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Preface: The Sovereign Startup
Could founding countries begin with founding companies? A look into HBC: a company that survives to this day, was the largest landowner in the world, and predates US & Canada by over a century
In a world of blurred hierarchies, one seems clear: countries hold ultimate power, and corporations play within their rules. To those who run afoul of these laws, woe be to them. This nation-state system, a seemingly immovable constant, harks back to a time when maps warned, “there be dragons.”
Yet, the idea of the country is a startup idea. It is a startup idea in the sense that it is a recent spark in the arc of human history.And it is also a startup idea in the sense that some countries actually began as start-up companies.
In fact, there is a company—it still exists today—that is a precursor to two of the most powerful countries on Earth.
It stands as a Titan—not just influentially, but also symbolically. Just as Titans were the progenitors of the Greek gods, this company also birthed countries. It predates the United States by 106 years; Canada, by 197 years.At its peak, it was the largest landowner globally, its dominion stretching across 15% of North America’s landmass and 40% of modern-day Canada.
The Hudson’s Bay Company mixed company and country. As a quasi-sovereign, it minted its own currency,built forts, and even maintained gunboats and a militia. The Hudson’s Bay Company did not merely operate—it governed.
What if the countries of tomorrow began as startups today?
And who would fund them?
Thanks for reading my work. I think and write about building new countries. Subscribe for future chapters.
Further explored and excerpted in “The Four Eras” section below of Part One.
I expand on the history of The Company in Part Three, “Old New Countries.”