I had the privilege of attending a launch lunch for the Bunker Incubator earlier this week in Chicago, thanks to my friend and US Airforce vet Todd Olhms. The Bunker is an accelerator for veteran-owned businesses that has started in Chicago but has quickly spread to seven cities. Among its many purposes is to create jobs for our veterans.
It occurred to me yesterday that aside from being thankful to our veterans, those currently serving in the armed forces and their families for what they do to protect our country, I am also thankful for another reason. A US Army veteran was the father of the modern venture capital industry. In a sense, I owe my job to an veteran.
Brigadier General and French immigrant, Georges Doriot returned from WWII with a specific mission to put veterans back to work after WWII running or working for private, growing companies. To do this, Doriot created the country’s first venture capital firm in 1946, American Research & Development Corporate (ARDC).
Georges Doriot went on to invest in Digital Equipment Corp (DEC), which to this day is one of the best venture returns in history (5000x and 101% IRR sustained over a long period of time). He also went on to teach at HBS and founded INSEAD.
While you may argue that someone else might have eventually created the VC business, there is no doubt that Doriot and ARDC had a huge impact. And when you consider how many jobs (vets and non-vets) and the economic contribution that has been created by VC-backed companies, it’s astounding. Many of the world’s largest and most respected companies were backed by venture capital. All of us used products on a daily basis that were created by business that at one time or another were VC-backed.
I am thankful to our veterans for a lot of reasons. I now realize that one of those reasons is my job.