The Dutch East India Company, founded in 1602, was one of the first companies in the world and became the largest company in the world in that period. This case offers a historical perspective on the development of economic and financial institutions, which were both critical to, and laid the foundations for, the development of capitalism. The case compares the economic, social, and governmental conditions of the Netherlands and of Spain at that time, and explains why the Netherlands was able to develop these institutions, while Spain was not. The kinds of institutions needed for business to thrive are described. Economic development occurs when the interests of the government and society are aligned.