Dutch East India Company

Founded in 1602, granted a monopoly by the Dutch government for trading and colonization in the East Indies, the Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie or VOC, as it was known in Dutch, was the world's first multinational stock company. Before bankruptcy and dissolution in 1798, it had established outposts and colonies in Indonesia, enforcing often brutally a monopoly on the spice trade. They established the European colony at Cape Town, South Africa and were the first, and for years the only, Europeans allowed to trade with Japan. The VOC reached the height of its economic power in 1669, then declined as a result of British-Dutch warfare and competition from other countries and regions.