Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Economist Traces SIlicon Valley's Roots to Whaling in New Bedford, Massachusetts

New Bedford was not the only whaling port in America; nor was America the only whaling nation. Yet according to a study published in 1859, of the 900-odd active whaling ships around the world in 1850, 700 were American, and 70% of those came from New Bedford. The town’s whalers came to dominate the industry, and reap immense profits, thanks to a novel technology that remains relevant to this day. They did not invent a new type of ship, or a new means of tracking whales; instead, they developed a new business model that was extremely effective at marshalling capital and skilled workers despite the immense risks involved for both. Whaling all but disappeared as an industry after mineral oil supplanted whale oil as a fuel. But the business structures pioneered in New Bedford remain as relevant as they ever were. Without them, the tech booms of the 1990s and today would not have been possible.

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