Venture capitalist Kevin Willer was the first CEO of 1871 and a founder of Google’s Chicago office. He is a partner at Chicago Ventures, which invests in early-stage startups.
He spoke to Blue Sky about what investors should look for in a new enterprise.
“Try and find companies that are started by founders who felt a pain or saw a missing piece in their industry,” he said. “We want the founders to understand the market they are trying to disrupt.”
Willer was the president and CEO of the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center from 2011 to 2013 and established Google’s Chicago office in 2000.
He is on the steering committee for Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Plan for Economic Growth and Jobs and a member of ChicagoNEXT, Emanuel’s council on innovation and technology. He serves on the boards of Lurie Children’s Hospital, the Joffrey Ballet, World Sport Chicago, OneGoal, Future Founders Foundation and the Chicago Architecture Foundation.
Willer earned his MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, where he serves on the advisory board for the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship.
He also has a bachelor’s degree from Boston College and studied at the London School of Economics.
Kevin, his wife Victoria, and their children, Jacqueline, Max and Lizzie, live in Winnetka.