Softbank Group’s chairman and chief executive officer Masayoshi Son vowed to bolster startup investment through its USD 100 billion vision fund setup last year.
Speaking at the SoftBank Group's 38th annual general meeting of shareholders, Son, one of the most influential investors in the technology industry, defined the company as a unicorn hunter. Son said he would now switch his attention towards investment in high-growth companies, having spent 97% of his time on the company’s operations in the telecom sector before.
A ‘unicorn’ company is generally defined as a start-up which has achieved a valuation of over USD 1 billion.
When the Japanese group finds potential in a unicorn, they invest heavily. "For other venture capital firms, the average investment amount in a company is around USD 13 million. But Softbank invests USD 900 million in each company,” Son said.
Softbank has invested in more than 30 emerging startups across the globe, including in domains like office software (Slack), mapping (Mapbox), insurance (Zhongan), healthcare (Pingan Good Doctor), sports apparel (Fanatics), video games (Improbable) and even a platform for dog walker such as Wag.
It has also invested in some of the promising US, Indian and Chinese companies like Wework, Paytm, Flipkart, OYO, OLA, Full Track Alliance (Manbang) among others.
Wework, the US based co-working spaces startup that had revenue of USD 9 million last year, is expected to double the revenue this year. The company is already valued at USD 20 billion. For Son, this company is ready to become the next Alibaba in US.
Son also praised Indian startups and compared Paytm, which claim to have over 300 million registered users, to Alibaba and its payment service Alipay.
He was also happy to talk about OYO, the online hotel booking platform led by 23-year-old Ritesh Agarwal. India’s Oyo is supported by Softbank in the form of joint venture. Oyo recently entered the Chinese market, after its international foray in Malaysia and Nepal.
Meanwhile, Son claimed that its portfolio company in China, Full Truck Alliance (Manbang in China), will be the Uber or Didi of the truck business. Manbang control 90% of the market share in China. Yet the company faced some problems in the past week when drivers around China decided to strike and protest against Manbang, demanding a better pay.
Softbank is also betting big on the ride-sharing investments in Uber, Didi, Ola and Grab. The aggregated annual gross merchandise value has doubled in 2017 to reach USD 65 billion mark. The aggregated daily rides have increased from 19 million in 2016 to 35 million in 2017.
However, not all is well with the company. According to a Reuters report, SoftBank’s shares have fallen around seven percent this year. Also, there were few signs of shareholder skepticism at the meeting, with questions fielded to Son, asking whether he had thought of becoming prime minister.