S2E4 - How Chinese Internet Companies First Went IPO​- The Birth of the VIE

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The Variable Interest Entity. Sounds like a boring term an accountant or lawyer might use. Well it is an accounting term, but it’s anything but boring when you know how its used in the real world. It’s the key to how all Chinese internet companies have been structured to go IPO outside of China for the last 20 years. Let’s just say it’s a bit of a clunky workaround to deal with restrictions on foreign investment in the internet space in China, and despite its clunkiness, it’s still going strong today.


We’ll get into the notorious Alipay – Softbank – Yahoo story and others where the VIE was center stage in that drama. Check it out with our guest Ma Xiaohu, one of the leading early technology lawyers in China who along with a few others had to come up with all these wonderful structures 20 years ago to enable that first batch of Chinese internet IPOs to happen…

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