At Williston, this venture capitalist discovered the rewards of taking chances
The summer before her senior year in high school, Laura Sachar took a big risk, leaving her home and school in New Jersey to attend Williston. She’s been taking bold leaps ever since—shifting from her work as a financial journalist to become a venture capitalist, and then co-founding one of the largest women-owned venture capital companies in the nation, StarVest Partners, where she’s a managing partner. Last summer, she took another jump when she married and blended families with her husband. She lives between New York City and Westchester County with five children, two dogs, and three bunnies. Laura has a BA from Barnard College and an MBA from the Columbia University Graduate School of Business.
How was your transition to Williston?
I was ready to go away to school, so I just did it a year earlier. I made such great friends. I loved the dorm life and having such great conversations with my friends about life. I loved the academic experience—it was very different from my high school in New Jersey.
Coming to a new school your senior year is a big change. How did that experience influence you?
Right after Williston, I joined a French program. I got my passport and flew to France the same day, all by myself. Making that change to Williston my senior year, and it being such a good experience, must have given me the confidence to try something new. Probably part of my DNA was willing to take risks—that’s what had me go to Williston in the first place. And yet it was a risk with a lot of support, and then success from that decision built
confidence to take other risks following Williston.
Did any classes at Williston inspire your career path?
The writing I did at Williston definitely impacted my career. I became a financial journalist, which helped me to search out interesting companies, have a critical eye, be able to speak with senior executives and CEOs of companies in an analytical way as a young person—all that was a helpful background for me before I went to business school. I think those seminars, when you’re deciphering and challenging and thinking, those were great experiences. There was an excellent math class, and I continued to build my confidence in math, which is so important for women. And I think having a woman teacher was probably very helpful.
Why did you set out to start your own company?
I wanted to be in a position not only to invest but also to help those companies grow. I was lucky enough to find some partners who had some experience, and we’ve invested in over 50 companies, many of which have been acquired by large corporations. One is now a multi-billion-dollar market capitalization company listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
What’s your experience as a woman in this industry?
Only 5 percent of partners of venture funds are women. So you stand out. We’ve built one of the largest women-owned venture funds in the U.S., so when someone comes to a meeting in our office, there’s often more women than men in the room. That’s so different in our field, and it’s a really fun experience to have and to have created.