Thinking About Where I Can Make a Difference

Chase Koch
5 min readNov 28, 2022

A few years ago, I was sitting at a conference table in Wichita, Kansas with Bishop Omar Jahwar, the founder of a community group we’d been involved with called Urban Specialists. He looked me dead in the eye and asked: Who is Chase Koch?

I didn’t have an answer. I hadn’t asked myself that question before.

Omar was a man I’d come to know and trust deeply. We came back to his question many times over the next year. He convinced me to think about what really matters to me, how I want to make a difference, and where I want to spend my time. I didn’t know then how little time I’d have with Omar. Tragically, we lost him to COVID two years ago. I’m grateful for our friendship and everything he did for me and so many others.

While Bishop Omar is gone, his question remains: What is my purpose? How do I define my North Star? I continue to refine my answer, but for now, I strive to unite others to discover disruptive solutions that empower people.

That’s a mouthful. But each word has meaning to me. It’s the North Star that guides me to devote more time and money to the work and causes I’m most passionate about.

I’m focused on three big areas: Technology, social change, and music. I believe that in each area, there’s a golden opportunity to transform how we dismantle society’s biggest problems.

At Koch Industries, I focus on technology that helps people transform their lives. Five years ago, I founded Koch Disruptive Technologies to partner with technology companies that have extraordinary potential to do so. Our vision is to apply Koch’s capabilities to unlock that potential while also transforming Koch by helping it enter new areas and build new capabilities in its existing businesses.

These include new technology capabilities at Koch’s 600+ manufacturing facilities across the globe through automation and robotics technologies, supply chain optimization software, and cutting-edge cybersecurity software. It includes expanding into new areas such as Life Sciences with breakthrough surgical technologies, new drug discovery platforms that drastically shrink the cost and time of drug development, and new point of care models that take the friction out of healthcare. And even as our refining business supplies the country with affordable and reliable energy, produced responsibly and safely, we are helping transform the energy sector by investing in batteries, solar and nuclear technologies.

The entrepreneurs we invest in are some of the most innovative and inspiring people I’ve ever met.

This same desire to push the boundary of what’s possible — motivated by a deep belief in people and recognition that progress often comes from unexpected places and from overlooked people — also guides me as I focus more of my time on social change.

My family is very important to me, and I’ve learned a tremendous amount from my father. Two lessons in particular have shaped me. First, there are certain principles that have driven human progress throughout history, and if we live by these principles, we are all better off. Second, while I can learn a lot from how he’s applied those principles, I must find my own path.

My father and I have completely different aptitudes. He has always encouraged me to find my own way, pursue my own talents, and be my own person. And while my vision is very consistent with the principles that have guided my father, I apply those principles where I see the greatest opportunity to do good within my interest areas and using my gifts. I’m working hard to instill this idea in my children. I’m grateful my children have the opportunity to learn from their grandfather as well.

The philanthropic community he founded — Stand Together — is based on the principles of human progress. We invest in social change entrepreneurs who are finding transformative solutions in communities, education, and public policy. Stand Together now benefits from the partnership and support of hundreds of the country’s most innovative and successful business leaders and philanthropists. I am fully committed as well.

Why in communities? Because, in every neighborhood that is struggling with poverty, addiction, violence, and mental health issues, there are social change entrepreneurs with new solutions. That’s why I’m supporting groups like the Phoenix — the most effective addiction recovery program we know. It combines the power of exercise with the power of community and it’s now transforming more than 160,000 lives across all 50 states. This spring, Stand Together will launch an effort to help The Phoenix partner with musicians, music festivals, and some of the leading businesses in the music industry, bringing its incredible solution to fans and artists. They’re striving to reach one million people affected by addiction. We’re calling it One Million Strong. Together, we are building a movement.

I’m equally committed to education — what parent wouldn’t be? I’m helping bring social entrepreneurs like Sal Khan together with innovators like Todd Rose, a high school dropout turned Harvard professor, to experiment with new ways to help kids find the education format that’s best for them. I’m also learning from the experience of people like Armando Perez, better known as the musician, Pitbull. He has developed an incredible model called SLAM that brings arts and sports back into education, which helps kids want to learn.

On public policy, I want to buck the trend of tribalism and unite people across partisan lines to break down policy barriers that hold people back. I’ve been encouraged by the response to issues like criminal justice reform. With an open mind, I believe we can all make contributions to the culture of our country and disrupt divisiveness. I see similar opportunities to tackle major challenges facing the economy, health care, free expression, and education.

Most of this work involves my third major focus area — music. From the musicians such as Pitbull, Aloe Blacc who’s working with us on criminal justice reform, and the artists who are part of One Million Strong, I’ve found that music has the power to unite people like nothing else.

At age 13, I heard David Gilmore’s guitar solo on Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb.” I was obsessed. After I quit my first band in Austin in my early 20s, I figured that was it. But today, I play guitar in two bands. Both are devoted to combining the power of music with social change to bring awareness and drive progress around our county’s biggest problems. I founded Stand Together Music to do this at scale with other artists, bands, and music industry leaders. My hometown of Wichita also has a huge opportunity with music, which is why I’m investing in promising musicians and entrepreneurs right here in my own backyard.

It’s a privilege to be working with entrepreneurs across technology, social change, and music. They’re shattering the barriers of the status quo, disrupting how we do things, and uniting people with diverse backgrounds to show the country a better way. It’s what our society needs, and I want to do my part and make it happen.

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Chase Koch

Koch EVP | Founder | Social Entrepreneur | Musician | Father | Uniting people in business, tech, philanthropy, and music for innovation and transformation.