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Mss:784 1965-2003 E39

Elfers, William. William Elfers Papers, 1965-2003 (inclusive): A Finding Aid

Baker Library Special Collections, Harvard Business School, Harvard University


Harvard Business School, Boston MA 02163.

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: Mss:784 1965-2003 E39
Repository: Baker Library Special Collections, Harvard Business School, Harvard University
Title: William Elfers papers
Date(s): 1965-2003
Quantity: 2 linear feet (4 boxes)
Language of materials: English
Abstract: Papers of William Elfers, founder of Greylock & Co., a pioneering private venture capital firm, 1965-2003.


Gift of William Rice Elfers, 2012.

Processing Information:

Processed: November 2012
By: Alexis Dinniman

Conditions Governing Access:

Collection is open for research. Materials stored onsite. Please contact specialcollectionsref@hbs.edu for more information.

Preferred Citation:

Cite as: William Elfers Papers. Baker Library Historical Collections. Harvard Business School.

Biographical Note:

William Elfers (1918-2005) was a pioneer in the field of venture capital investing, first as a key leader of American Research and Development Corporation, the first public venture capital company, then as co-founder of Greylock & Co., one of the first private venture capital companies.
After earning a B.A. from Princeton University in 1941 and an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School in 1943, William Elfers served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy during World War II. In 1947, Elfers joined American Research and Development Corporation (ARD), founded by Georges Doriot, a Harvard Business School professor and former U.S. Army general. ARD was established in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1946 as the first public venture capital company. By 1951, William Elfers was senior vice president of ARD, second to the president, General Doriot. Elfers remained as senior vice president at American Research and Development Corp. until 1965.
After eighteen years at ARD, Elfers decided to branch out on his own. With several associates, he founded Greylock & Co., one of the first private venture capital organizations, in Boston in 1965. Elfers took the name "Greylock" from the street in Wellesley, Massachusetts, where he lived. Greylock & Co. began in 1965 as a private venture capital partnership. Elfers and his fellow general partners planned to identify and invest in "young growth companies, in all promising fields, which require developmental capital; established small or medium sized companies which are embarking on new programs...; and speculative new companies based on new products, new processes, new services, or new ideas, usually of a technical nature." (Greylock: An Adventure Capital Story, pp.16-17.) Greylock's partnership model was unique for its time, as it would rely on numerous limited partners, rather than a single investor who would fund the venture alone. The first limited partners included the Corning family, brothers Arthur and Thomas Watson of I.B.M., and Sherman Fairchild. William Elfers was managing partner and president of Greylock & Co.
Greylock & Co. made early investments in the microcomputer and telecommunications industries. Its successful ventures during the 1960s and early 1970s included Wang Laboratories and Continental Cablevision. In the 1980s, it invested extensively in biotechnology (Biomedical Resources, Cobe Laboratories, etc.) Although William Elfers stepped down as chief executive and chairman in 1976, he remained closely involved as a general partner until the late 1990s. The company presently operates as Greylock Partners and is headquartered in Palo Alto, California.
William Elfers was the author of Greylock: An Adventure Capital Story, a history of the firm from its founding in 1965 to 1995. The book was published by Greylock Management Company, as the firm was then known. Elfers and several of his Greylock cofounders were awarded the Harvard Business School Alumni Achievement Award in 2003. Mr. Elfers died in 2005.

Series Outline

The collection is arranged in the following series:

Scope and Content Note:

The papers document the history of Greylock & Co. and William Elfers' role within the company. The bulk of the materials were created or gathered by Elfers as he wroteGreylock: An Adventure Capital Story, a history of the company published in 1995. The collection includes a series of Greylock & Co. analysis reports, 1966-1993.

Container List

Additional Index Terms

Capital investments.
Private equity.
Research and development partnership.
Venture capital--History
Elfers, William
Greylock & Co.
Greylock Management Corporation
American Research and Development.