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Georges Doriot

Born:   1899, Paris, France
Died:   1987, Boston, MA

Did You Know?

Doriot kept a stopwatch on his desk. "Sometimes I use it to see how long it takes someone in a meeting to tell me the same thing three times," he explained.

Photo: (right) Corbis

Venture Capital

A Frenchman with a cool eye formed a publicly traded company to assess thousands of business proposals -- and funded the best ones, inventing the modern practice of venture capitalism.

Management Expert
Georges Doriot was a pioneer in the development of venture capital in the 1950s. Born in France in 1899, he came to the U.S. to get an M.B.A. and extended his stay, working for an investment bank and teaching at Harvard Business School. One of his most popular courses was on business start-ups. Over a 40-year teaching career, he would influence thousands of top students, including Fred Smith, the founder of FedEx.

Improvements for the Army
During World War II, Doriot joined the U.S. Army. He was given the rank of lieutenant colonel and assigned to a research and development role in military planning. His staff of researchers and scientists developed new and improved shoes, foods, and uniforms for the troops.

Venture Capital
After the war, Doriot returned to teach at Harvard, where he would remain on faculty until 1966. In 1946, he founded American Research and Development Corporation, the first publicly owned venture capital firm. Nearly half of A.R.D.'s shares were owned by insurers and educational institutions. With its $5 million bankroll, A.R.D. placed high-risk bets on fledgling companies, helping the new companies get started in exchange for a stake in their futures. Before Doriot's arrangement, innovators had to seek private investors for their ideas; for example, Juan Trippe had turned to the Vanderbilts when he started Pan Am.

Judge of New Ideas
A meticulous manager, Doriot spent over two decades at the helm of A.R.D. He was fond of aphorisms: "Be friendly but not chummy with your lawyers." "Someone, somewhere, is making a product that will make your product obsolete." Before merging A.R.D. with Textron in 1972, he achieved nearly a 15% return on his investments in over 150 companies, and innovated a system for funding the ideas that kept the American economy growing. Doriot died of lung cancer in 1987.

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