About a year and a half after Mark Machin’s decision to fly to Dubai for a COVID-19 vaccine led to his abrupt resignation from the top job at the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, he has re-emerged as chief executive of a new private capital platform in partnership with Silicon Valley tech entrepreneur and investor Joe Lonsdale.
Opto Investments, the newly launched venture led by Machin and Lonsdale, has raised US$145 million in a Series A funding round, which pegs the firm’s value at US$475 million, according to Bloomberg News. The funding round was led by Tiger Global, with participation from 8VC, where Lonsdale is managing partner, Michael Dell’s MSD Capital, and other investors including Clocktower Ventures, FinVC, and HOF Capital.
In a brief email exchange, Machin said he met Lonsdale — an early institutional investor in Oculus VR Inc., a virtual-reality platform later acquired by Meta Platforms Inc. — at an event in Quebec with other tech investors and operators.
“We stayed in touch over the years,” Machin said of Lonsdale, who was also a co-founder of Palantir Technologies Inc., a sometimes-controversial data-mining software company.
Machin, a British citizen, became chief executive of CPPIB in 2016 after a career that included two decades with Goldman Sachs Group Inc., and several years in Asia. He was with Canada’s largest pension for about four years, serving initially as senior managing director and head of international from a base in Hong Kong, before rising to the top job.
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In February 2021, Machin, who trained as a medical doctor before switching to finance, flew to the United Arab Emirates and received a COVID-19 vaccine before they were widely available in Canada, and at a time when the Canadian government was advising against non-essential travel.
Machin had guided the nearly $476-billion CPP pension fund to an annualized five-year return of 9.7 per cent since taking over as CEO. But when his trip to the UAE became public, there was an outcry, including a rare political rebuke from Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, and Machin resigned.
He has kept a fairly low profile since leaving CPPIB, but a little more than a year ago, he joined the board of Singapore-based Serendipity Capital Holdings Ltd., a financial services investing firm founded in 2020 with a focus on artificial intelligence, DeFi, quantum computing and climate.
Opto, the new platform, has partnered with more than 80 registered investment advisers, and will use the funds raised to secure investment opportunities for its customers, continue to scale its business, and add to its 45-member team, according to a news release issued Tuesday morning.
“At CPP Investments, one of the largest global asset owners, I was privileged to be able to access the best private investment opportunities in the world,” Machin said in the release. “These top private investment opportunities are rarely made available to individual investors; Opto’s mission is to change that.”
He said the vision for the new platform is “to use technology and innovation to break down barriers and give privileged access” to investment advisors and their clients.
Lonsdale will be chairman of the venture.
“The world is staring down daunting challenges in this decade and beyond,” he said in the release. “Our experience in Silicon Valley and the United States innovation ecosystem is that well-funded entrepreneurs can solve these problems and create prosperity.”