Will Kohler

Partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners

As the son of immigrants — a father from Austria and a mother from Greece — Will Kohler knows that nothing worth having comes easy. Kohler was taught from an early age the importance of hard work and perseverance. Kohler earned a degree in economics from Harvard University. After college, Kohler spent a brief period playing professional soccer after being drafted by MLS (Major League Soccer). Early in his career, Kohler co-founded Pointe Communications, a facilities-based integrated communications provider, and served as operations manager. After the company was acquired, he began his career in venture capital at Advanced Technology Ventures, then moved to Prism VentureWorks, where he led or supported investments in software and services, cloud computing, and digital media companies. He spent seven years there before joining Summerhill Venture Partners, where he led investments in cloud-based services and applications and SaaS solutions. Kohler joined Lightspeed Venture Partners in 2014 after being referred by John Vrionis, his old friend and teammate from the varsity soccer team at Harvard.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

First thing in the morning, I share a latte with my wife. This is our time to catch up on everything happening outside of work. We have three kids, so there’s always a lot going on. From there, it’s really so hard to standardize a day in the business we’re in. It’s always a balance to be there for your founders and finding time to reflect and be creative and then be able to go back home and show up as the father and husband I hope to be.

How do you bring ideas to life?

The most influential way I bring ideas to life is to make them other peoples’ ideas. That may sound strange, but I am in the business of supporting others’ ideas and helping to make dreams into realities. I love working with founders who want to collaborate and be creative. I bounce my thoughts and ideas off my founders and let them run with it. They are the ones who bring our ideas to life.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Definitely financial infrastructure. During the pandemic, I invested in a company that provides companies the ability to offer payments. I think every company wants this ability at some level. They want to control the financial payment flow. For a business owner, you can’t deny the benefits of having that close relationship with your customers.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

I authentically tell people that I care about them. When I say I care about their ideas and visions, I truly mean it. Their success means everything to me. If you can build that confidence and trust in business, a lot can go well for you.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I think failure is a strong word, but this is what comes to mind: I was drafted to play professional soccer right out of college and I didn’t do it. I was so hyped up to have just graduated from Harvard, but I felt like I had to get right to work. That’s what you were supposed to do, right? You start to prioritize all of the things that are going to be there later in life and you don’t realize you’re sacrificing yourself and potentially once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. Back then, I thought I was choosing to do “what you were supposed to.” There is no one right way, but the wrong way would be selling yourself short. Again, this setback wasn’t what I would call a “failure’.” I eventually had a professional soccer career. I just regret doubting my personal journey and where it would take me.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

As a father of three, I want nothing but the best for my children. I want to be the best parent and mentor. Everyone remembers the What to Expect When You’re Expecting books, right? Kids in this modern world have it different. There were so many things that our parents couldn’t guide us on: how to manage social media, how to manage anxiety, how to manage expectations, etc. I have phenomenal parents and I rely on them for so many things, but these are all things that they can’t help me with when it comes to parenting. The parenting guides from 20 years ago no longer apply. We need an updated version.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

Ok, this is going to be a subtle, not so subtle, brag. The best $100 I recently spent went toward buying tickets for my wife and I to see our daughter play in the World Cup qualifiers in the Dominican Republic for the U.S. Women’s Youth National Team.

What is your favorite quote?

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” – Wayne Gretzky

Key Learnings:

  • Don’t doubt yourself or your personal journey.
  • Support those around you.
  • Make time for the people in your life.