Craig W Johnson
(1946 - 2009)

Profile:
Craig W Johnson

Birth:
United States of America
December 28, 1946

Passing:
United States of America
October 3, 2009


Memorial
Craig Winfield Johnson, surrounded by those he loved, passed away on Saturday night, October 3, at 9:18 PM at Stanford Hospital, the victim of a sudden and unexpected stroke.

This site was created to share our memories and pictures of him, and we invite you to do the same. To add a story or any other media, please click the appropriate tab at the top of this page.

Craig was born in Pasadena, California on 12/28/46, to Marian and Roger Johnson. He grew up in nearby Arcadia, where he excelled in track and debate before matriculating at Yale College, from which he graduated Magna Cum Laude in 1968. After college, he served in the Peace Corps in Ethiopia, and while there met and married Deborah Kendall, another Peace Corps volunteer, in Addis Ababa before returning to the States. Upon his return he attended Stanford Law School, graduating in 1974, and then joined Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, as the 14th attorney to join that firm, right at the beginning of the boom of Silicon Valley. With Deborah he raised three sons, Scott, Matthew, and Erik.

Craig was a true visionary, quickly grasping the unique intersection of law, technology, and venture capital that the Bay Area afforded. His specialty was dealing with startup technology companies, which abounded then as now, and in 1993 he left WSGR to form Venture Law Group, which dealt exclusively with his special talent for nurturing fledgling startups. He was instrumental in bringing to market such companies as Yahoo!, Hotmail, and Rosetta Inpharmatics, and cofounded Garage Technology Ventures, Concept2Company, and Financial Engines.

Craig’s latest venture was cofounding Virtual Law Partners in 2008, yet another visionary advance in the provision of legal services. In this labor of love he found his heart’s desire, and on August 15th of this year he married RoseAnn Rotandaro, one of his cofounders, in a beautiful and celebratory ceremony at his house in Portola Valley. Craig and RoseAnn had just completed a magical honeymoon, sailing the Mediterranean and cycling in the Slovenian Alps, shortly before Craig’s untimely death. He was only 62.

Craig’s impact far exceeded his legal accomplishments. His goal was always to bring together the best people and brightest ideas, and see that both flourished. He was selfless in his work, and universally regarded as fair, honest, brilliant, and caring. He inspired the best in all around him, and helped them to believe in themselves as much as he believed in them.

His friends will miss him dearly, and his family will miss him desperately. He leaves behind his sons Matt and Scott, Matt’s wife Desdemona, his loving wife RoseAnn and her son Noah Rogers, his brother Brian and sister-in-law Joan, his Uncle Ken Scott and his wife Sunny, his nephew Derek and niece Kaitlin, and his father Roger. He goes into the embrace of his son Erik and his nephew Christopher, who left this earth before him.

Craig will live on in the hearts of the innumerable family, friends, and associates whose lives he graced.

A Memorial Service in honor of Craig’s life will be held at the Stanford Alumni Center on Sunday October 11 at 2:30 PM. Guests are invited to arrive an hour early, to share memories and love.

In lieu of flowers, donations to the Craig Winfield Johnson Foundation to support the many causes that Craig championed will be gratefully accepted.

Guest Book Wall (What is this?)

Hover your mouse over the wall images to see each guest book entry.

Guest Book (9 entries)
I met Craig at a High School Summer Science Program held at Humboldt State College.

I met his father, Roger, when he came to pick Craig up. Craig's exceptional talents were obvious even in 1963. The kind words in this memorial tell me that he more than lived up to his gifts. I'm only sorry that we couldn't reconnect.
Peete Baer (Long ago friend)
October 15th, 2010
I moved to Silicon Valley in 1993, the year that Craig formed VLG, Venture Law Group. We quickly became best of friends, sharing our Peace Corps stories and discussing with each other how we would go about building great organizations, while still trying to save the world.

As best of friends, we were constantly trying to one-up one another. A couple of years ago, I gave Craig a birthday card, wishing him a very happy 80th birthday. Next month on my birthday I got a card from Craig wishing me a very happy 100th birthday.

Last year, however, I was totally outdone by Craig during our trip to China. Among other contestants, Craig was randomly picked and costumed to compete in a Chinese dance competition – on stage. Well, uninhibited Craig won the competition – and is now more famous in the Hunan province of China than Silicon Valley.

For the past five years, Craig and I have officed together. If you ask anyone in our office to describe Craig, they invariably mention his vibrant but impish smile, his kindheartedness and his respect for everyone.

My wife, Sue, in her long adoration of Craig, would underscore that Craig respected women on an equal basis with men.

My daughter, Monica, would also describe Craig as someone special to her – who went out of his way to help her after she lost her dog – Esprit.

Today, for me, Craig is not gone. Giving partial attribution to Michael Josephson, Craig will be remembered:
 Not for what he bought, but for what he built;
 Not for his success, but for his significance;
 Not for his competence, but for his character;
 Not for what he got, but for what he gave; and
 Not for how many people he knew, but for how many people will feel a lasting loss with his departure.

He will be remembered for his many acts of integrity, compassion and generosity that enriched, empowered and encouraged all of us to emulate his example.

Craig, for all your many gifts, we thank you.

John
John Dean (Friend)
October 13th, 2009
To: RoseAnn, Craig's Family and Many Friends

Aletha and I send our deepest sympathies at this sudden and devastating loss.

In the past 28 years, Craig has quietly had more impact on my professional career than anyone outside my immediate family. Craig is the mentor of mentors -- generously giving without expecting anything in return.

Josh Green's piece articulated the essence of Craig far more elegantly than I can. I second every word!

I met Craig in 1981 -- the lawyer on the other side of a company sale. Time was critical and the sale would not have gone through without Craig's legal skills and integrity. The purchaser was skittish and I made too many mistakes. This sale gave me the resources to be an entrepreneur and work on projects I enjoy for the rest of my life.

In 1995 Craig seemed to think I should move on from technical work and serve on startup boards as an angel investor. He got up early to go jogging with me, played golf with me and just would not let go till I did what I should have done in the first place and go on the board of Financial Engines. That assignment changed the path of my career.

Craig has introduced me to many individuals who have variously become friends, provided advice, and inspired me. He knew of my reserved manner and quietly kept me in circulation over the years.

Craig, losing you is like losing a parent. It is something I will think of every day I am alive. When my turn comes, thoughts of you will give me strength. I will do my very best to do for others what you have done for me. I will enjoy seeing in my friends any similarities to the essence of you. This will be my tribute to you.

You live on in the deeds and actions of the many people who have the privilege of being your friend.

denis coleman
denis@denis1.com
Atherton, CA
Denis Coleman (Friend)
October 12th, 2009
Fair wind and following seas to Craig, a mentor for more than 20 years. As a WSGR summer associate many years ago, I refused to leave Craig's emerging companies group, much to the consternation of the summer committee. That summer, Craig took me to many fancy lunches at Joy of Junque (plastic dinosaur décor and greasy, vaguely suspicious hamburgers) where he enthusiastically shared many of his radical ideas (like . . . every lawyer needed a PC on their desk). With the exception of one short window when our paths separated, I have practiced law with him ever since. Silicon Valley is an emptier place today for his absence and those of us lucky enough to have been under his wing are orphaned.

David Jargiello
djargiello@virtuallawpartners.com
David Jargiello (Mentee and Friend)
October 12th, 2009
I remember a plaque from Craig’s office. If you search the words Craig Johnson, Venture Law Group and rockets you will find them easily:

"Getting started is a lot like launching a rocket,” Craig said. “If the rocket is a tenth of a degree off at launch, it can end up 1,000 miles off downrange."

Some by chance and some by design, Craig and I shared great moments that reflect these words, as well as a career of relationships that embody the same spirit of adventure and inclusive teamwork, of careful guidance, of shared success. And most importantly of a great experience together.

When we set off to found VLG under Craig’s vision, we launched a rocket. One Tuesday morning Craig came to tell his long time partners at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati about a new firm and new model. An acorn seed from which he hoped great things would grow. And that was so difficult for him given the respect Craig had for the institution we had all shared. His instincts and values reflected those that had been passed on by one of his great mentors, the late John Wilson.

In coming days, as we talked with our contacts in the business and client community we knew we were just starting to take flight. We all took comfort with the internal compass of our pilot to hold course in this bold journey.

Over coming months, and later years, so many of us worked to make that flight a success, from all walks of life and across our staff, lawyers and clients, and with our families too. Over the life of VLG, I analogized that launch and what we saw and shared to those moments the Space Shuttle roars upward and then rolls effortlessly as if in a dance move and heads off to escape the boundaries of the atmosphere, yet under both immense thrust and stress. And Craig helped lead, coach and inspire all of us as we traveled though turbulence and calm. Those of us who made that journey over what was ten years with us know how great it was.

Like Apollo before it and soon the Shuttle, we and Craig have since slipped away. But with Craig’s guidance and leadership, we held course and sowed seeds of thinking, focus, success and ways of doing business and having fun together far and wide in the Valley, in the country and in great companies, investment and other firms. And in that same spirit, we all both mourn and celebrate together as Craig’s great extended family.

Craig may be for the ages and generations now as the rocket slips gracefully from sight.

For us though he will live on spiritually as a gentle leader, counselor and builder of all of us and our aspirations, visions and positive spirit too.

And as you soar to the heavens, and look down on us all, God speed Craig Johnson.
Elias Blawie (Partner, friend and mente)
October 11th, 2009
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