It was the evening of Nov. 6, 2018, and Annie Lamont was on pins and needles in a Hartford hotel suite. Her husband, Ned Lamont, was the Democratic Party nominee for governor of Connecticut, but the race between him and Republican rival Bob Stefanowski was too close to call.
“It was a very long night,” she recalls, noting the final results took forever to be tabulated. “There were people who were confident we were going to win, but at one point we were down 50,000 votes. My husband, being my husband, went to bed at midnight and I, of course, I stayed up. At 3:30, I got a text from the campaign manager that said we’re good. I woke up Ned, and then in two hours Bob Stefanowski called to concede.”
The old adage of the third time being the charm rang true for Ned Lamont, a Greenwich business executive who unsuccessfully sought a U.S. Senate seat in 2006 and the 2010 Democratic nomination for governor to Dannel P. Malloy.
“I was so proud of him to take the risk again,” Annie Lamont says. “It is a weighty responsibility that my husband is up to and relishing.”
While Ned Lamont is in the political spotlight, Annie Lamont is a star in her own right within the business world. A three-
decade veteran of the rough-and-tumble venture capital world, she joined Patricia Kemp and Andrew Adams in 2014 to launch Oak HC/FT, which focuses on early- to growth-stage companies in the health care information and financial technology industries. For Lamont, her attention is aimed at innovators who are making a bold yet holistic impact.
“I am looking at those who are eager to lower costs and improving care in health care,” she says. “I have to feel they are doing it because they care about the mission. You don’t want people coming into health care thinking they have some great scheme to make money off of — you’re dealing with people’s lives. Fintech (financial tech) is the same characteristics. The exciting thing is that we have five times as many new companies on the fintech side than you had five years ago. It is extraordinary — the new version of online banking is beginning to take hold.”
Lamont first made her mark on the venture capital world in 1980 when she was Ann Huntress from Whitebay Fish, Wisconsin. She graduated from Stanford University in 1979 with a degree in political science and serendipitously wound up in the best cliché of them all: the right place at the right time.
“When I got out of Stanford, it was the dawning of the era of Silicon Valley,” she says. “In 1980, I joined Hambrecht & Quist, one of the leading investment banks/venture firms of that time in San Francisco, and I became incredibly excited about working with entrepreneurs. They envisioned the world the way they felt it should be and they took me on a fascinating journey.”
After starting that job, Lamont quickly crossed paths with someone who would do nothing less than change the world.
“The first entrepreneur that made an impact on me was Steve Jobs,” she says. “I carried his bags on the Apple IPO road show. He scared the hell out of me. When I learned he was a year-and-a-half older than me, I couldn’t believe it. He had so much conviction and intensity that you literally felt the sparks off his body. I remember the head of the firm, George Quist, brought me in so he could have somebody else present when he was debating with Steve Jobs whether he should wear an Apple T-shirt and jeans or a suit during the IPO road show. I sat there while the two of them screamed at each other for one hour. And I have to say Steve gave in on that front. But he had that amazing ability to sell you anything and you just believed. He was messianic in that way.”
When a job offer came in from a venture capital firm in Westport, Lamont chose to leave Silicon Valley for the Gold Coast. “Luckily, I moved in about six doors away from Ned Lamont, and the rest is history.”
In Connecticut, Lamont is not a full-time first lady — she estimates 80% of her time is involved with her business and 20% is spent with her husband. The Lamonts, who have three adult children living in New York City, are together at least one night per weekday and over the weekend, either at their Greenwich home or at the governor’s mansion in Hartford.
While Lamont acknowledges that she is a “sounding board” for her husband’s policy proposals, she does not act as a power behind the throne.
“We absolutely discuss everything, but he’s the decision maker and I’m not,” she says. “He bounces things off me and I know that helps.”
Still, that’s not to say she is an absentee first lady. During the first months of her husband’s administration, she has made her herself available as a brand ambassador for Connecticut’s importance as a business mecca.
“I feel like my life has been about supporting entrepreneurs and we are showing entrepreneurs what the state of Connecticut can do for growing business,” she says. “That feels like a very natural role for me: working with the angel community in Connecticut, engaging people, having the business community know we are business friendly. I am a lead cheerleader.”
But unlike a certain Chappaqua-based former first lady of the United States, Lamont is not eager to follow her husband’s lead into elected office.
“Definitely not,” she says with a laugh. “I’m definitely having enough fun as his sidekick and partner in all of this. I will do my part to support him, but I don’t see that role for me. I absolutely love, love, love what I’m doing.”