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The Need for a Visionary

Geoerge Doriot is one of the unsung heroes of the modern world. A Frenchman who started in the US lecturing in the new area of management in Harvard Business School, he rose to become a Professor in the University very quickly, famed for his excellence in teaching. He gave sage advice to his students that still resonates today:

“Always remember: someone, somewhere, is making a product that will make your product obsolete.”

The son of a senior engineer for Peugeot car company near Paris, Doriot also turned out to be very good at applying the management subject he taught, working on the logistics and manufacturing side of the US economy during World War Two. His enlightened thinking led to superior products being used by the US army in the war, and meant that the US soldier was one of the best fed, clothed and armed of the war.

Oh and he also founded INSEAD, one of Europe’s leading Business schools!

But his biggest contribution was in the area of venture capital. Before the 1950’s venture capital as was we know it didn’t really exist. Doriot was the major contributor to what amounts to the first modern venture capital company, the American Research and Development Corporation. In it’s first annual report Doriot wrote that it existed to “aid in the development of new or existing businesses into companies of stature and importance.”

And aid in development he did, working with hundreds of companies including what then was a substantial investment in a startup called Digital Equipment Corporation or DEC as it would be known as. This investment led to a massive return and would set the standard for risk and reward in the industry.

Another one of his quotes was “Without actions, the world would still be an idea.”

At a time when the Irish economy is struggling, and there are many green energy projects and developments not least from big players such as Bord Gais and the ESB, Ireland needs a visionary like Doriot to help create the financial infrastructure to help move Ireland into a sustainable, green economy and hopefully lead the world. Because, to paraphrase Doriot, there are plenty of other countries working on the same ideas.

There is a great biography of Doriot called ‘Creative Capital: Georges Doriot and the Birth of Venture Capital’

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