The venture capital (VC) industry as we know it today began in 1946 when Georges Doriot (who is often considered the “father of venture capital”) and others started American Research and Development Corporation (ARDC), the first publicly owned VC firm. During that same year, three wealthy families established professional VC operations (Rockefeller Brothers Inc., J. H. Whitney, and Payson & Trask) in New York City. From 1946 through 1957, ARDC and the three family operations engaged in VC investing, but no other VC firms were founded.
Technological, political, financial, and regulatory events fueled growth in the VC industry starting in the late 1950s onward. One major milestone during this period was the funding of the first venture-backed start-up (Fairchild Semiconductor) in 1957.
Many well-known VC firms were founded in California and on the East Coast in the 1960s and early 1970s—including Sutter Hill Ventures (1962), Greylock Partners (1965), Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers (1972), and Sequoia Capital (1972).
As the industry grew, venture capitalists began to form professional associations to represent their interests in Washington, D.C., and in foreign capitals, and to assist venture capitalists in their work. In 1969, the first official nonprofit VC organization in the world—the Western Association of Venture Capitalists—was founded. Today, it is comprised of more than 100 venture firms and more than 1,000 venture capitalists. In 1973, the National Venture Capital Association was founded in the offices of the Heizer Corporation, a leading VC firm. It has more than 300 members.
Today, there are about 1,000 venture capital firms in the United States alone.