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Behind the Money: He stepped out of the Pentagon and into venture capital

Chicago’s top venture capitalists are well-known leaders whose identities often define their firms. But what about those who aren’t on the marquee? Behind the big names, there are principals and associates finding deals, mentoring startups and figuring out how to improve the industry they work and play in. Blue Sky introduces you to some of the folks helping Chicago firms figure out where to invest their millions.

Michael Sachaj, principal, Hyde Park Angels

Age: 30

Role: Manages Hyde Park Angels’ pipeline, from sourcing and investing to supporting companies

Signature deal: MotionAI

Mentor: Peter Wilkins ⇒

Education: Bachelor’s degree in political science from Northwestern University

Social media: @michaelsachaj on Twitter

You might step out of your office building to interview for a new job. Chicago-area native Michael Sachaj had to step out of the Pentagon to do the same.

Sachaj said he drew on his experience implementing processes for clients — including the Pentagon — as a consultant for Booz Allen Hamilton in Washington, D.C., to get his foot in the investing door at Hyde Park Angels, one of the Midwest’s most active angel groups.

He was hired to create structure in the small firm, which last year doubled its deal total compared to 2015. Now he’s a principal, managing associates, running due diligence and guiding portfolio companies. He doesn’t miss the bureaucracy he encountered in his old job.

“(It) was certainly exciting and really kind of fun to be able to start running at a much faster pace,” Sachaj said.

An undergraduate entrepreneurship class at Northwestern University taught by Troy Henikoff ⇒, now co-managing director of MATH Venture Partners, sparked Sachaj’s interest in the startup and investing worlds. Today, MATH’s offices are next door to Hyde Park Angels’ at tech hub 1871.

Sachaj said he hopes to stay in the investing world long-term. As he plans his future, he’s also thinking about how Hyde Park Angels can stand out in the larger venture capital ecosystem. Unlike traditional venture firms that raise capital from limited partners, HPA adds high net worth angels to its roster and invests on their behalf. With more than 100 member angels, Sachaj said HPA needs to be organized as it works to invest more.

“For me, it’s continuing to figure out how we can differentiate HPA’s model in the marketplace,” he said. “It’s an exciting challenge that no one has solved yet. There’s not a playbook for how to do this, exactly.”

Sachaj said he enjoys working with entrepreneurs to support them as they try to create solutions. He said he gets excited by entrepreneurs who have solid business prospects, especially those he feels could change the world. But he tries not to get carried away by his enthusiasm, instead attempting to balance that with a focus on outcomes.

“We’re very active as an investor,” Sachaj said. “I think the way we’re able to manage that is because we have processes we’re constantly looking to refine.”

Coming Tuesday: How Samara Mejia Hernandez of MATH Venture Partners is teaching venture capitalists to diversify their ranks.

aelahi@chicagotribune.com
Twitter @aminamania

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