SoftBank has been sweeping tech and startup headlines in recent years. The company seems to have an investment in just about every major startup, with interests in everything from robotics to satellites, artificial intelligence to computerized enhancements for human bodies. The company has taken on an aggressive investment campaign which not only ensures its activity with and support of many hot startups, but which also consistently brings SoftBank itself to the top of many news feeds. What exactly is this company, and who is behind it?
Tokyo-Based Telecom Company
SoftBank got its start in 1981 in Tokyo. Founded as a telecommunications company, SoftBank now has a hand in a number of different areas, including e-commerce, finance, broadband, marketing, and more. The company has a portfolio including SoftBank BB, GungHo Online Entertainment, IDC Frontier, and more. In recent years, it has gone on a spending spree, buying up numerous smaller companies and initiating investments in many others. In July of 2016, for instance, SoftBank purchased UK-based chip manufacturer ARM for £24 billion, with an eye toward continuing to develop the Internet of Things. In 2017, SoftBank announced that it would buy two additional robotics companies from Alphabet. First, it bought up Boston Dynamics, the developer of the iconic Big Dog robot, and then it bought Schaft, a less well-known robotics outfit.
SoftBank is headed by chair and CEO Masayoshi Son. Son has established himself as an assertive and confident player in the international tech scene. With about $100 billion to invest on companies developing the technology of the future, Son has ample room to explore a variety of new areas. According to The Economic Times, Son has strong opinions about the future of SoftBank and has put forth a conception of a 300-year plan for the company, with the end goal being to build the most valuable firm in the world. The key to Son's future investments is SoftBank's Vision Fund, dedicated to M&A deals like those listed above.
The list of acquisitions continues to grow. Back in April of 2017, Son was behind the $5.5-billion venture into Didi Chuxing, the massive ride-sharing company out of China. Describing the acquisition as a "big bang," Son went on to say that he believes "the next big bang is going to be even bigger. To be ready for that, we need to set the foundation, and that foundation is SoftBank Vision Fund."
Given the vast amounts of capital that Son already has at his disposal, some outsiders are wondering what he aims to do. Some analysts have concerns that Son's investments may flood capital into the tech sector, prompting inflated valuations, excessive lists of competitors,a nd ultimately hindering the process of technological development.