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T'95

So-June Min and Liam Donohue

CFO, .406 Ventures; Founding Partner, .406 Ventures

Beginning with each other, the relationships we made at Tuck have become the foundation of both our personal and professional lives.

By Adam Sylvain

So-June Min T’95 and Liam Donohue T’95 are not the only Tuck spouses who can trace their relationship back to a randomly assigned study group. In their case, it was a study group formed as part of former Tuck professor John Vogel’s real estate course during their second year. 

“There were only about 180 students in our entire MBA class, so we knew each other pretty well.” the couple recalls. “We quickly found out we had a lot in common.”

What makes their relationship more unique is that for the past 16 years Min and Donohue have also worked together at the venture capital firm .406 Ventures. Both co-founders, Donohue serves as the managing partner and Min as CFO for the firm, which invests in early-stage companies focused on digital health, cybersecurity, as well as data and cloud technology. To date, .406 Ventures has raised nearly $1.5 billion across five core and three opportunity funds with a portfolio valued at more than $13 billion. 

“We get asked all the time, ‘How do you do it? How do you work with your spouse?’ The truth is, I couldn’t imagine not doing it. So-June probably could,” jokes Donohue. 

Both agree their study group experience was a good primer for the inevitable challenges and triumphs that come with growing a successful life and business together. Growing up continents apart, Min and Donohue never met prior to Tuck, but their pre-MBA journeys shared a surprising overlap in Eastern Europe.  

After graduating from Georgetown University, Donohue began working as a consultant for Booz Allen. Soon after, in 1989, the Berlin Wall fell, which renewed his interest in working overseas. He convinced Booz Allen to send him to Budapest in 1990 as the first employee on the ground in Eastern Europe and spent the next three years growing a team there before returning stateside for his MBA. 

A Korean native, Min spent her early years in multiple places, including Berlin and Prague, where her father was an ambassador for the Korean government. Upon earning a degree in English Literature from Ewha Woman’s University in Seoul, Min joined Sunkyong Group (“SK”), the third largest conglomerate in Korea, where she helped prepare a winning bid for the nation’s first commercial cellular license. 

Unsure of the career path she hoped to pursue, Min believed the right business program would help her explore opportunities. She enrolled at Tuck without ever visiting campus and was pleased to discover that what she had heard about the idyllic campus was not an exaggeration. 

“My mom came to drop me off and she said, ‘Wow, this place is incredible. Why would you ever want to leave?’” remembers Min.

Donohue was equally won over by the Tuck community. During his time on campus, he benefitted greatly from the mentorship of then-dean Colin Blaydon, who introduced him to the world of venture capital, which was not a traditional career path for MBAs, let alone Tuck graduates, at that time.  

“Entering Tuck, I had consulting experience advising companies, but I also had entrepreneurial experience overseas building a business and a team on my own,” says Donohue. “I also did my summer internship at an investment bank in London. From those experiences, I learned that I loved consulting and helping companies solve problems, I loved the entrepreneurial experience of creating something new, and I loved the rush of the transaction.”

As dean Blaydon told him at the time, venture capital was an area where he could integrate all these interests. 

“In venture capital, you are helping companies grow, you are spending time with amazing entrepreneurs, and you are doing transactions,” explains Donohue. “It seemed to check all the boxes.”

Dean Blaydon eventually connected Donohue with John H. Foster T’67, who was then a member of Tuck’s Board of Overseers (now Board of Advisors). Foster had an opening at his Philadelphia-based venture firm, Foster Management, where he was a founder and managing partner. After graduation, Donohue became a principal at the firm.

Following their engagement, Min joined Donohue in Philadelphia where she began working for PECO Energy‘s Power Team subsidiary, now part of Exelon Corporation. 

“I was a literal power broker—buying and selling electricity,” shares Min. “I give a ton of credit to my Tuck education, which really prepares you to go into any field. Even though I was not an expert, I felt well-equipped to figure it out and make my own way.”

Within a few years, Min partnered with a colleague in launching their own electricity trading fund. After experiencing some early success, the Enron scandal happened.

“Needless to say, 2001 was not a good time to be raising a fund focused on energy trading,” explains Min. 

Donohue spent several years at Foster Management, which included building his first company and bringing it public. Eventually, he became intrigued by the opportunities created by the emergence of the internet in the late 90s. Foster Management’s strategy was primarily consolidation—buying and building companies through acquisition—but Donohue was increasingly interested in early-stage venture capital.

In 1999, he founded Arcadia Partners, raising a $50 million fund invested in health and educational technology. Min later joined Arcadia as CFO. The firm was considering raising a second fund when Donohue met his two additional co-founders at .406 Ventures. 

Since launching in 2006, .406 Ventures has grappled with the 2008 Global Financial Crisis the COVID-19 pandemic and is currently navigating the technology sector sell-off. Donohue and Min believe much of their success is owed to having a consistent strategy—acknowledging their firm’s strengths and focusing their investments in areas that .406 knows well and can “hit out of the park.”

Fittingly, .406 Ventures is named after Red Sox legend Ted Williams’ record-high batting average. 

In addition, .406 has always believed it is critical for its investment team to possess operational experience. 

“If you have only seen the work of growing a business from the vantage point of a consultant or a banker, you don’t have the same credibility or empathy,” says Donohue. “To succeed in venture capital, you need to be able to identify businesses that are led by authentic entrepreneurs who are really focused on solving big problems and doing it in a capital-efficient way.”

.406 Ventures also stands apart for its diversity. Including fellow cofounder and managing partner Maria Cirino, half of the investment team and 65% of the firm’s employees overall are women. Min says she is excited about the larger shifts happening throughout the industry.  

“Compared to years past, VC firms are definitely hiring more women” says Min. “It is a trend that is long overdue, but also very encouraging.”

A final key ingredient to their success, Min and Donohue recognize the value in .406’s high concentration of Tuck graduates, which includes partner Graham Brooks T’02 and Chief Marketing and Communications Officer Joanna Skoler Gillman T’95. During the past 25 years, more than a dozen of their T’95 classmates have worked at or been on boards of .406 portfolio companies. Factoring in all Tuck alumni, that number swells to more than 100. 

“Beginning with each other, the relationships we made at Tuck have become the foundation of both our personal and professional lives,” shares Min.

The Pros & Cons of Working with Your Spouse, According to So‑June & Liam

Pros

  • If building a business is your life’s work, there’s no better way to share the experience
  • Fluency of communication, aligned interests, and total trust has huge advantages
  • You keep each other humble

Cons

  • Creates hyper-concentrated personal “portfolio”
  • Drives your kids crazy with dinner conversation
  • The temptation to talk business

This story originally appeared in print in Tuck Today.

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