Charles Flint and the Founding of IBM

Charles Ranlett Flint was an American businessman who is considered as one of the world’s most famous serial entrepreneurs. Born in the State of Maine on January 24, 1850, he founded Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company which later became International Business Machine (IBM) Company.

Charles Flint
Charles Flint (Credit: wiki commons)

Charles was the son of a shipping magnate. He attended the then Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute and graduated with a degree of engineering. At age 21, he became a partner of a shipping company. Later, he was appointed consul for some Latin American countries from 1876 to 1879.

In 1892, Charles founded US Rubber Corporation which was formed from the merger of several rubber companies. He also helped in the setting up of American Chicle which was also a consolidation of smaller chewing gum companies. In 1899, he repeated the strategy to formed American Woolen, a textile trust.

The IBM story followed the same pattern. This once computer monolith started with the formation of Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company in 1911. Charles believed that a company with many products is more stable and more sustainable. If one of its products has a bad year, the other products will sustain the growth of the whole company. He bought the International Time Recording Company, the Computing Scale Company of America and the Tabulating Machine Company and merged them to form a single huge company which was renamed International Business Machine in 1924. He became a director of IBM until he retired at the age of 81.

Charles died in 1934 at the age of 84. Through the years, the company he founded (IBM) became the holder of the most number of patents in the world. After divesting most of its hardware businesses, the company has transformed itself as an IT service provider. Although it is no longer the technology powerhouse that it is used to, it is still one of the largest companies with more than 400,000 employees around the world. In 2019, it ranked #114 in the Fortune Global 500 list with revenues of $79.5 billion. As of today, July 11, 2020, it has a market capitalization of $105 billion.


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