, earning a reputation as a thoughtful investor, trusted adviser, and generous philanthropist. In 1962, Johnson cofounded the venture capital firm Draper and Johnson with his friend Bill Draper (MBA 1954). In that firm, and on his own, he has been involved in the early stages of more than 200 businesses, including Amgen, IDEC Pharmaceuticals, Octel, Applied Micro Circuits, Tandem Computers, Teradyne, and ViaCyte.
“Back in the early sixties, Silicon Valley was still mostly apricot and prune orchards. When we saw some promising sign, we’d knock on the door,” says Johnson, who worked in a steel mill after HBS and service in the US Air Force.
“We’d tell them that we were venture capitalists. When we explained that we were investors and might help them build their companies, they would usually invite us in.”
Johnson later founded Asset Management Company in 1967, investing primarily in computer and health care concerns. His advice and counsel also have benefited his philanthropic endeavors, as well as the next generation of venture capitalists who have taken the course he developed and taught for 12 years at Stanford Business School.
(Published April 2014)
Class of MBA 1952, Section C