May 5, 2020

The oldest companies in the world still operating

Leo Nagano @Leo


I was browsing a Wikipedia article about the oldest companies in the world that still operate. The oldest one dates back to 578 AD!

List of top ten companies below and also 2 charts showing the top ten industries and number of oldest companies by country:

| Year | Company | Country | Industry |
| 578 | Kongō Gumi | Japan | Construction |
| 705 | Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan | Japan | Hotel |
| 717 | Koman | Japan | Hotel |
| 718 | Hōshi Ryokan | Japan | Hotel |
| 771 | Genda Shigyō | Japan | Ceremonial paper goods |
| 803 | St. Peter Stiftskulinarium | Austria | Restaurant |
| 862 | Staffelter Hof | Germany | Wine |
| 864 | Monnaie de Paris | France | Mint |
| 885 | Tanaka-Iga | Japan | Religious goods |
| 900 | Sean's Bar | Ireland | Pub |

by industry

by country

Top 3 industries by country

Short timeline about the once family-owned construction company Kongō Gumi, which has been operating for over 1400 years:
578 AD - Korean immigrant Shigemitsu Kongō was invited to Japan by the Royal Family to build a Buddhist temple and decided to create his own company
1583 - Osaka castle is built
2005 - 100 employees and $70MM annual revenue
*2006 - 50th generation of Kongō leads the company
2006 - Liquidation and sold to Takamatsu Construction Company

Main takeaways for me, also from this article:

  • Buddhism was on the rise, but Japan didn't have knowledge to build Buddhist temple, therefore looked outside for help
  • Shigemitsu Kongō was in the right place, at the right moment and had the right knowledge
  • Familiar companies can last for 50th generations! Not following traditional familiar business model, the successors were chosen based on skills and competencies, rather than heirship
  • The company still specialises in construction and maintenance of Buddhist temples. They went "niche" (hey @tylertringas), dominated the market and lasted 1400 years! 80% of its revenue came from construction and maintenance of Buddhist temples
  • Temple business is a large and stable industry in Japan (the size of your company is all about the industry you're in, right @mijustin?)

Why I'm doing it

  • I'm passionate about reading stories of great companies, how they were created, motivations, timeline and biographies of great entrepreneurs. We all know there are plenty of resources to consume, but most of them based on "modern companies and entrepreneurs". I don't have a focus at the moment, but would avoid those modern companies, the internet era
  • To help entrepreneurs see how things were done since 578 AD when creating new businesses
  • To improve my English writing skills

Do let me know your thoughts. I'm keen to keep the ball rolling

Just saw a snippet from Company of One from @pjrvs where he describes the rise and fall of Kongō Gumi

Added table of top 3 industries for top 7 countries

Ps.: sorry about the images quality. I'm learning how to add inline images (using imgur atm). Any tips on that @rosieSherry?

  1. 1

    From 578 AD until 1699

    ... and from this point of view you can call a 100 years old enterprise a young company 😂

  2. 1

    Thanks for sharing - this is super interesting! I remember finding out that Zildjian (maker of cymbals) has been in the same family since the 1600s and thinking that was impressive... but 578 is a whole other level!

    Here's a cool read on the Ziljians as well - the company survived a move from Constantinople to Norwell, Mass.

    1. 2

      Cool! Thanks for sharing! I like the family rules: go work elsewhere to get experience, family member never reports to another, never had spouses in the business...

  3. 1


    What's also interesting about many of these old companies, is they're very much "main things:" restaurants, hotels, breweries, winemakers, pharmacies, construction companies.

    Coronavirus has certainly disrupted hotels and restaurants, but liquor sales, pharmacies, and construction companies seem to be doing well.

    1. 1

      Guess it’s Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The stuff at the bottom of the pyramid is never going to go anywhere. But the top of the pyramid...

      a) isn’t necessary for survival
      b) the solutions for top of pyramid are constantly being reinvented

      And booze is a proxy for top of pyramid in the short term 😄

      1. 1

        Japan, Germany, UK and France all have booze on top! See the updated table

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