SoftBank made waves when its gigantic Vision Fund hit a massive $93 billion first close of a targeted $100 billion total last year, but already it is clear why the firm is reportedly planning a sequel. According to the Japanese firm’s latest financials, it has already deployed one-third of the capital.
A large chunk of the investments went on ride-hailing. SoftBank completed a $7.7 billion placement with Uber — including a $1.2 billion direct investment — last month, while earlier in 2017 it agreed to invest $4.58 billion into Didi. That latter deal, however, is from SoftBank’s $6 billion Delta fund, a Vision Fund twin that handles conflicts that include Didi.
That Uber deal isn’t even counted in today’s statement, which showed the Vision Fund has deployed $27.5 million on deals, as of January 1. Throw in the U.S. ride-sharing service deal, and the number tops $35 billion.
A selection of other investments include ARM, Nvidia, Flipkart, Paytm parent One97 Communication, OYO Rooms, and Improbable. Then there are newer deals such as a $300 million investment in dog walking service Wag and a $560 million deal with Germany’s Auto1 which both closed after January 1.
The Vision Fund is designed as part of SoftBank’s plan to “keep growing for 300 years” by backing category winners from across the world and helping the companies work with each other, and developing its focus on telecom and AI. Its LP base includes Apple, Qualcomm, UAE-based Mubadala Investment Company, Saudi Arabia’s PID public fund, Foxconn, and Foxconn-owned Sharp.
The Vision Fund’s vast war chest has changed the game for later stage investors, with Sequoia among the firms scrambling to raise larger-than-ever funds to compete on spending power.
There’s plenty to be concerned about. In the case of Wag, the fund’s insistence of a minimum deal of $300 million and higher valuation are said to have seen NEA and Kleiner Perkins, who had both been keen on backing the startup, drop out of the running. Ultimately, the Vision Fund did the round by itself and that is common in many of its deals.
The amount of money on offer is unprecedented in tech investing, but it isn’t all bad if you get in early, of course.
Discussing his firm’s newest fund, Battery Ventures’ general partner Roger Lee — an existing Wag investor — told TechCrunch that the fund is “a great partner and complementary resource for companies that have the potential to become category kings.”
“SoftBank is behind a number of companies in categories that others are operating in and creating a lot of value. Also, SoftBank isn’t the only financing option out there. There are plenty of late-stage investors willing to fund pre-IPO companies,” Lee countered.
SoftBank said its portfolio has already returned $2.3 billion in value, with most of that coming from Nvidia’s share price. The stakes for the entire $100 billion are, of course, much, much higher.
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