Indian start-up ecosystem has a lot to thank Softbank for pouring in its generous investments. Right from Snapdeal, Paytm, Flipkart, Ola to InMobi, many such ventures have received investment from Softbank’s $100 billion Vision Fund.
But apart from its aggressive investment campaigns, there are a lot of facts and stories that are still unknown to most people about it. Well, through this blog we aim to enlighten you with the Softbank Group history and much more.
Let us get started!
The foundation of Softbank was laid in 1981 by Masayoshi Son in Japan. It’s time to peep into its history.
Born to Korean immigrants in Japan, Masayoshi Son moved to the United States at the age of 16 with the aim to learn English. After finishing high school he took up an Economics course at UC Berkeley. Masayoshi discovered his entrepreneurial stints during his college time and the following anecdote testifies it.
Back in Japan Masayoshi’s father ran a video game parlour and he used to simply import some Space Invader consoles or Pac Man consoles to the United States and gave it on lease to local restaurants and bars. Through this small business scheme, he used to make decent profits back in the ’70s. He was not a technology pro but knew how to utilize it for making money.
After some small yet successful gigs in business, he returned to Japan and laid the foundation of (in 1981) Softbank as a software distributor in a small office with just 2 part-time workers. It began to foray into other segments, within a short time such as publishing, providing affordable telephone operators, etc.
In 1996 Softbank’s move to invest $100 million in a struggling start-up at the time, Yahoo proved to be a turning point. Softbank was the main shareholder in Yahoo and established its Japanese subsidiary by the name Yahoo Japan. Masayoshi’s investment in Yahoo benefited him immensely as he made a 50-fold profit in the following years.
Softbank went to invest in several other tech firms such as More.com, SportsBrain, Kozmo.com as its valuation started to increase.
Softbank was performing well and Masayoshi’s net worth was swelling but things turned rough during the dot-com bubble of 2000. In a single day, he lost $70 billion out of his total $78 billion wealth at the time. It did not end here. During the same time, the share price dipped by 99%. Masayoshi and Softbank were hit hard!
Even after losing 90% of his wealth, Masayoshi Son did not give up and wanted to come back in the game. As a result, he made his next move by investing $30 million in a small Chinese startup, Alibaba and as it grew over the years, Softbank’s return on initial investment amount kept growing.
Since Masayoshi Son made a return in the second inning of success, he has doubled the efforts of investing in start-ups all around the world.
As an attempt to ramp up and support technological development around the globe, Softbank Group decided to set up a Softbank Vision Fund as its subsidiary and is headed by Masayoshi Son. The initial plan was to raise a new Vision Fund every 2 or 3 years. Since the launch of this concept, 2 times the funds have been launched wherein Vision Fund 1 has successfully closed its investment period and Vision Fund 2 is still open.
It makes investments in a range of sectors such as artificial intelligence, internet-of-things, communications infrastructure, telecoms, biotech, cloud technologies, mobile apps, consumer internet businesses, mobile apps.
Softbank’s founder, Masayoshi Son manages to make his business world of Japan and the Western countries. His risk-taking attitude blends quite well with the entrepreneurial skills and it helped him to bounce back even after losing almost everything during the dot-com bubble. Currently, Masayoshi Son’s net worth stands at $38.5 billion and he is the richest man in Japan.