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    Why Silicon Valley is keeping a close eye on Rishi Sunak

    Rishi Sunak was smiling in February as he held a shovel with Stephen Schwarzman, chief executive of Blackstone, to break ground. at the private equity giant's new base in Mayfair.

    The Prime Minister hailed the move of Blackstone's headquarters from a constellation of London offices to a 10-storey building as a “vote of confidence” in the UK economy.

    It's not unusual to see politicians brandishing digging tools during photo ops. But Sunak's appearance alongside Schwarzman, who also recently received an honorary knighthood, has sparked speculation that he could one day take up office in the new building.

    Reports last weekend claimed that an unnamed investment giant had offered to set up an artificial intelligence fund if Sunak left politics, and that talk of an “AI fund” was commonplace in Whitehall.

    Sunak's appearance alongside Blackstone chief Stephen Schwarzman has sparked debate about what he might do after politics. Photo: Blackstone

    This is not the first such rumor. There is widespread speculation in tech investor circles that Sunak could go into venture capital, perhaps in California, if he were to retire from politics, although well-connected investors and technology lobbyists believe the idea is that he is now looking for a job.

    Blackstone, which the Westminster gossip bubble has repeatedly mentioned as a possible source of funds, has categorically rejected this suggestion. “These rumors are categorically false and none of our leaders have discussed such matters with the Prime Minister,” the spokesman said.

    Number 10 also slammed any speculation the Prime Minister was thinking about. life after politics, insisting he is focused on rebuilding the economy and winning elections.

    On Monday, Sunak's spokesman said there was no truth to rumors that he might be in talks about an artificial intelligence investment fund, adding that while the Prime Minister regularly engages with leading investment firms, it would be completely wrong to suggest that was made with the goal of life after politics.

    Can I believe that the Prime Minister will end up in Silicon Valley venture capital funds? Yes,” says one public relations official. “If you ask, 'What will he be doing in five years?', the answer will probably be running technology funds. But do I believe he is having active conversations? Not in a million years.”

    Another says: “It has become a joke that people turn into things.”

    The Prime Minister met Chris Dixon, a partner at Andreessen Horowitz, at a baseball game in Washington last year. Photo: cdixon/X < p>At least this idea makes sense. Sunak's pre-politics career was in investing, working as a junior analyst at Goldman Sachs, then at TCI, the giant investment fund run by City tycoon Sir Chris Hohn, and then in California at hedge fund Thélème Partners.

    Government transparency reports cite a number of meetings between Sunak and major international funds in the past year, including KKR, Blackrock, Silicon Valley venture capital firms Andreessen Horowitz and Greylock Partners, as well as two meetings with Blackstone. This happens much more frequently than Boris Johnson's periodic investment roundtables.

    Sunak met Chris Dixon, a partner at Andreessen Horowitz, at a baseball game in Washington last year to cement the Silicon Valley investor's decision to open a London office, and delivered a glowing quote on the company's announcement.

    Raising investment is part of the job Prime Minister, but the meetings show Sunak is clearly at home talking to fund managers. “It's his world,” says one lobbyist.

    Investing in technology would be an obvious fit. As chancellor, Sunak promoted the government's Future Fund, which provided loans to hundreds of start-ups amid a dangerous investment drought during the pandemic, and a subsequent “breakthrough” fund to support larger tech businesses.

    A cozy public discussion with Elon Musk was part of the Sunak AI Security Summit last November. Photo: Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA Wire < p>He has been an advocate for cryptocurrencies and artificial intelligence, hosting AI leaders at a security summit last November that included a cozy public discussion with Elon Musk.

    Sunak and his wife Akshata Murthy founded their own investment fund, Catamaran Ventures, in 2013, which has invested in businesses such as flower delivery company Bloom & Wild and Monica Healthcare, a pregnancy monitoring company acquired by healthcare giant GE Healthcare. Sunak stepped down as a director in 2015, the same year he became an MP, and the trust's documents last year said it would be wound up.

    Sunak wouldn't be the first to switch from Westminster to Silicon Valley, either: former politicians are popular properties in the world of technology and investment.

    Mark Zuckerberg hired Sir Nick Clegg, a former deputy prime minister and Liberal Democrat. leader in 2018. Six years later, Sir Nick is still at Meta, effectively the most senior executive after Zuckerberg.

    Former Chancellor George Osborne co-founded venture capital fund 9Yards Capital with his brother Theo in 2018. The fund has invested in companies such as defense technology firm Anduril and cryptocurrency company Coinbase, whose advisory board Osborne recently joined.

    Meta founder Mark Zuckerberg hired former deputy prime minister Sir Nick Clegg in 2018

    Theo Osborne says technology funds are increasingly seeking out politicians as they move into more heavily regulated industries such as artificial intelligence and security.

    “When you think about someone with George's experience, he has very deep regulatory knowledge,” he says. “It's not necessarily about getting to know the government, it's about advice on, 'How will the government think about X, Y, Z?' How will the government, for example, think about artificial intelligence?

    “The best people [startup founders] end up in the best funds. Obviously we've been very lucky to have George and George is bringing in other senior advisers.”

    He adds that he thinks Sunak is a very good venture capitalist. “He has connections in Silicon Valley, having attended Stanford and Goldman. He's deeply rooted in the California ecosystem, and venture entrepreneurship is really a game of access, and he definitely has access.

    “I hope he'll still be in Downing Street, but wherever he ends up I'm sure he'll do well.”

    Other former politicians to take up tech positions include David Cameron, who led advisory board at AI company Afiniti before resigning following sexual harassment allegations against its founder, and former chancellor Philip Hammond, who advised a number of fintech companies. Tony Blair has worked at JP Morgan in one capacity or another since 2008.

    Sunak is different from them all in one way: if he leaves his post, he won't have to work again. He and Murthy are worth £529 million, according to last year's Sunday Times Rich List. This is mainly a stake in Infosys, the Indian IT giant founded by Murthy's father.

    This fact coincides with Downing Street's stake. However, categorical denials are unlikely to repel any potential employers. If Sunak loses the next election, he will have no shortage of offers.

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