Global sovereign funds—huge government-guided investment funds—have become the world’s new VCs, creating overnight winners in the technology world. From Shanghai to Silicon Valley and sub-Saharan Africa, sovereign funds, more active than ever before, are betting big. What are the pros and cons of these behemoths throwing their weight around? Are these investments politically driven? How is the United States responding to the new actors on the global stage? And what role is China’s sovereign fund playing? Winston Ma, a digital economy expert and former executive of China’s sovereign fund, and Paul Downs, a leading sovereign fund lawyer, share insights from their new book, The Hunt for Unicorns: How Sovereign Funds Are Reshaping Investment in the Digital Economy.
Paul Downs has practiced international law for more than four decades, most recently as a partner at Hogan Lovells in New York, where he co-founded the Sovereign Investor Practice and initiated its annual Sovereign Investor Conference. Paul has represented sovereign investors transacting in assets globally, has spoken and published on the topic and guest lectured at Columbia and New York University law schools. He served as President of the American Foreign Law Association, is a member of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, the International Bar Association and the American Bar Association. He is a current or past director of international companies and not-for-profit organizations, including International House, New York, The Council for the United States and Italy, and the China US Business Alliance. Paul is a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School.
Winston Ma is an investor, attorney, author, and adjunct professor in the global digital economy. Most recently, for 10 years, he was Managing Director and Head of the North America Office for China Investment Corporation (CIC), China’s sovereign wealth fund. Prior to that position, Ma served as the deputy head of equity capital markets at Barclays Capital, a vice president at J.P. Morgan investment banking, and a corporate lawyer at Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP. He is the author of best-selling books including: Investing in China (2006) and China’s Mobile Economy (2016). Ma was selected a 2013 Young Global Leader at the World Economic Forum, and in 2014, he received the New York University Distinguished Alumni Award.