Posts Tagged ‘Ionics’

Boston Globe Covers Creative Capital and Doriot

April 6, 2008

Scott Kirsner wrote a great story about Doriot and my book Creative Capital in today’s Boston Globe. He covers the launch of the book and the key arguments I make in it; he chronicles Doriot’s influence; and he even mentions that American Research and Development still exists! Click here to read the whole 1162-word piece in his Innovation Economy column.

I’m totally pumped since this is the first major newspaper to write about the book–and because the Boston Globe is the perfect paper to break the story. When Doriot was in his heyday during the 40s/50s/60s operating out of the John Hancock Building, the Globe wrote about him quite often.

Kirsner’s piece is called “Venture capital’s grandfather: Georges Doriot helped lay groundwork for 128 tech cluster.”

Here’s the beginning of the story:

“Without him, Digital Equipment Corp. might never have gotten started, and the electronics-testing company Teradyne Inc. might not have survived beyond infancy.

He backed an oil rig-manufacturing company run by George H.W. Bush. The current Secretary of Energy, Samuel Bodman, once worked for his Boston firm. And a half-century ago, he put $50,000 into a company called Ionics Inc. that was trying to find new ways to desalinate seawater; GE bought the company in 2004 for $1.1 billion.

Georges Doriot is the forgotten grandfather of the modern venture capital industry. His Boston firm, American Research and Development, or ARD, helped lay the foundation for the Route 128 technology cluster.

“After World War II, all the textile mills had gone away, and war time production was going away,” says Spencer Ante, a Business Week editor who has written a new book on Doriot, “Creative Capital,” that is hitting stores this week. “Doriot and ARD were really trying to revive the New England economy after the war.”

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

Reader Mail: Did DEC hire a PR firm and run a campaign against IBM?

February 20, 2008

Yesterday, a former assistant managing editor of BusinessWeek who ran our overseas bureaus, Robert Dowling, was kind enough to post a comment on the blog about the development of Digital Equipment Corp. I bumped into Bob a few weeks ago at an event for the Asia Society. I was pleasantly shocked when he told me he actually moved to China, where he is serving as an editorial advisor to Caijing Magazine, the top business mag in China from what I hear.

In many ways, blogs are all about reader and writer interaction. So I am going to start a new feature today called “Reader Mail.” From time to time, I will post a good question by a reader and then answer it.

Bob asks: 

“Hi Spencer:
Congrats on the book and blog. That’s an interesting and unexpected angle on DEC, and the VC community. I wonder what behaviors, typical of VC-backed start-ups, did DEC exhibit in those early days? For example, did they hire a PR firm and run a competitive campaign for share of voice against IBM?
Best,
Dowling”

spencerante says:

As far as I know, DEC was not a big user of PR firms. But the company was very savvy in its use of public relations–a lot of which came from General Doriot.

Every spring, Doriot held an annual meeting for American Research & Development. At the meeting, Doriot always organized an exhibit of ARD’s portofolio companies, where they could show off their products to the public and the press. Doriot also encouraged entrepreneurs to use the annual meeting as an opportunity to make important announcements.

The events were always well attended and often generated lots of ink and coverage. BusinessWeek, in fact, ran many stories that came out the event.  It was sort of the first high-tech trade show in a sense and was very innovative for its time.

Here’s a bit from my book about the meetings and their impact. It is based on the 1952 annual meeting, when the New York Times wrote a page one story about Ionics, a water purification company financed by ARD.

“At the end of the meeting, MIT Chemical Engineering Professor Gilliland stood up behind a podium and announced a startling new development. Gilliland, who doubled as the president of Ionics, demonstrated the company’s new membrane that desalinated seawater more cheaply than any other existing technology. The demo and related testimony by Dr. Compton and Harvard chemistry professor and Ionics director Arthur B. Lamb was so compelling that the New York Times published a page one story about the development: “New Process Desalts Seawater; Promises to Help Arid Areas.” The story written by William L. Laurence hailed a “revolutionary new process for desalting seawater” that promised to “open up vast new reservoirs of fresh water for use in agriculture, industry and the home wherever water is now scarce.”

The page one scoop was a coup for both ARD and Ionics, generating publicity and contracts for the new company. After it came out, Senator Flanders received a visit from Sheridan Downey, a former U.S. Senator from California. Downey, who was representing the city of Long Beach, said he was “tremendously interested in the announcement” and expressed a desire to jump-start the first field trials of the technology for the city. Senator Flanders arranged for Downey to speak with Ionics cofounder and vice president Walter Juda. The meetings eventually led to one of Ionics’s first commercial contracts. In the mid-1950s, the town of Coalinga, California purchased a system from Ionics, replacing the water supply it formerly brought in by railway.”