The Oral History Center at UC Berkeley

The Oral History Center (OHC), a division of The Bancroft Library, documents the history of California, the nation, and the interconnected global arena. OHC produces carefully researched, audio/video-recorded and transcribed oral histories and interpretative historical materials for the widest possible use.

OHC has carried out interviews in a variety of major subject areas, including but not limited to: politics and government; business and labor; social and community history; science, medicine, and technology; and venture capital.

Early Bay Area Venture Capitalists: Shaping the Business and Industrial Landscape” documents through videotaped interviews with the first generation of venture capitalists, the origins and evolution of the venture capital industry in California during the 1960s and 1970s.

The project explores and explains through the words of participants how venture capital originated in the Bay Area, its intersection with national legislation and policy, the significance of its location, and its role in creating the electronics and biotechnology industries in California.

CHM: Venture Capital Initiative

The Computer History Museum (CHM) decodes technology—its computing past, digital present, and future impact on humanity. It’s home to the Exponential Center, the first museum institution devoted to capturing the legacy and advancing the future of entrepreneurship and innovation in Silicon Valley and around the world.

The Exponential Center is leading an ambitious program to capture and share the stories of pioneering venture capitalists and their partnerships with disruptors and innovators that extend from idea to IPO and beyond. Through a variety of activities that capitalize on the Museum’s core strengths, the center explores what the industry does, how it works, and what happens when venture capitalists and entrepreneurs join forces to create a company.

Through a partnership with the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA), the Exponential Center has received copyright ownership of 17 noteworthy oral histories of pioneering venture capitalists that will be preserved and made accessible online. Featured luminaries include Richard C. Kramlich of New Enterprise Associates, James Swartz of Accel Partners, Charles L. Lea Jr. of Bessemer, and more.

The Computer History Museum is actively adding oral histories of key players in venture capital to the Museum’s renowned collection. They are available to researchers and for events and educational programs designed to share key insights about the industry. Video interviews and transcripts are freely available online. See the full list of CHM venture capital oral histories.

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VC: An American History

VC tells the riveting story of how the industry arose from the United States’ long-running orientation toward entrepreneurship.

Venture capital has been driven from the start by the pull of outsized returns through a skewed distribution of payoffs―a faith in low-probability but substantial financial rewards that rarely materialize. Whether the gamble is a whaling voyage setting sail from New Bedford or the newest startup in Silicon Valley, VC is not just a model of finance that has proven difficult to replicate in other countries. It is a state of mind exemplified by an appetite for risk-taking, a bold spirit of adventure, and an unbridled quest for improbable wealth through investment in innovation.

Tom Nicholas’ history of the venture capital industry offers readers a ride on the roller coaster of setbacks and success in America’s pursuit of financial gain.

A Brief History of the World (of Venture Capital)

In this long-form article, Nicolas Colin traces the history of modern day venture capital.

The article starts out with the development of two elements necessary to equity investment: reliable information systems and limited liability. From there, Colin traces the history of VC through US military investment into technology research during WW2, the subsequent professionalization of private equity as an asset class, and the explosion of VC as an industry in the late 70’s following the reconfiguration of the federal “prudent man rule.”

This article provides an excellent summary of the industry’s rich history, and concludes with resources for deeper exploration.

The First Venture Capitalist: Georges Doriot on Leadership, Capital, and Business Organization

This remarkable book chronicles the ideas of a great teacher, George Doriot, whose decades long career at the Harvard Business School inspired a generation of venture capitalists and Wall Street titans of a bygone era.

George Doriot was a remarkable individual who achieved success as a teacher, a businessman, and a general in the US Army. Some of his students at the Harvard Business School kept their notes from his course in their desk drawer throughout their business careers. Even if they did not go that far, they never forgot the man or his teachings; nor did the employees of the many companies which he launched as the president of American Research & Development Corporation.

This is the first book about George Doriot, and it is a perfect first book: it is in the form of a source book, drawing from the many facets of Doriot’s career as seen by many different people, and sometimes in Doriot’s own words. All the texts are interesting and highly readable.

NVCA Oral History Collection: Henry F. McCance

An oral history featuring Henry McCance, a veteran of the venture capital industry, who joined Greylock in 1969, where he’s presently Chairman Emeritus.

NVCA Oral History Collection: David Morgenthaler

An oral history featuring David Turner Morgenthaler, an American businessman who founded the venture capital firm Morgenthaler Ventures.

NVCA Oral History Collection: Alan Patricof

An oral history featuring Alan Patricof, a venture capital pioneer, who founded Greycroft, LLC in 2006.

NVCA Oral History Collection: Walter J. P. Curley

An oral history featuring Walter J. P. Curley, who was a partner in J. H. Whitney & Co. from 1960 to 1974.

10,000+

high-growth startups—across all 50 states and DC—raised venture funding in 2019 to build and grow their businesses.

42%

of all U.S. IPOs from 1974 to 2015 were venture-backed companies, representing 63% of the market capitalization and 85% of R&D.

2.9 million

is the average net jobs created annually between 1980 and 2010 by high-growth startups, which account for ~50% of gross jobs created in the U.S.

1,300+

U.S. venture firms are active today, managing an aggregate of $444 billion in assets.