By Daniel Smithson
The Gainesville Sun, Fla.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Laura Chau works as a principal for “Canaan”, an early-stage venture capital firm focusing on investing in consumer technology companies.
The Gainesville Sun, Fla.
A former Buchholz High School student, who spent her time at the Gainesville high school playing clarinet and on the school’s championship math team, was recently named to the Forbes 30 under 30 list in venture capital.
Laura Chau, 29, a 2007 Buchholz graduate, was named to the list that Forbes magazine puts out annually for the top 30 people working in venture capital under the age of 30.
Chau, who went to Hidden Oak Elementary School and Fort Clarke Middle School before heading to Buchholz, works in New York at Canaan, an early-stage venture capital firm that invests in innovative startups. Chau works as a principal for the company, focusing on investing in consumer technology companies.
Chau, who earned both bachelor’s and master’s in business administration from Stanford University, joined the firm in 2014.
“I lead investments in startups,” Chau said in a phone interview Wednesday. “I spend my time meeting with entrepreneurs and finding out whether (Canaan) wants to take an ownership stake in their company.
“If so, I’ll write the check and take a board seat with the company.”
Before Canaan, Chau found success as one of the first 20 employees at mobile gaming startup Kabam, which was acquired in 2017 by South Korea’s Netmarble Games for $800 million, she said.
And even before that, she had success early — graduating from Buchholz as salutatorian. She was an accomplished clarinetist, achieving first chair in the All-County Band, Tri-State Band and All-State Band.
She was also named to the National Wind Ensemble and performed at Carnegie Hall.
Being at a school known for its academics, she said, made her competitive, which she’s needed to stay afloat in the venture-capital industry.
“I think through the activities I was in at Buchholz — the band was one of the best in the state and with the math team and other students, it gave me a lot of competition.
“And I think that VC is an industry that is competitive, whether you’re competing with other venture capitalists or for deals — it can be very tiring.
But competition is motivation for me. It’s what keeps me working hard and coming to work every day. At Buchholz, it’s the work ethic learned through (band and math team practice) that put me on the right path.”
Chau said early on in school, she realized she had a love for math and science, and followed those interests in high school. She said she believes it’s important for young girls to be involved in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) early on. It’s led to her success in a male-dominated industry, she said.
“Everyone is capable, but sometimes doors close for young girls due to biases or intimidation.”
Chau said someone who helped open doors into math, and even the financial industry, was Buchholz teacher Will Frazer, who coaches the math team.
Frazer spent seven years working as a bonds trader on Wall Street. He said Monday he remembers Chau showing interest in his “silly dumb” stories from Wall Street.
“She always seemed interested in the financial world. She liked the stories and she seemed to laugh at them,” Frazer said. “She was different than what’s typical for most kids. She was comfortable being herself. And I associate that with being a risk taker. It seems the venture capital world would be a good fit.”
Frazer describes venture capital as a “cutthroat” industry.
“There’s a low probability of success. Those who are making it are making massive sums of money,” Frazer said.
“Those who don’t (do well) get kicked out early.
“Laura was smart, hardworking and incredibly successful. I find it no surprise at all with her success.”