Since 2015, Will Lin has risen from associate to vice-president to principal to partner, and earlier this year was named managing director of cybersecurity investor ForgePoint Capital. He’s now one of four managing directors at the San Mateo, California-based firm, which raised $450 million for its second fund last year.
Lin, 32, told Venture Capital Journal that he was prepared for a long journey as an associate. And he admitted that people advised him that to advance in the venture industry, he should move on to another firm.
“I was told there’d be a lot of pain as an associate and that the partners I work with would never look at me as anything other than an associate,” he said. “But I just kept my head down and continued working with the companies.”
An associate founder
As an associate, the UC Berkeley graduate was one of the founding members of ForgePoint. The early-stage firm, previously called Trident Capital Cybersecurity, spun out of multistage Trident Capital, where Don Dixon and Alberto Yepez, served as managing directors.
Also joining them was managing director Sean Cunningham from Intel Capital. Lin was the only associate on the emerging manager team at the time.
Since then, Lin has garnered a reputation for working closely with companies as well as with LPs, helping to break down the deep expertise of the firm’s knowledge in cybersecurity. Dixon said that Lin is trusted for his advice by execs and investors alike, and he “has demonstrated the thought leadership and potential that make him a rising star.”
Lin was named one of VCJ’s 40 Rising Stars in the venture community in 2020, as several nominations were submitted for him from colleagues, investor peers and company executives.
Dixon, who called Lin’s rise to managing director “meteoric,” noted that Lin works closely with the portfolio company chief information security officers and hosts meetings around various industry events. Lin established a networking club called the Tinkerers Group. He’s also hosted CEO Stand Ups, a virtual meeting for portfolio companies to gather and hear guest speakers talk about fundraising and other issues.
“The more I can learn the CEO’s perspective, the more I can learn about companies and how I can help,” Lin said.
Lin, who serves on the boards of Attivo Networks, Bishop Fox, Concourse Labs, LoginRadius, Remediant, Symmetry Systems and Uptycs, has continued to work closely with the portfolio while dealing with the challenges brought on by covd-19 restrictions.
Lin – who lives in San Francisco with his wife Priya Saiprasad, a partner at Mayfield – said that he’s bringing together the portfolio CEOs over video and is discovering ways to work closely with them and advising on growth and hiring and scaling. He said the biggest challenge for the start-ups he’s working with is advising them on being open to new geographies.
“This has been a crazy career path. Not sure how it happened so quickly, but I am just trying to remain curious, and the job is a reward for that”
This outlook on geography has certainly evolved during the pandemic. When he spoke to VCJ earlier this year, he noted one executive had moved to Colorado and another was considering relocating to Seattle. Meanwhile, the start-ups are also learning to operate and hire remotely. Lin is always looking for ways to help others.
“In the past, geography was a deterrent to CEOs, but that’s no longer a filter,” he said. “They’re learning to hire remotely, and it’s been an amazing learning experience for them to find talent.”
One executive said of Lin that he is transparent, “which makes engaging with him a generous gift of learning.”
Lin expects board meetings and other get togethers will remain largely virtual, though he admitted that maybe one board meeting a year will be in person.
As for his rise to managing director, Lin said: “This has been a crazy career path. Not sure how it happened so quickly, but I am just trying to remain curious, and the job is a reward for that.”