Lauren Bonner on Life After Wall Street’s #MeToo and Her Latest HR-Tech Ventures

Lauren Bonner on Life After Wall Street’s #MeToo and Her Latest HR-Tech Ventures was originally published on The Muse, a great place to research companies and careers. Click here to search for great jobs and companies near you.

Any woman who’s considered coming forward with a discrimination or harassment claim knows it can Duct-tape itself to your reputation for decades to come, if not forever. Lauren Bonner knew that risk when she filed a federal gender discrimination lawsuit against her then-employer, Point72 Asset Management, in February 2018.

While working there as an executive, she noticed she and other women at the firm were making considerably less than their male peers and not being promoted as often, according to the lawsuit, which settled in September 2020. Bonner has been credited as the face of #MeToo movement on Wall Street, but what has she been up to since?

In 2021, she and her longtime business partner, Arun Mittal, started their own private equity firm, MBM Capital. A year later, they added The Muse to their portfolio. Lauren, who graduated from Harvard in 2004, began her career in philanthropy, working at the United Way in Boston.

There during the 2008 financial collapse, she felt like the non-profit’s high-powered board—with names including State Street CEO Ronald Logue and New England Patriots owner Myra Kraft—was being underleveraged. So at 25 years old, she pitched her boss on a strategic role that would help connect the board’s considerable resources with Bostonians who’d been affected by the crisis.

Lauren got that opportunity, but her boss eventually told her: “You’re a 100 mph person in a 50 mph zone, and I think you ought to try a different career path.” Flummoxed, she went to board members for their guidance on what to do next.

The Muse: Does it strike you as unique that at 25, you approached CEOs and billionaires for career advice?

Lauren Bonner: Yes, but I already had a pretty close relationship with them. I was on the phone with Myra two or three times a week, and so it wasn’t a big leap for me to go to them and say, hey, I need some guidance.

After the United Way, Lauren spent three years in the management program at Bridgewater, one of the world’s largest hedge funds, where she ran teams in recruiting and research (the firm’s investment engine).

After Ray Dalio’s fund, she was a partner at a venture capital fund. From there she joined Point72, Steve Cohen’s hedge fund, in 2016. Once there, she developed an analytics platform to identify high potential candidates based on data, which led to discoveries like that a game developer in Hong Kong might be a better investment analyst than a lacrosse player with an economics degree.

In 2018, however, she filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against her employer in federal court. Around the same time, investor Sara Tirschwell sued her former employer, the asset-management firm TCW Group, for retaliation, gender discrimination, and breach of contract. Later that year, in December, Bloomberg published a piece headlined: “Wall Street Rule for the #MeToo Era: Avoid Women at All Cost.”

The Muse: After filing your lawsuit in 2018, you stayed at Point72 until August 2020. What helped keep you grounded and going during that time?

Bonner: I think at a conceptual level, having a real sense of purpose carried me through. I felt I could make a difference in my own world. I wanted women to be valued for their work. I wanted women to be promoted. I wanted women to make more money. I still do! That’s why I love the Muse’s Six Figure Club so much!

On a day-to-day level, it was things like waking up in the morning and watching comedy for 10 minutes.

The Muse: Do you still do that now?

Bonner: I don’t, I should go back to that. It’s a good way to start your day. I have a toddler, so he kind of fills that gap for me. He’s pretty funny.

The Muse: You’re often asked about the lawsuit, but could you talk more about the impact you think you made at Point72 and other firms?

Bonner: To some extent, I think part of my impact is continuing to show up. I haven’t left finance and I’m not going anywhere. We’re not saving lives, but finance is a big driver of the economy. And I think it’s really important for women to keep getting into finance and staying. There’s a false storyline about a pipeline problem in finance. The real problem is making sure that women continue to actually get hired, get promoted, get paid and stay. What makes women stay? One element—and we know the data bears this out—is having women to look up to. And you need that at every stage, but at the mid-level especially, because that’s really when women start to drop out the most.

[Showing up] feels like a small thing, but I think it actually does matter. And I think it pretty meaningfully improves outcomes, and outcomes of a company, a product, an investment idea. Having people with different experiences in the room almost always improves the probability of a good outcome.

The Muse: You’ve also been candid about certain doors closing after the lawsuit. Can you say more about that?

Bonner: Of course doors closed, but someone telling you no is so much more motivating than someone telling you yes. You’re like, Oh, you bet I’m going to prove you wrong! Oh, you bet I’m going to do that. It fuels a fire to go harder, be better, outwork the competition. And to show up in a way that no one else expects you to. I’ve experienced it. Certainly there are days when it’s super demoralizing, but then ultimately I think it is a gift. It poses the question to yourself: Are you really committed? If the answer is yes, OK, I gotta dig deep and go harder. People who get doors opened all the time don’t get the opportunity to build that grit and resilience.

The Muse: We’re guessing you felt that grit and resilience while starting your own firm. Why did you decide to start MBM Capital?

Bonner: The idea started about a decade ago, when I was a general partner at a tech venture fund and saw that there’s so much opportunity to help companies that are in the middle tier of a traditional venture portfolio. They have a strong product, real revenue, but are just not meant to be venture-backed companies. There are not a lot of investors focused on those kinds of companies. But if you do choose to focus on them, you have a much higher probability of a consistently solid, good outcome from an investment perspective. You may not get your 100x-ers that you get in venture land. You almost certainly won’t, but you can consistently get those 2-3x returns.

At the same time, you can meet a real unmet need in the venture ecosystem where venture investors say, This is a really good company—it’s just no longer going to be a massive winner for me, and so I can’t continue to fund it. But I love the founder or I love the company, and I want it to have a second chance. And founders feel the same way. So it was about seeing opportunity in the market, and then, having worked with my partner now for almost a decade, knowing that we were the team to go do it.

As I looked at other opportunities too, working for yourself is certainly compelling. And to work with people with shared values, after some of my experiences.

The Muse: How do you think the industry has changed since your lawsuit?

Bonner: One of the things that Bridgewater did really well, and I learned a lot from in my time there, was being able to screen for values and core attributes. Things like resilience, goal orientation, raw horsepower—those non-skill based attributes. And I think the world has moved a lot closer to caring more about the intrinsics, which is a really good thing because it bypasses things that I think the world should care less about, like pedigree. It makes progress in leveling the field.

The Muse: Why did you decide HR tech would be a good investment—and more specifically, The Muse?

Bonner: I’ve always been a big believer in the power of talent. It’s a big part of our strategy at MBM. The single biggest factor for success, if you have a company with a good product, is can you get the right talent to help make it successful? And so I have a keen awareness of how important talent is—and at the same time, how broken recruiting continues to be.

And I know the HR tech space pretty well, having tried or tested or seen almost every platform out there. And I really loved what The Muse had built. In 2011, I think the notion that a candidate should find a company that fits their values was like really fringe HR stuff. It’s now completely table stakes. So, I’ve known The Muse for a long time and had admired the brand for a long time. And continue to see the opportunity for us in HR tech.

The Muse: You mentioned how broken the hiring process is today. Could you name a few specifics?

Bonner: It’s just so inefficient, right? Even in a good search, you’re going through 70 to 100 profiles to ultimately land on someone you like. Even in the best search, with the best people, and the best recruiters, and the clearest possible job description, it’s pretty inefficient. And so being able to cut through that faster is going to be valuable to candidates, to companies, and to the world. It makes for a higher productivity level and greater happiness. The sooner someone lands in a job that works for them, and the rest of the team has a team player that’s really contributing, we all know that makes a huge difference in everybody’s happiness.

The Muse: Entrepreneurs reading this might be interested in pitching you on acquiring or investing in them. How can someone impress you?

Bonner: A founder who is clear-eyed about the real value they’re bringing. What the company has done, and can do. Mistakes they’ve made as well as great wins, and the potential. We are realists and practical and are excited about the potential, but always keen to be able to sit with someone pragmatically and say, here’s where there’s value, here’s where we have made mistakes, here’s where there’s opportunity. I think it’s a combination of humility and grit.

The Muse: Is there anything you would say not to do?

Bonner: Don’t try to be clever with the numbers. We do a lot of diligence. We’ll find the answer, so just give it to us straight.

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