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History of risk capital in San Francisco

September 11, 2016

Although we often think of VC and risk capital as being a relatively recent phenomena in the Bay Area; starting during the 1950s and 1960s with the rise of the microchip industry and the birth of “Silicon Valley.”

But the culture of of risk capital extends far before that, all the way back to the 19th century!

I’m reading this great book San Francisco Stories (borrowed from a public library… yay libraries!!!), which is a collection of letters and essays by great writers on San Francisco.

One who was not impressed by the city is Anthony Trollope, indeed his letter is titled “Nothing to See in San Francisco”

But as he wrote his letter in 1875, he was amazed by the willingness of San Francisco entrepreneurs and San Francisco financiers to take risks on new ventures, something that he could not imagine taking place in London or elsewhere in the US.

The great commercial community is there [in San Francisco]… If a young man there can make friends, and can establish a character of honesty to his friends and for smartness to the outside world, he can borrow almost any amount of money without security, for the purposes of establishing himself in business. The lender, if he feel sure that he will not be robbed by his protege, is willing to run the risk of unsuccessful speculation.

(Although we need to continue to ensure the risk capital investments and investees increasingly are women, as well!)

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