• San Mateo County Venture Capitalists

    Groundbreaking Venture Capitalists of Silicon Valley, William H. Draper, F.P. “Pitch” Johnson, Reid W. Dennis and William K. Bowes, Jr.

    Photo by Scott Buschman

Bowes, Dennis, Draper and Johnson

2013 San Mateo County History Makers

William K. Bowes helped enable the initiation of such companies as Cetus, Raychem and Dymo, before founding U.S. Venture Partners in 1981. He had also been Senior Vice President and Director of Blyth Eastman Dillon & Company from 1968 to 1978. He is a local product, born in San Francisco and graduating from Lowell High School in 1942. Currently Bowes devotes much of his time to education and medical research organizations, including the University of California at San Francisco Foundation, The Exploratorium, Grace Cathedral, Environmental Defense Fund, Stanford’s Bio X, Asian Art Museum, United Religions Initiative, Institute for Systems Biology, Harvard Business School Visiting Committee and San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

Reid W. Dennis founded Institutional Venture Associates in 1974 and then Institutional Venture Partners in 1980. Dennis has actually been involved in venture capital since 1952, as an individual, who helped finance Acurex, American Microsystems, Ampex, California Microwave, Coherent Radiation, Measurex and Ultek. In philanthropic life he has been an important supporter of Stanford University and served on the Board of the San Francisco Opera Association for 42 years, including 14 years as Chairman.

William H. Draper, III is also one of America’s original venture capitalists, having begun his career in 1959 with Draper, Gaither & Anderson, the first venture capital company in the West. In 1965, he founded Sutter Hill Ventures, which has organized and financed several hundred high tech companies. His public service has included being Chairman and President of the Export-Import Bank of the United States under President Ronald Reagan and then serving as Under-Secretary General of the United Nations, where he oversaw nearly 10,000 international aid projects as the CEO of the United Nations Development Program. In 2011, Draper authored the book, The Startup Game: Inside the Partnership between Venture Capitalists and Entrepreneurs. Currently, Draper serves as the Co-Chair and Founder of Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation, a venture philanthropy fund focused on early-stage high-impact nonprofit organizations promoting social change around the world.

Franklin Pitcher Johnson became a venture capitalist in 1962 as co-founder of Draper & Johnson Investment Company with Bill Draper. He went on to found Asset Management Company in 1965, which made over 250 venture investments in some 43 years. Johnson was active on the Stanford University Faculty for 12 years, where he developed and taught a course in venture capital at their Business School. He has also served as an advisor to several eastern European countries beginning in 1990, and he co-founded several venture firms there. His family roots go back to early California History. A relative, John Pitcher, came to the state in 1850. For 42 years Pitcher presided as judge of the San Mateo County coastside. Many objects that belonged to the Pitcher family are now in the collections of the San Mateo County Historical Association.