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Sarah Tomolonius

Investor

Be entrepreneurial. Be strategic. Be mission-aligned.


Trajectory
  • Sustainability Investment Leadership Council (Co-Founder)
  • Quest Resource Management Group (Member, Board of Directors)
  • Arlon Group (VP, Marketing & Investor Relations)
  • Citi Private Equity/StepStone Group (Investor Relations)
  • Birinyi Associates (Summer Associate)
  • Edelman (Corporate & Public Affairs Group)
  • Natural Resources Defense Council (Water & Coastal Program)
  • Columbia University (MPA, International Finance & Policy)
  • Vassar College (BA, English)
Perspective

A rising tide lifts all boats. I don’t know of a single job that isn’t informed and made better by the hard work and contributions of many other colleagues and partners. Building a durable investment firm requires the variety of voices and perspectives of a dedicated group of great employees, teams who create honest, authentic partnerships with their founding teams and other sponsors and the mutual trust and respect of like-minded investors who are aligned together over the long-term. Jim Collins’ Flywheel effect describes the accumulation of a series of actions, each building on each other to create something truly generative. That’s why we’re focused on the constellation of M13’s shareholders and stakeholders – and why my focus is particularly on making sure our investors know how critical their financial and human capital is to making this firm a success. Investor Relations serves a lighthouse role in a firm. I want all of M13’s stakeholders, and our investors in particular, to see the virtuous circle of our partnership.  

Everyone is looking to mitigate the downside and create repeatable, sustainable successes. The best firms I know are those that are thoughtful about their purpose in the world, have a differentiated thesis that fulfills a real need and that think about risk and responsibility as well as returns. I was attracted to M13’s Propulsion Platform model of best-in-class, vertically-focused operators partnering with founding teams in part because I am very familiar with the model in later stage private equity. It’s an even more brilliant thing in the venture capital space to be able to help build better companies from the early stages and both accelerate growth by providing unparalleled expertise tailored to each business and mitigate risk to build enduring companies. 

You are going to make an impact on this world. Do good, and you’ll do well. My maternal grandparents had five children, 27 foster children and logged over 10,000 hours each at Greenwich Hospital but also gave their time to soup kitchens and daily wherever they knew someone needed help. They didn’t want recognition and didn’t expect others to give in the same way, but they did expect and hope that their children would adopt the same charitable mindset: guide and encourage compassion through daily actions by treating others profitably, by which they meant valuably. Six years ago, I co-founded an organization focused on bringing the best understanding and integration of environmental, social and governance practices to the investment industry not just because I am a dyed in the wool recycler and care about treating people fairly and leaving the world “a little better,” but also because innumerable research reports demonstrate that companies focused on good stewardship create outsized financial returns. We have the ability to create exponentially good effects for ourselves and others by practicing and doing the right things.

Be compassionate. Be curious. Be brave. I say that being brave is being afraid but doing something anyway (so long as what you’re doing isn’t illegal or hurting anyone else). But, evidently, fear and curiosity can’t inhabit the brain simultaneously. So, I’ve co-piloted small planes, including across the Berkshires during a bout of claustrophobia, climbed 100 ft. down into the belly of the underground Djoser pyramid burial chamber outside of Cairo and hiked an unrepaired part of the Great Wall on a rainy day alone with no one else around. Cultivating a rigorous spirit doesn’t require leaving where you are, but it does need a heavy dose of inquisitiveness about the rich world around us and the ability to stretch beyond our own comfort zones.  

Be a good citizen in this world. Thinking consciously about your actions and their impact on those around you and adjusting your thoughts and behaviors accordingly results in the funny side-effect of having profoundly good implications for your life. Every person is an investment in this world, and that means we all have a responsibility to check in and re-evaluate whether we’re contributing a positive or negative impact in the world. I’m thrilled that M13 has brought together such a fantastic group of people driven to make a positive and lasting impact on each other and everyone in the M13 constellation as we help build the next generation of great businesses.

Ten years ago, a colleague handed me a private equity manager’s letter that led with Robert Frost’s adage: “The best way out is always through.” It struck me then as a quiet, strong mantra that was probably the collective chorus of every struggling worker on Wall Street and, given the catholic recession, everyone beyond. It’s also the only direction through life.

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