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). Kohler’s professional soccer career taught him valuable life skills that have helped him succeed in venture capital, especially the importance of teamwork, collaboration, and determination. Early in his career, Kohler co-founded Pointe Communications, a facilities-based integrated communications provider, and served as operations manager. His experience as a young entrepreneur helped him understand the trials and tribulations of a founder. He has taken his life experiences and used them to cultivate meaningful relationships with founders and invest in successful companies. 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.
How did you get started in this business?
Early in my career, I co-founded Pointe Communications, a facilities-based integrated communications provider. This was the first time I saw what it was like from the other side, raising capital versus investing. We interacted with investors and this really sparked my interest in venture capital. After the company was acquired, I made the decision to pursue a career in VC. I worked for a few different firms until 2014, when an old Harvard classmate and soccer teammate approached me with this opportunity at Lightspeed.
When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?
Yes, absolutely. When I was an entrepreneur, I had constant doubts, but I never let those doubts or the setbacks we encountered stop me from achieving my goals. I was determined to succeed. Failure was not an option.
What do you think it is that makes you successful?
My professional soccer career set me for success here more than I ever thought. First is the competitive drive. I strive to help founders succeed and make their dreams a reality. That is what pushes me every day. This industry isn’t for the faint of heart. You have to come ready to grind every day. I believe that’s what has helped to make me successful.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
I don’t know if I can call out a particular moment as being my most satisfying experience. I can tell you this: Founders are rare. I strive to empower entrepreneurs. I like to listen, empathize, and guide them to overcome the inevitable challenges that I know lay ahead. These people are changing the world. When I see them succeed, that’s the most satisfying moment for me.
What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about?
Personally, when it comes to the future of my investments, I am particularly excited about the financial infrastructure.
What business books have inspired you?
The Innovator’s Dilemma:” by Clayton M. Christensen