Timothy Wang is a Managing Partner at the early-stage venture capital firm, The Westly Group. After graduating from Brown University, Timothy’s first job out of college was at the financial data company, Capital IQ. While his initial role, which consisted of answering calls to often irate bankers, typified the unglamorous nature of most first-time jobs, he demonstrated a unique knack for business. Within two years, management asked him to launch the company’s Asia branch, so Timothy moved overseas to Hong Kong to build the company’s local operations from ground zero. Five years later, he joined a startup called ChinaScope, which was building a data platform for the China markets. As ChinaScope was still pre-product and pre-revenue, Timothy operated essentially as a co-founder, helping also oversee the company’s Series A financing from Moody’s. Timothy, however, made the eventual decision to return to the U.S. and attend business school at the University of Southern California. He landed a summer MBA internship at The Westly Group and ended up joining the firm full-time as an associate after business school. Within a year, he was promoted to principal, and shortly thereafter, he became partner. In the fall of 2021, Timothy ascended to the role of Managing Partner.
Timothy stands well over six feet tall and has the broad shoulders of a swimmer. In college, he swam competitively and was good enough to try out for the Olympics and swim next to twelve-time Olympic medalist Ryan Lochte on one occasion. For many years, in the days before his son was born, Timothy would wake up in the pitch black of early morning to swim laps at the pool before heading into work. The sport was never the end game he saw for himself in life, but it provided the structure that laid the foundation for an extraordinary work ethic. When asked what he was like as a child, Timothy remembered being focused on schoolwork and swimming. He also recalled his first job working at the Pasadena Humane Society after his beloved dog unexpectedly passed away while they were on a run together. Timothy had always been a kid with an outsized heart for others, and he never let his success get to his head. He is still the same essential character who cherishes rom-com classics like Love Actually and Notting Hill, as well as the universe of Marvel movies. His love of people is captured in his love of cooking for others. Timothy’s culinary repertoire is refined as it is various: dry-aged steaks cooked to tender perfection, tuna tartare dressed in black sesame and salmon roe, hand-made pastas topped with fine caviar. While too down-to-earth to ever admit it, he is a man of many talents. Timothy is the modern day Renaissance man.
Sam: Today you are Managing Partner at The Westly Group. How did you begin your career?
Timothy: I’m originally from Pasadena, CA. I then decided to try the east coast and went to college at Brown University and studied International Relations and Environmental Studies. My first job out of school was a financial data company, Capital IQ, which had just been acquired by S&P. Three years into my role there, I was asked to launch the company’s Asia business and moved to Hong Kong. The role was my first real foray into the startup environment, where I was focused on building a book of business and team from the ground up. After some time, I contemplated going to business school but was introduced to a company called ChinaScope, which was building a Chinese data platform. That provided me the opportunity to personally invest and essentially be a co-founder from the ground floor, as I joined the company pre-product and pre-revenue. I learned a ton from that experience--both from product, sales and marketing but also fundraising. Moody’s ended up leading in our Series A round. Looking back, while I did not make a lot of money, that experience gave me invaluable operational experience and has made me a better investor at the end of the day.
Sam: After an early career on the operations side, how did you eventually make the leap into venture capital?
Timothy: After my early experiences as an operator, I went back to business school to become an investor. My goal was to pivot into venture capital because I wanted to not only write checks but also help people avoid the same mistakes that I had made. I remember talking to anyone and everyone I could to find a job in venture. I didn’t care about the sector. I didn’t care about the stage. I just wanted a job in venture. Luckily, I was introduced to Steve Westly, who is the Founder & Managing Partner at The Westly Group for a summer internship. I had a phone interview scheduled with him but decided to hop on a plane and fly up to meet him in person. I was very fortunate to land the summer internship!
After the internship, Steve subsequently offered me a full-time role as an associate after business school. In about a year, I got promoted to Principal, and, in 2019, I became a partner at the firm. I became a Managing Partner in the fall of 2021.
Sam: Looking back at your career, what lessons would you share with the next generation of venture capitalists?
Timothy: You have to be strong across multiple facets of your game. This includes not just deal-sourcing, not just diligence, but also fundraising. I think that’s something that is missed from a lot of younger folks who want to get into venture, especially at smaller funds. It’s important to not only be connected on the deal side, but you also have to figure out your network from the LP side.
Another aspect from my early career that has helped me as an investor is my operating background. I’ve had to go through similar experiences as the founders I work with, such as hiring and then letting go of the first person I hired. That experience made me a better investor because it imparted me with a level of empathy for entrepreneurs. I can have tough conversations with them through shared experience, which makes the overall discussion more productive.
Sam: What’s your favorite part of your job as a VC?
Timothy: My favorite part of the job is meeting people and building off their energy. I probably do anywhere between ten to a dozen Zoom calls a day now. I like helping people and I want to see the entrepreneurs be successful, even those who are not in our portfolio. I just like to be as helpful as I can.
Sam: What do you view as the hard part of being a VC?
Timothy: Most people think that the hard part of being a VC is winning the deal. I think the hard part is actually getting a company through an exit. The other hard part of the role is making tough decisions like changing leadership and when to cut staff/team. It’s not something I enjoy doing, but it’s the necessary part of our jobs.
Sam: How do you differentiate yourself as a VC investor in a competitive market?
Timothy: There are a few ways by which we strive to differentiate ourselves as a firm. For one, we have a lot of strategic corporations as our LPs and can leverage these relationships to help our startup companies. While, like many VC firms, we can provide capital and help founders raise future investment rounds through our extensive network, the area that we are the best at is helping startups scale their sales teams. I’m a former salesperson, along with our other Managing Partner, so sales is really in our DNA. Lastly, we also help our portfolio companies with introductions to potential customers, distribution partners, and investors who are strategic in nature. That’s why we’re able to win deals and compete with some of the likes up and down Sand Hill Road.
Sam: Where do you see yourself in a decade from now?
Timothy: In a decade from now, I hopefully will be doing the exact same thing, which is helping entrepreneurs find success in their business--whether it’s giving them capital, writing checks big or small, or advising them.