Judy MacDonald Johnston

co-founder & CEO, Blue Lake Children's Publishing
San Francisco, CA, United States

About Judy


I am a serial entrepreneur who has always been drawn to helping kids be smarter. I was born and raised in Miami, Florida. Our parents were dedicated public school teachers. I went to UNC-Chapel Hill (BA, International Studies) and UCLA Anderson Graduate School of Management (MBA). When I decided to switch from tech to publishing, I took the Stanford Professional Publishing Course.

With my friend and longtime business partner Rosie Augustine, I am on my third venture, Blue Lake Children's Publishing. Our flagship program is The Tessy & Tab Reading Club, designed to build independent reading skills in preschoolers ages 2-5. We also created Clark the Baby Shark, a series of reading toys for babies and toddlers.

Prior to Blue Lake, I was the CEO and co-founder of Kibu Inc., an online integrated marketing company servicing the teen girl demographic. Kibu was a quintessential late bubble phenomenon. We raised a first round of $22M in February 2000 from investors that included Jim Clark, Kleiner Perkins and Allen & Co. After analyzing post-crash possibilities, we decided to shut down the company and return the capital to the investors in October 2000.

Before Kibu, I co-founded PrintPaks Inc., a developer of multimedia craft kits with Rosie Augustine and Irit Hillel. We launched in May 1995, backed by August Capital, Hummer Winblad Venture Partners, Northwest Venture Associates and Bay Partners. After producing 22 award-winning products in eight countries, the company was sold to Mattel Inc. in January 1998.

Before becoming an entrepreneur, I worked for Hewlett Packard from 1988-1995, starting as Product Manager for the first color DeskJet and leaving as the Worldwide Product Marketing Manager for the DeskJet brand. Our team developed what has become HP's most consistently profitable business in the last decade.

I have always been interested in children, education and entrepreneurial pursuits. As a volunteer at the Doernbecher Children's Hospital in Portland, Oregon I became interested in the reading skills of very young children. I am a supporter and past board member of the Oregon Entrepreneurs Network. I like reading, cooking and hiking. One of my favorite hobbies is mentoring women in starting businesses.

TED Conferences

TED2015, TED2013, TED2011, TED2009, TED2004

Areas of Expertise

early reading skills


UCLA, UNC-Chapel Hill

My TED story

This is my tenth TED.

Comments & conversations

Judy MacDonald Johnston
Posted over 1 year ago
Henry Evans and Chad Jenkins: Meet the robots for humanity
Henry, his family, friends and tech allies are a testament to three of the best parts of the human character: perseverance, creative problem-solving and the ability to work in teams. In a 10-minute talk, we ere able to share in the joyful results of Henry & Co.'s endeavor. What we can only imagine are the dark moments in this journey and what was needed to keep moving forward when it was not obvious that better days were ahead. Hats off to you all.
Judy MacDonald Johnston
Posted over 2 years ago
Dan Pallotta: The way we think about charity is dead wrong
I hope this important talk inspires innovative non-profit boards to take the risk of increasing their HR and marketing budgets, gather proof that Dan Pallotta is right about this and subsequently share their results. In addition to expanding the benefit for the cause they espouse, this activity will bring to light new candidates for our charitable decisions. I am sure that I am not the only person who is drawn to a compelling cause, conducts due diligence and determines that the management team is not likely to develop or execute a meaningful, sustainable model. Every donation is an investment decision and Mr. Pallotta's shared wisdom adds much to our understanding of non-profit success.