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The Little Book of Venture Capital Investing: Empowering Economic Growth and Investment Portfolios by Wesley A. Whittaker, Louis C. Gerken

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Chapter One

An Historic Overview of Venture Capitalism

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

—George Santayana

Why is an historical overview of VC important? Because history does in fact repeat itself, and a study of history allows us to frame an understanding of the present and the future. The players and the investment climate change, but the entrepreneur’s innate instinct to risk capital for a return is no different today from what it was when John D. Rockefeller became America’s first billionaire in 1900. When Andrew Carnegie joined forces with his childhood friend, Henry Phipps, to form Carnegie Steel in 1892, they were driven by the same conviction to improve the status quo as are the idealistic dream chasers of the twenty-first century. It was these early trailblazers who paved the way and developed the techniques that have laid the foundation for VC as we know it today.

Arguably, historians will debate the nature of history and its usefulness. This includes using the discipline as a way of providing perspective on the problems and opportunities of the present. I believe it to be an important tool in providing a systematic account and window to the future. It is patently dishonest and irresponsible to perpetuate the popular mythology that those who created great wealth in America are to be despised and that there are no useful lessons to be learned from an objective, historical review of their contributions to the subject at hand. As John F. Kennedy ...

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