Posts Tagged ‘Ken Olsen’

In Memory of Ken Olsen

February 15, 2011

Ken Olsen, the cofounder of Digital Equipment Corp, died last week.

The story of Olsen and DEC formed the heart of my book Creative Capital. I’ve been meaning to get around to publishing a blog post explaining why Ken Olsen still matters.

In the meantime, here are some of the best links to obits and memorials of Olsen, who Fortune magazine in 1986 called “America’s Most Successful Entrepreneur.”

Ken Olsen, Who Built DEC Into a Power, Dies at 84 by Glenn Rifkin of The New York Times

Innovator’s Dilemma
by Steve Syre of The Boston GLobe.

Remembering Ken Olsen by Paul Kedrosky of Bloomberg BusinessWeek

Remembering Ken Olsen by Bruce Richardson

Ken Olsen Memorial by John Furrier of Silicon Angle

Obit by IDG News Service

Obit by Chris Mellor of Channel Register

Memorial by Robert Lenzner of Forbes

Obit by Gregory T. Huang of Xconomy

Memorial by Gordon Bell on Xconomy

Deadly sins the tech industry can’t seem to shake by Bill Snyder of Infoworld

New Memoir from Computer Visionary and DEC Cofounder Harlan Anderson

October 23, 2009

Digital Equipment Corp. cofounder Harlan Anderson, who just turned 80 this month, is publishing his memoirs next month, reports Scott Kirsner in this column.

The book is called Learn, Earn & Return: My Life as a Computer Pioneer, and is being published by Locust Press. And Anderson has also started blogging recently.

(The photo above is of Anderson’s “Employee #2″ badge from DEC, which appears on the book’s cover.)

In the book, Anderson writes for the first time about his experiences at DEC during the company’s initial decade, and the events that led to his leaving in 1966 — the same year that DEC became one of the most profitable initial public offerings in Wall Street’s history. Anderson is candid about his relationship with DEC co-founder Ken Olsen: and later, how Olsen’s autocratic leadership style alienated some of the company’s most talented engineers, and ultimately contributed to Anderson’s departure.

He also discusses how American Research and Development, the venture capital firm run by Georges Doriot, financed this groundbreaking startup.

When Digital first took money from American Research & Development, Anderson writes that ARD invested $70,000 for seventy percent of the company. “This deal seems ridiculous and unfair by today’s standards; however, we never contacted an alternative source of capital,” Anderson writes. “We were very naïve and there was very little venture capital money available then. We accepted the offer without any negotiation.” (In the photo is Anderson, sitting in front of Digital’s PDP-6 computer, with Georges Doriot, the founder of ARD.)

Congrats Harlan!

BusinessWeek Online Publishes Web Video Interview About Me & Creative Capital

May 16, 2008

Hey folks, some more good news on the book front. My marketing juggernaut continues to chug along. Today, BusinessWeek Online published a video interview of me talking about my book and Georges Doriot. My colleague Catherine Holahan conducted the interview. Thanks BW!

In the interview, I talk about what inspired me to write the book, how World War II spurred the creation of venture capital, how Boston gave birth to the VC movement, the special relationship between Georges Doriot and DEC co-founder Ken Olsen, and the future of the VC industry. Hope you enjoy it.

Gordon College Aims to Build Ken Olsen Science Center

April 20, 2008

Gordon College, a small Christian college in Massachusetts, is in the beginning stages of building The Ken Olsen Science Center. The College’s most ambitious building endeavor to date, the Center will be an 80,000 sq. ft. science and technology center to be built in two phases at the heart of its campus. It’s the first time that Olsen has allowed his name to be used on a building.

As part of my research, I worked with Gordon College exec Dan Tymann to access the Ken Olsen archives at the school. The Gordon College blog wrote up a little item about this on Friday.

In 2003 Olsen, a long-time trustee of the college, made a generous gift commitment to initiate the Science Center. “Even though I have been an entrepreneur, I have always been a scientist first and foremost,” Olsen says. “Science is more than a study of molecules and calculations; it is the love of knowledge and the continued search for truth. The study of the sciences promotes humility, leaving us with a clear sense that we will never understand all there is to know. At the same time, science provides a defense for truth, authenticates Christianity and stems from the nature of God.”

Learn more about the center and how to donate to the campaign if you want.

VC’s First Home Run: Digital Equipment Corp.

January 4, 2008

Before the blockbuster success of Google, Netscape and Apple, there was the first high-tech home run of Digital Equipment Corporation–a story that forms the heart of my book. Below I’ve posted two photos from the archives of Ken Olsen at Gordon College. I am the first person to gain access to these archives.

In 1957, ARD gave $70,000 to the two, young MIT engineers who co-founded Digital—Kenneth P. Olsen and Harlan Anderson—in exchange for 70% of the start-up’s equity. Olsen, who was Digital’s president and undisputed leader, wanted to build smaller, cheaper, and easier-to-use computers that would challenge the glass-encased mainframes of IBM, the dominant computer manufacturer and only one making money. In this sense, DEC was a pre-cursor to the user-friendly machines later pioneered by Apple.

Olsen at ARD
[Ken Olsen at the annual meeting of ARD, surrounded by promotional booths of the other ARD portfolio companies.]

It was a perfect match. In Olsen, Doriot found the archetypal engineer-cum-entrepreneur who was dedicated to making his company a success. “A creative man merely has ideas; a resourceful man makes them practical,” said Doriot. “I look for the resourceful man.” Olsen embodied that ideal. In Doriot, Olsen found a comforting father figure always ready to offer words of encouragement or some bit of wisdom. The fates of these two men would be forever intertwined.

When ARD liquidated its stake in Digital in 1972, the company was worth more than $400 million—yielding a return on their original investment of more than 70,000%! It was the young venture capital industry’s first home run, and it helped make the Route 128 area outside Boston a technological mecca

DEC Board
[The DEC board was stocked with ARD staffers: (left to right) Henry W. Hoagland VP, ARD; John Barnard Jr. general counsel, Massachusetts Investors Trust; Jay W. Forrester, professor, MIT and ARD advisor; William H. Congleton, VP, ARD; Harlan E. Anderson, VP, Co-founder DEC; Kenneth H. Olsen, President, Co-founder DEC; Ms. Dorothy E. Rowe treasurer, ARD; Vernon R. Alden president Ohio University; Arnaud de Vitry, European Enterprise Development; Wayne P. Brobeck, former ARD staffer who became director of consumer relations, Vitro Corp. of America]

HOW TO BUY CREATIVE CAPITAL: To pre-order Creative Capital and get a 34% discount, click here and go to Amazon


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