The venture was daunting. The motive was profit. Only those with an extraordinary appetite for risk need apply. Long before the Mayflower sailed (some seventy years prior, to be more exact), a small group of English merchants formed the world’s first joint-stock company. Its name–The Mysterie, Company, and Fellowship of Merchant Adventurers for the Discovery of Regions, Dominions, Islands, and Places Unknown–was as formidable as its purpose: to seek new markets and trading partners for England, a small and relatively insignificant kingdom on the periphery of Europe. The silks and exotic luxuries of Cathay-China lured them east. But the merchant adventurers eventually turned west and began a new chapter in world history, marked by innovation and an entrepreneurial spirit that continues today.