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Creative Capital: Georges Doriot and the Birth of Venture Capital Hardcover – March 11, 2008
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"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
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Richly researched with the cooperation of Doriot's surviving colleagues... --The Wall Street Journal, May 21, 2008
An "ultimately satisfying biography of Georges F. Doriot, the transplanted Frenchman who is often called the father of V.C." --The New York Times, June 1, 2008
This book will appeal to anyone interested in the origins of venture capital, why its centre of gravity moved from the Boston area to the west coast, or what it takes to succeed as a VC investor. --The Financial Times, April 17, 2008
About the Author
Spencer Ante is an editor at Business Week, where he has written many cover stories and received awards for excellence in reporting. He has also written and reported for The New York Times, Salon, Wired, Spin, Business 2.0, The Industry Standard, TheStreet.com, and other publications.
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--When he ran ARD (and also as Quartermaster, to some extent) he was relentlessly pragmatic, which seemed really unusual given the times (business moved slowly, emphasis on tradition) and especially surprising given how much the French usually love bureaucracy (l'administration).
--Occurs to me that he is a lovable character (in the book, the author seems to like him too) and that business tycoons are lovable when their approach comes from optimism, rather than perfectionism or some adherence to engineering efficiency.
--He really evaluated people on what they could do, which is something I think we've lost today -- everything is about credentials now. Few people in business have the confidence to hire on ability, which is why so many promising young people end up running big startups. Big problem for F500 companies. I think they're screwed from a talent perspective.
--The "why" of his life would have been something like, "why aren't things better?" which in its critical aspect is a French way of thinking after all.
--Stunning how many human innovations -- not just technical, but operational/process -- are military. Reminds me of Lewis Mumford, who has a quote in Technics and Civilizations where he says something to the effect of "guns allowed a human being, for the first time in history, to express himself at a distance." (Why are we at our best when fighting? Why are we so lazy that we don't think hard about things until it's life or death?)
The historical context of Georges' life and even his father's was helpful and instructive. What was most powerful was the discussion of later years when Georges' firm struggled to retain talent and to place investments. An argument is made that essentially tax code crippled the firm - my over simplification for review purposes. For students of politics and how politics shapes economies, this is an excellent resource.
At no point is any character in the book beatified. This is not a sing-songy congratulatory book. It is a solid look at the conditions that led to early VC on the East Coast and eventual dominance by VC on the West Coast . . . it wasn't the trees, running trails and views that pulled people West. You will get a much better feel for the forces that pushed VC out of the East as well as the forces that drew VC West.
It is a great read about an inspirational Frenchman who was thoroughly American. American spirit at its best.
1 part history, 1 part politics, 2 parts economics, 3 parts clever
Good for: Economy shapers, history buffs, and those needing a little inspiration through the power of perseverance.
While the book is centered on Georges Doriot, it weaves numerous themes from beginning to end - the creation of the European automobile industry; the imperfections of the US capitalist system, first with a shortage of capital for young companies then with the difficulty of regulatory agencies grasping a new, potent business model; the rise of Harvard as the world's leading graduate school of business; the creation of INSEAD, Europe's leading graduate business school: the application of science and technology to the art of war; the proactive involvement of a teacher as a mentor to students in and out of the classroom; a lifelong storybook romance; the creation and evolution of the venture capital industry; and the value of living one's life to better oneself, his/her family, and society.
Georges Doriot, The founder of the modern VC industry:
* Never graduated from college and dropped out of graduate school but became one of the most influential and popular professors at Harvard's Graduate School of Business.
* Led a revolution in the military by applying science to the art of war
* Financed and nurtured more than one hundred start-ups, including Digital Equipment Corporation and Cooper Laboratories
* Stressed common sense themes such as self-improvement, teamwork, and contributing to society.
* Believed in building companies for the long haul, not flipping them for a quick profit
* Was early to recognize the importance of globalization and creativity in the business world
* Mentored thousands of students, giving them advice, finding them jobs, guiding them in their careers, and taking extraordinarily personal interest in each and every one of their futures
"Doriot was the prophet of the "Start-up Nation," the leader of a social and economic crusade that democratized the clubby world of finance. More than any other person - through his teaching, writing, and leadership in the military, academic, and financial worlds - pioneered the transition to an economy built on entrepreneurship and innovation."
"Creative Capital" is a great read and is highly recommended for those in the "start-up" world that have lost their way. Today, we need another Doriot to democratize the clubby world of venture capital, nurture young companies, and pioneer a transition from investments in "me-too" products to truly innovative "first-in-class" products that can again fire-up America's economic and job creation engine.
I’d particularly recommend this book to anyone who works in the start-up/VC space or who has a passing interest in venture capital, from either a historical or a current perspective. Understanding the genesis of the industry sheds significant light on the current practice, and provides insight on future trends.