Vaux’s name is random, actually.

Pretensions aside, any Leonardo DiCaprio fan knows the place in “The Man in the Iron Mask.” Anyway, what many people don’t know is that Vaux was built by Nic Fouquet, a gifted financier who backed entrepreneurial projects like trading companies, the prelude to the Louisiana Development, and many of the Islands we loosely refer to as the Caribbean. He backed these ventures using the treasury of France; hey, as Superintendent of Finance, he could do that.

On the flip side, he was also required to float the treasury from time to time to support the King’s lifestyle, various wars, and other necessary uses of proceeds. Nic did well enough that when it came time to build his chateau, he could-and did- hire the finest artisans and finished the place in 1661. To celebrate, on August 17th of that year, Nic threw the Mother of All Parties: a sit down dinner for 5,000 give or take, which he was able to accommodate without setting up a single folding chair. Naturally, his guest of honor, the King, was a little overwhelmed, jealous even. He commented how lovely the gold-plate dishes were. “Plate!” exclaimed Nic, “That’s solid gold, my King!” Oops. Did I say that?

That’s all it took for King Louis to throw Nic in prison. Forget all the smart investments he’d made on behalf of the Crown, Louis took every stick of furniture plus the services of Nic’s architectural Dream Team and put them to work on his comparatively tiny hunting lodge-a little shack called “Versailles.”

Fouquet was never convicted of anything but languished in prison anyway, and his fabulous mansion soon passed into other hands. And so, Nic Fouquet’s Vaux le Vicomte stands as a reminder of the power of a few simple realities that apply to the venture game.

Here are some simple realities of venture, as taught by Nic Fouquet:

  1. Nothing is more powerful than talented people doing what they love.
  2. Life is too short to work with people you don’t love working with.
  3. It’s good to back great opportunities early.
  4. It’s bad to not realize value when the opportunity arises.

…and one more, which Nic learned the hard way: there is always someone out there with more money – don’t make them mad!

Vaux makes periodic donations to Vaux le Vicomte preservation in tribute.