Craig Johnson ’74 died of a massive stroke on October 3, leaving behind a wife of not yet two months RoseAnn Rotandaro ’95, two grown sons and other close family (including his uncle, emeritus professor Ken Scott ’56), a revolutionary law firm in startup mode, one of Silicon Valley’s largest contact lists, and an immense number of friends.

Black and white head shot of Johnson.
Photo courtesy of Elaine Adolfo

Craig came to the law school in 1971 after graduating from Yale College, spending time in Ethiopia with the Peace Corps, and working as a systems programmer. While at Stanford, his proudest extracurricular achievement was editing the student newspaper, the Journal, and particularly its April Fools’ edition. He never lost his pixieish sense of humor.

After graduating in 1974, Craig joined Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & 
Rosati as its 14th lawyer, where he incubated and helped launch many of the tech companies for which Silicon Valley is now famous. In 1993, he broke away to found Venture Law Group (VLG), vowing to be as entrepreneurial as his clients and taking equity positions in many of them. VLG became a Silicon Valley legend, and so did Craig.

Always intellectually restless, Craig gradually turned his talents toward other interests. He founded Concept2Company Ventures, which coaches and provides funding to select entrepreneurs in conceptualizing and launching companies, founded and presided over an exclusive club of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, and indulged his love of bicycling, including many foreign tours. Craig and RoseAnn had just returned from their honeymoon—sailing along the Dalmatian Coast, bicycling with friends in Italy and Slovenia, and participating in his club’s retreat in Aspen, Colorado—when he was felled by the stroke.

In his last venture, started in 2007, Craig co-founded Virtual Law Partners (VLP) with RoseAnn and Andrea Chavez ’96 (MS ’98). VLP fomented another revolution in the legal profession by providing “big law” quality services without bricks and mortar or big law rates. With Craig’s passing, Silicon Valley and the law school community lost an irrepressible, and irreplaceable, entrepreneur, and his family and many friends lost a wonderful man.

3 Responses to Remembering Craig Johnson
  1. I am so sorry to read belatedly of Craig’s passing. I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ethiopia having the pleasure to serve and experience the Corps with Debra and him. We were all friends and bonded during training and during our in-country stay. Debra and Craig even put me up one night as I visiting in their province. I have wonderful remembrances of the two of them. Today, as I was sifting through boxes in my garage getting ready to move, I found an article published in the L.A. Times in 1969 that appeared on the front page which my mother had sent to me. It mentioned the beating the Craig and Dick Obermann had taken by students in their village. It prompted me to Google him and say hi. I’m sorry for his loss and I regret not doing this earlier. I hope that this reaches someone in his family to know how a former volunteer felt about him and our experience together.

  2. Craig Johnson was an entrepreneur’s entrepreneur – he was single-handedly responsible for starting hundreds of companies here in Silicon Valley. Not only did Craig offer legal services of the highest level, he also offered hands-on attention and sage advice. When I ran the Silicon Valley offices of Heidrick & Struggles, Craig was an advisor to many of the young companies we worked with, and we valued his deep insights.

    He is greatly missed by all of us. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.

    Mark Lonergan
    Lonergan Partners, Inc.

  3. Craig was our firm’s attorney in his first years at WSGR and was a marvelous friend, valued colleague, and wonderfully capable attorney. He is sorely missed. RIP dear friend and counselor. Terry Bibbens

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