GCV Powerlist 2021: #14 Maggie Wu, director and chief financial officer, Alibaba

Jack Ma and Simon Xie, China-based e-commerce firm Alibaba’s co-founders, transferred all their equity in the group’s corporate venture capital (CVC) and strategic acquisitions subsidiary, Alibaba Innovation Ventures, to Hangzhou Zhenxi Investment Management, PEDaily reported in April 2020.

Prior to this, Ma held 80% of Alibaba Innovation Ventures and Xie held 20%. However, the technology newspaper said the move was only to optimise Alibaba’s internal structure to enhance its equity and governance stability. The unit still falls under the auspices of the group, it confirmed.

In March this year, Alibaba led a series C3 round sized at about RMB200m ($30.8m) for customer service software developer Leyan Technologies. In the same month, the corporate also backed a $61.5m series A round for business management software provider Terminus.

Last year, Alibaba exited artificial intelligence processor developer Cambricon Technologies, which floated on Shanghai Stock Exchange’s Star Market.

Alibaba provided a nine-digit yuan (RMB100m = $14.5m) amount for beauty services provider Helijia in August, which followed $50m in bridge funding for India-based online grocery service BigBasket four months before.

Former managing partner Ethan Xie left Alibaba Innovation Ventures in December 2019, and Joseph Tsai, another Alibaba co-founder who previously oversaw CVC activities, was replaced by Maggie Wu in mid-2019.

Wu joined Alibaba in 2007 and had been its chief financial officer (CFO) of its business-to-business e-commerce platform, Alibaba.com, until she was made the group’s overall CFO in May 2013. She continues to receive support from Tsai in her new role.

The decision marked the first major reshuffle since Ma announced in September 2018 that he would step down from the latter position within a year, and was eventually replaced by chief executive Daniel Zhang 12 months after.

Alibaba began ramping up investments when Xie joined the company in 2013 and allocated a further $30bn in 2020 to deep tech investments over the next three years. Its portfolio includes purchases of, or investments in, Southeast Asian e-commerce unicorns Lazada and Tokopedia, brick-and-mortar retailers Easyhome, Sun Art and InTime, technology developers such as Magic Leap and app-based service providers like Ofo and Ele.me.

The group was particularly prolific before 2018 – Alibaba had backed 11 unicorns. Alibaba’s vision, in Tsai’s words in 2013, centres on entrepreneurship: “Alibaba is run by entrepreneurs, and we believe in supporting entrepreneurs with great vision and a strong sense of mission for their companies.”

Alibaba also makes forward-looking investments unrelated to its core business, such as smart travel, focusing on the company’s technological innovation and business model innovation.

Before joining Alibaba, Wu was an audit partner at professional services firm KPMG in Beijing, China. She is also a member of the ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants).

Wu, who received a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Capital University of Economics and Business, was named best CFO in FinanceAsia’s annual poll for Asia’s Best Managed Companies in 2010. In addition, she was named one of the world’s 100 most powerful women by Forbes in 2018.