Eeva-Liisa Aulikki Olsen, 84, died March 2, 2009. She and her husband, Digital Equipment Corp. co-founder Kenneth Olsen together with Harlan and Lois Anderson, were the entrepreneurs who put together what was, until the rise of the personal computer in the mid-1980s, the second most successful computer firm in the world. From all accounts, there is no question the support she gave her husband Ken was instrumental in the great success DEC experienced for over thirty years.
According to Edward Baer Roberts, in his book Entrepreneurs in High Technology, “Incorporating DEC on August 28, 1957, were two young married couples, Kenneth and Eeva-Liisa Aulikki Olsen and Harlan and Lois Jean Anderson, somewhat prototypical of American entrepreneurial beginnings; but certainly not typical in the outcomes they achieved over the next three decades.”
“Eeva-Liisa Aulikki Olsen, 84, the wife of Digital Equipment Corp. co-founder and long-time president Kenneth Olsen, died earlier this week, according to published reports.
“Most of the time, Aulikki kept her distance from the business. But that doesn’t mean her behind-the-scenes role was unimportant. For instance, when Olsen sought startup funding from American Research & Development, the nation’s pioneer venture fund, General (Georges) Doriot, its president, insisted on meeting Olsen’s wife — to take the measure of the couple and ascertain whether she would support an entrepreneur bent on challenging the computer industry.
“Aulikki reportedly charmed the general and his key associate, Dorothy Rowe, helping to cement a cordial friendship that lasted another 30 years. And, according to the authors of The Ultimate Entrepreneur, a book which profiled Olsen and Digital at their peak, in the late 1980s, Olsen pursued his future wife, Eeva-Lissa Aulikki Valve, a Finnish exchange student he had first met through a mutual friend, with the same determination he later brought to building the second largest computer company in the world. Despite the brevity of their acquaintance while Aulikki was in the U.S., Olsen put his graduate school work on MIT’s Whirlwind computer aside long enough to fly to Europe and track down and court Aulikki. Olsen had to support himself by working in a Swedish ball bearing factory and then, when the two decided to marry, he had to get special permission from the State Department because of Finland’s ambiguous position in the cosmology of the cold war. They were married on Dec. 12, 1950, with Aulikki’s father, a Lutheran minister, officiating.
“The two were married for 59 years had three sons, one of whom predeceased her. According to the obituary In the Indianapolis Star, she was born on Sept. 1, 1924, in Lahti, Finland, the daughter of Juho and Hilja Valve. She was a member of the Lotta Svaard, the women’s auxiliary of the Finnish Army in the 1939 Winter War with the Soviet Union. She later attended Valparaiso University.”
– Christopher Hartman