485: Finding a Cure for the IPO Blues | Mark Lee, CFO, Forge

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Before joining Goldman Sachs back in the late 1980s, Mark Lee was a finance manager at Hewlett-Packard Co. Today, Lee fondly recalls being mentored by a senior controller while situated deep inside the technology behemoth's computer support division. The finance executive, explains Lee, viewed controllership as a strategic role where executives could acquire and build their leadership skills that could be applied elsewhere. "He told me that his next job could be the head of marketing," explains Lee, who credits his early mentor for outfitting his finance mind-set with a wide lens rather than a narrow one.

After four years inside an HP cubicle, he set off on a finance adventure by entering the investment banking world via a seven -year tour of duty with Goldman Sachs in New York. While the banking chapter of Lee's long finance career is the most robust of his career book (which is nearly 20 years thick), it is perhaps not the most intriguing. This designation arguably belongs to Forge Global where he and his finance team are focused on cultivating a fresh class of investors outside the traditional venture capital ecosystem. To be clear, Forge is one of a number of trading platforms that help employees sell their shares in pre-IPO companies. It's no secret that the number of IPO delays has been steadily growing as venture firms keep funneling more money into large private companies as they seek bigger payoffs down the road.

As more “unicorns” supposedly worth billions of dollars—at least on paper—delay going public, Mark Lee and his team are seeking to ease an appetite for liquidity among Silicon Valley's IPO-hungry entrepreneurial rank-and-file. It's an opportunity where customer retention and talent retention are one in the same, and one that places Forge's finance team along the outer reaches of the finance function's evolutionary path.

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