Spero Ventures

Jonathan Kroll

Investor

I would love to see a future that’s more equitable for everyone, and where opportunity is on everyone’s doorstep.

At Spero, we invest in companies that solve real problems at national or global scale. Technology is already the biggest catalyst of social mobility we have ever known, and there is so much more it can do. But technological progress can also create new problems as an unintended byproduct of progress.

Analysts expect automation to displace at least 30% of the work people do in the next handful of years. I’d like to work with entrepreneurs who are trying to make it easier for people to get new jobs, change career lanes or monetize their expertise in some way.

Some of the biggest problems we have in the world right now come down to the fact that not enough people have access to a high-quality education. Even among those who do, their education is at risk of becoming less valuable or downright obsolete if they don’t acquire new skills and expertise. Technology has already lowered barriers and exponentially expanded distribution of knowledge. But not everyone is able to use these new, powerful tools; it still falls along income, class and social boundaries.

Before joining Spero, I worked at Andreessen Horowitz on the market development team. My responsibility was to research Fortune 500 companies to figure out their priorities and strategic challenges. We would then curate a list of startups from our portfolio that might be a good match for their needs and bring them together.

Earlier in my career I was an entrepreneur. After college, I founded a startup that used software to democratize access to the top 1% of lawyers and law firms — a segment of the industry largely inaccessible to most of the general public. I also co-founded an education technology company that helped students leverage the power of data to perform significantly better on the GRE, GMAT and MCAT exams. Along the way, I went to business school and earned an MBA from Cornell, as part of Cornell Tech.

  • Why are you so passionate about investing in Work & Purpose?

    In the future, the relationship between employers and employees will change — it’s already starting to happen. Everyone will be a startup entrepreneur of one kind or another, which will require constant learning. Valuable platforms will emerge that allow people to take charge of their careers and open up new opportunities for themselves and others.

    I am a curious person and interested in a lot of different things. I’ve also been somewhat “career fluid.” When I was in college at UC Santa Barbara I studied French, Spanish and Portuguese, thinking I wanted to pursue a career with the US Foreign Service. But when I discovered the power of software, I taught myself how to write code and founded a startup. I’m fascinated by what software makes possible, and what you can be capable of if you push yourself and stretch your resources.

  • Share something not a lot of people know about you:

    When I was a kid, I was really into aviation. I spent years teaching myself how to fly a plane using simulation software, including an official flight yoke, throttle and rudder pedals. I devoured Boeing’s flight manuals and and even founded a “virtual airline” based on Microsoft Flight Simulator, complete with routes, timetables, branded jets and a network of 60 pilots. It was a window into the complexities of running a business with lots of moving parts, but obviously less risk. I learned later on that being an entrepreneur in the real world is much more challenging!

  • Name a defining moment in your life:

    I biked from Canada to Mexico on the Great Divide when I was 15. It felt like torture. But looking back, it really taught me the value of perseverance and grit. After that I was never afraid to try hard things.

  • What emerging technology are you most excited about?

    Quantum computing. It is an entirely new paradigm that will fundamentally change what we understand and what we are able to achieve. Quantum-enabled optimization, simulation and AI will unlock new discoveries and advancements.

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