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a forerunner of the modern corporation that was organized for undertakings requiring large amounts of capital; money was raised by selling shares to investors, who became partners in the venture. One of the earliest joint-stock companies was the Virginia Company, founded in 1606 to colonize North America. By law, individual shareholders were not responsible for actions undertaken by the company, and, in terms of risk exposure, shareholders could lose only the amount of their initial investment. See also corporation.