“MIT is only a token away,” the general would say while placing a subway token on the desk of one of his staff at American Research and Development Corporation (ARD). That was the signal to get out of the office and do some field work. Established in 1946, ARD was the first publicly traded venture capital firm. General Georges Doriot, Professor of Industrial Management at Harvard Business School was the originator and founder of ARD but he received key support from Ralph Flanders (soon to be elected U.S. Senator from Vermont) and MIT President Karl Compton. The objective of the new firm was simple: “...aid in the development of new or existing businesses into companies of stature and importance.”
ARD’s most stunning success came from its decision to support Kenneth Olsen and Harlan Anderson’s request for $70,000 to start up Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC). In its first year, DEC turned a small profit by making these Digital Laboratory Modules, but the real payoff came later. In 1968, following DEC’s initial public offering, ARD shares were worth $355 million.
DEC Laboratory Module and prospectus on loan from the Kenneth Olsen archives at Gordon College, Wenham, MA; ARD pamphlet on loan from John Shane.