In 1982, William A. Porter (born November 10, 1928) and Bernie Newcomb founded the first ever electronic stock brokerage, E*TRADE; heralding both the demise of the ticker tape and the advent of the electronic trading age.
After the success of E*TRADE, Porter also co-founded International Securities Exchange (ISE) with Marty Averbuch and became (the first) chairman of ISE on his 70th birthday in 1998. Porter is former chief executive officer, current board member, and chairman emeritus of E*TRADE.
In 2000, CNN called Porter the "forefather of online trading".
"He (also) funneled generous portions of his fortune into businesses and nonprofits benefiting organic farming, recreation and community building on Kauai’s North Shore, died Wednesday at his home in Princeville, surrounded by family and friends."
Porter was born and raised in Boulder, Colorado and spent his childhood summers as a cowboy on a Colorado ranch. He quit high school to join the Navy during WWII and was expelled from the Navy when they learned he was only sixteen. Porter later put himself through college, finishing undergraduate work in three years and working nights as a crew dispatcher on the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad. According to a 2000 CNN interview, Porter attributes his self-confidence to his work as a young cowboy:
As a student at Adams State College, Porter and other students would take turns visiting and reading aloud to the aged and infirmed former governor of Colorado, Billy Adams.
Creation of E-Trade
In 1980, in Palo Alto, Porter met Bernie Newcomb at a party. Having recently purchased an Apple II computer, Porter had the idea that a personal computer could be used to buy and sell stock. Having no means of accessing the necessary information with his modem, Porter convinced Newcomb to become his partner and together create a company that would enable any individual with a personal computer to trade stocks from their home—thereby disintermediating stock trades. Newcomb developed the programming which enabled the project to succeed.
According to Porter, the first actual trade, made on July 11, 1983, was made by a dentist in Michigan.
In 1992, PC Magazine featured Trade*Plus on its cover. In 1992, The San Jose Business Journal named Trade*Plus the year's fastest growing private company in Silicon Valley. In 1996, Trade*Plus was renamed E-Trade Group and went public. Newcomb retired soon after and established a philanthropic foundation, the Bernard A. Newcomb Foundation.
Career prior to E-Trade
Porter received a B.A. from Adams State College, an M.S. in Physics from Kansas State University, and a Master's degree in Management (M.B.A.) from the Sloan Fellows program at the MIT Sloan School of Management.
Porter started Commercial Electronics Inc. in 1968 and developed the first commercial low-light night vision for electron microscopes and the first color low-light (night vision) broadcast television camera, a technology that's used today in all broadcast cameras. Porter sold Commercial Electronics to Warner Communications after the cancellation of a large order during the 1974 recession.
Porter holds 14 patents, having developed a number of electronic devices and processes—including for the aforementioned "first" shoulder-mounted-backpack broadcast color TV camera, the first infrared horizon sensor for satellite stabilization (prior to Sputnik), and several other breakthroughs still in use today in a variety of fields—including, according to the 2000 CNN interview, devices used by the US military to this day.
Under the project name The Search, Porter developed the first electronic diesel-electric locomotive "checkout system," whereby a testing device could be inserted into a locomotive engine. The Southern Pacific and B&O Railroads suggested the system could improve operating capacity of the approximately 33,000 locomotive engines in the US by roughly 10 percent.
Management and Directorships
Porter has served as Chairman of Trelleborg Rubber Company, President of Tretorn Shoes, and President of Commercial Electronics Incorporated (see below). Porter was Director of Research and Planning for Textron from 1962–67, and Research Manager and Electrical Engineer of General Electric's Advanced Electronics Center at Cornell University from 1957-62. He was a physicist with the National Bureau of Standards from 1952-1957.
Personal life and philanthropy
Porter has three children from his first wife, Ada Guthrie, now deceased. He and his second wife Joan, who has one child from a previous marriage, have homes in Portola Valley, California and Princeville, Hawaii. Together, the Porters have ten grandchildren. Joan Porter is the founder and president of the Stillheart Institute in Woodside, CA.
In 1999, Porter and his wife Joan gave $25 million to MIT's Sloan School of Management:
In 2007, the Porters gave 250,000 shares of E-Trade stock to Adams State College (worth approximately $5.8 million at the time), the largest gift in school's history.