While the story of her rise and fall in the computer industry has become part of the lore of entrepreneurship, Lore Harp has quietly moved on to new challenges in a new field: venture capital. And for now, the recently installed president and chief executive officer of Pacific Technology Venture Fund says she prefers to keep a low profile.
That is a departure from days gone by, when she was a high-flying microcomputer pioneer. It was in 1976 that the then-32-year-old perennial student co-founded Vector Graphic Inc., with $6,000 and a product designed by her husband. Five years later, the $25-million-plus company went public amid speculation that she would be the first female founder of a New York Stock Exchange-listed company.
But by last year those expectations had cooled. Scarred by the recession and burdened with obsolete products, Vector had to be bailed out by an investor group that included venture capitalists. Harp -- whose marriage to Robert Harp dissolved in 1981 -- was ousted as chairman last fall but remained as president and CEO until she left the company last spring.
Now that she has shown she can take venture capital Harp is anxious to prove she can dish it out. She believes that the burgeoning number of Japanese entrepreneurs represents a significant opportunity for American venture capitalists, and she is now seeking to raise $40 million, half of which would be invested in Japanese companies. The San Francisco-based fund she heads -- in which she is a co-investor with her husband, CW Communications Inc. chairman Patrick McGovern -- has already put nearly $10 million into Japanese and American companies.
She rejects the notion that her own well-documented limitations as an entrepreneur makes her expertise any less valuable. "I don't think people look at me as being the culprit in that [Vector's demise]," she says. "I can bring a lot to the party because of the experience I have. Most venture capitalists come out of the financial side and just look at numbers. I come from the operations side, so I probably have a little bit more compassion about it."