Managing Director, Head of Global Partnerships & San Francisco Office Head
Advisor & Working Group Co-Lead, CPP Investments Insights Institute
Q: You’re one of the Co-Leads for an Insights Institute Working Group that’s focused on shaping technology’s impact. Those three words sound like a tacit acknowledgment that the impact of technology can go either way. Is that a fair way of looking at it?
A: Absolutely, but I think it’s a little deeper than that. You have to look at the characteristics and behaviours that make innovation and disruption happen.
It starts with overconfidence bias. If entrepreneurs didn’t have that, they wouldn’t start the things they do. There’s also this pressure to crush it constantly. And there’s no data to guide your way, so you end up with an anchoring or availability bias. Those things make the ecosystem great — but they have a dark side, too. For example, this pressure to crush it constantly can lead entrepreneurs to ignore potential issues such as data privacy.
Q: So what’s the role for investors in maintaining an equilibrium?
A: We should be accelerating technologies and funding companies that are really solving the world’s hardest problems, like climate change and using AI to make better and more informed decisions.
As investors, we also have the ability to understand, in a more objective way, what those negative consequences (of technology) may be, and then try to minimize their impact.
Q: On the topic of accelerating technologies that help solve the world’s hardest problems, CPP Investments was one of the early investors in Moderna. What does that say about the role that long-term investors can play in shaping technology’s impact?
A: We can play a unique and differentiating role for these transformative companies given our long horizon, scale and ability to invest across investment strategies. For example, equity (private to public) and credit as applicable.
Q: How prevalent is fear of missing out (FOMO) among tech investors?
A: It’s huge because there are so few winners. It’s really the top 5% or 10% of a portfolio that generates all the returns for a venture capital fund. There’s a cult-like obsession with the really successful founders, and that means sometimes they’re given a little too much benefit of the doubt.
Q: When you look at the technology landscape, what excites you?
A: There are profound opportunities with AI. But if you think of where the next wave is, areas such as deep tech — materials, quantum, synthetic bio, gene editing — will be critically important. And what excites me most is that many of those innovations are coming out of universities, which are doing a much better job of creating incentives and ecosystems to ensure a more symbiotic relationship between groundbreaking research and the investors and people who can turn that research into companies having meaningful impact.