1994, Stu McLaughlin – Investor

My name is Stu McLaughlin. I graduated from Williams in 1994 with a degree in history. The history department was a phenomenal part of my wonderful Williams experience. I loved the exercise of trying to imagine what it was like to have been at a specific time and place in the past. And that imaginative exercise carries over into what I do today, which has nothing on its face to do with the study of history.
Today, I am a partner at a small investment firm in San Francisco. Before I connect that with my intellectual roots in the Williams history department, let me briefly explain how I got here. While at Williams, I decided that I wanted to try my hand at business. Right out of school, I took an analyst job with McKinsey and Co, a consulting firm. I spent two years there and then two years at a venture capital firm before pursuing a Masters in Business Administration at Stanford University. When I completed my MBA, I decided that I very much liked the intellectual exercise of investing, in part because it reminded me of much of what I enjoyed in studying history. As an investor, you spend a lot of time analyzing the past in an attempt to better predict the future (e.g., asking why was a business able to grow quickly in the past in order to answer the question will it continue to be able to do so?). You also spend time evaluating the broader competitive and economic context for a company, which is akin to developing an understanding of the historical context for a specific action. Today, I spend time looking at investing in everything from pro sports teams (less fun than you might think) to banks (more fun than you might think) to real estate to consumer products companies. It is a fantastic job that happily draws on much of what I learned from the Williams History Department.