Masayoshi Son is raising a $100 billion Vision Fund and is rapidly investing in startups, doing deals with established companies and buying out larger companies. Masayohshi is already talking about a second Vision Fund.
All the investments are involved in collecting enormous amounts of data, which are crucial to creating the brains for the machines that, in the future, will do more of our jobs and creating tools that allow people to better coexist.
* they are investing in robotics, quantum computing, artificial intelligence, self driving cars.
In a speech last month in New York, Mr. Son declared that in 30 years, there would be as many sentient robots on Earth as humans and that those robots, which he called metal collar workers, would fundamentally change the labor market.
“Every industry that mankind ever defined and created, even agriculture, will be redefined,” Mr. Son said. “Because the tools that we created were inferior to mankind’s brain in the past. Now, the tools have become smarter than mankind ourselves.”
The Softbank Vision Fund was unveiled less than a year ago, backed by Saudi Arabia and Japan’s SoftBank (SFTBF).
By May it had raised $93 billion, out of a planned $100 billion, to spend on technology businesses of the future. Saudi Arabia is the biggest Vision Fund investor, followed by SoftBank. Other investors include Apple (AAPL, Tech30), Qualcomm (QCOM, Tech30), Foxconn, Sharp (SHCAY) and Mubadala, the sovereign wealth fund of the United Arab Emirates.
The Vision Fund expects to raise the final $7 billion in October or so but it’s wasting no time in putting the committed cash to work. It’s already invested in 10 firms, leading funding rounds worth at least $7.7 billion.
Here’s what it has backed so far this year:
Slack: The company offers an online messaging service predominantly used by businesses to help employees communicate within teams and bypass long email chains. Slack now has a valuation of $5.1 billion.
OYO: The Indian app helps users book budget hotels using their smartphones. It currently lists over 6,500 hotels in 198 cities across the country and describes itself as “India’s largest hospitality company.”
Fanatics: A sports e-commerce company that sells licensed merchandise. It sells the official jerseys for teams on the NBA, NFL and European leagues.
WeWork: The real estate company has made a name for itself as a coworking mecca, leasing buildings and turning them into collaborative work spaces for entrepreneurs.
Roivant: A biotech firm that continues research on drugs that were no longer being developed by major pharmaceutical companies.
Guardant Health: A cancer diagnostics start-up that can test for the disease through a single blood sample.
Nvidia: A chip maker that is moving into developing artificial intelligence and self-driving technology. Volkswagen (VLKAY) and its Audi unit are among Nvidia’s (NVDA, Tech30) customers.
Flipkart: The Indian e-commerce giant said the cash infusion, added to $1.4 billion raised earlier this year from Microsoft (MSFT, Tech30), eBay (EBAY), and China’s Tencent (TCEHY), leaves it with a $4 billion war chest for its battle with Amazon (AMZN, Tech30).
Brain Corp: The artificial intelligence company focuses on self-driving technology for robots.
Plenty: An agriculture technology firm building indoor farms that are more efficient than traditional farms. Eric Schmidt and Jeff Bezos joined the Softbank Vision Fund’s round of investment.
SoftBank is also invested directly in a number of firms. The Vision Fund will have the option of buying into those investments. That list includes:
ARM Holdings: ARM makes microchips that are used in smartphones designed by companies such as Apple and Samsung (SSNLF). It is the U.K.’s largest tech company.
OneWeb: The Florida startup wants to provide affordable internet access via small satellites orbiting the Earth
SoFi: SoFi is a lender that offers a short, but growing list of products including student loan refinancing, personal loans, mortgages and wealth management.
Improbable: The British firm develops technology used in the creation of massive virtual worlds. The investment round led by SoftBank values Improbable at more than $1 billion.
Nauto: Nauto is autonomous vehicle technology company that uses cameras and motion sensors to make driving safer. It is working with partners such as
Toyota (TM) and GM (GM) to develop technology for self-driving cars.
OSIsoft: Software company that helps firms improve their operations by collecting, analyzing and visualizing large volumes of data in real time.