Insights

Welcome Kate!

July 09, 2024
by: Cohen Circle Team

Earlier this month, Cohen Circle welcomed Managing Partner Katelyn Johnson to the team, where she will be leading the firm’s fintech investment arm.

Originally from Pennsylvania, Kate first worked as a medical device engineer, graduating from the University of Delaware with a degree in mechanical engineering. After a career pivot -- and an MBA from Harvard -- she embarked upon a decade-long career in investing, including serving as a Managing Director at American Family Ventures, where she invested in companies like Tire Agent, Wyze, XP Health, Alix, vQuip, and Sana. 

In her role at Cohen Circle, Kate will leverage her fintech experience to lead new investments for the firm’s venture division, building on prior successes investing in companies like Maxwell, Curve, Duetti, Ocrolus, and Nova Credit. 

Read on to learn more about what Kate looks for in a founder, her advice for choosing the right venture partner, and words to live by that she has taken with her throughout her professional journey. 


Get to Know Kate

Why did you decide to join the Cohen Circle team? 

When I started talking to Betsy and Daniel Cohen and the rest of the Cohen Circle team, I immediately saw the potential synergies that could benefit the founders we invest in. Unlike many generalist platforms, the Cohen Circle team has deep fintech expertise and a strong track record in banking and insurance, thanks to the Cohens' decades-long leadership in fintech innovation with the Bancorp. Combining their operational and investment experience with my ten years of fintech investing creates a unique advantage for entrepreneurs looking to tap into our extensive experience and networks. Together, we truly stand out as a specialist fintech firm and offer immense value to the companies we support. 

What key qualities do you look for in a fintech founder or founding team? 

I consistently look for founders who take a conservative approach, with a strong focus on unit economics and building a business with staying power. I value founding teams that are disciplined in both raising and spending money and have invested time in developing the right mechanisms and distribution channels for their business. 

While this perspective is now more common due to the market slowdown, it has always been my guiding principle. If you look at companies like Slack, Square, Venmo, NerdWallet, and even Microsoft, they were all built during recessions. These challenging times often lead to the creation of the best businesses and the highest returns for venture capitalists, as they force founders to be more disciplined in their operations, valuations, and value propositions. 


Can you share a piece of advice or a mantra that guides you in your professional journey? 

In your career, the most important thing you can do for yourself is to identify what you’re good at and what gives you energy, and then find a career that aligns with those interests and strengths. So many young people are looking for that ‘easy’ button they can switch on to achieve a happy and rich life - it doesn’t exist. 

It takes a lot of work and self-reflection to recognize your skill set and understand how to apply it in the professional world. If you find yourself in a high-earning role that doesn't play to your strengths, you may not be as successful or feel fulfilled. It's crucial to do the hard work of finding where your interests and skills align with your goals early on.  

What advice would you give to fintech founders seeking investment from venture capital firms right now? 

All capital is not created equally. The founder – venture capital relationship is a lot like a marriage - so choose your partners wisely and make sure there is good alignment. You want someone you can have a beer with – or invite to Thanksgiving dinner, so personal connection is certainly important. In addition, you want your venture partner to have a network that is useful to you and your company’s growth. Can your partner introduce you to new clients or verticals? This type of support is crucial to consider. 

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