The venture capital veteran Franklin "Pitch" Johnson will take part in the Second International Nanotechnology Forum

05 October 2009


Pitch Johnson is a legend of the world venture capital business, one of the Silicon Valley founding fathers. He is 81 years old and is very active in the business . He is a recognized venture capital guru. It is people like him – the first venture capital investors – that the world owes much of the knowledge and use of computer- and bio-technology in new businesses.

Pitch began venture investing in 1962, and in 1965 he founded a management company of his own, Asset Management Company, which he still manages. His team have invested venture capital in companies primarily at the early stage of development (seed and start-up projects). It was really "risky" financing. "We were different from most other prominent venture capital funds – we never raised large, multi-hundred million dollar funds. We took active part in the management of the companies we invested in, helping them grow", Johnson recalls. One of his main investments was Amgen, the world biotechnology leader. Pitch is still retired from the board of directors in 2007 after 27 years of service.

For the last 47 years, Pitch Johnson has made over 200 investments. Today, Asset Management Company has about 200 million dollars under its management, with 60 million in the latest fund According to Pitch, he owes his beginnings in the businessn to the government initiative to implement Small Business Investment Companies in the 1960s, through providing private investors with low interest loans: "The minimum private capital was 300 hundred thousand dollars, but the Small Business Administration accommodated you with half of that amount in debentures. The idea was for private investors, who often do not have much money, to invest into operating companies. That is, to make an ordinary guy like me a venture capitalist". Pitch is still convinced that the public-private partnership is an important way of establishing the venture industry in a country. He positively evaluates the activity of the Russian government aimed at venture capitalism development in Russia. "Russia has a strong competitive advantage – "a pool of talent and technology", as we call it in the venture world. The country has strong potential in the field of science and talented people with ideas concerning its implementation". Five of the seven venture projects invested by the Russian Technology Fund, formed by fellow panelist Harry Fitzgibbons, and which Pitch advised, were successful. This is a very good ratio for this kind of business. It helps confirm the attractiveness of Russia for investments of this type.

Franklin "Pitch" Johnson will take part in the panel discussion "Innovation Economy Investment Tools (Venture Funds, Seed Funds, and Business Angels)". Together with Pitch Johnson, the following panelists will discuss the matters of "high-risk" project financing: Harry Fitzgibbons, Managing Director of Top Technology Ventures/Conduit Ventures Limited (the United Kingdom),) Shigeki Saitoh, CEO of Strategic Investment Partners (Japan) The Honorable Timothy Lewin, Managing Partner of I2BF Venture Capital (the United Kingdom), Igor Agamirzyan, CEO of the Russian Venture Company (RVC) Alexei Andreev, Executive Vice President of Harris & Harris Group Artem Yukhin, Director of Venture Funds of the Troika Dialog Investment Group Vadim Asadov, CEO of NeurOK Maxim Shekhovtsov, Managing Director of Venture Funds of Allianz ROSNO Asset Management Ivan Rodionov, Chairman of Board of Trustees of the Venture Investment Fund (VIF). The discussion moderator will be Andrei Sharonov, Managing Director of Troika Dialog.