If Masayoshi Son soon blows through the Softbank Vision Fund's $100 billion, don't worry. He'll find more.
"People say it's too much, I say it's too little." Son said regarding the SoftBank Vision Fund at a Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, conference Wednesday. The fund took in $93 billion from investors in May, but targets $100 billion. "It's not going to take 5 years" to spend the capital, Son said. "It's going to take much less."
The Vision Fund has already blazed through 15 investments in the last five months. Son discussed his appetite for more capital, but downplayed the notion that future funds would have to exceed the Vision Fund. "I wouldn't' say each fund would be bigger," he said. "Each fund would be maybe the same size, but I would do it more frequently."
Son has a deep interest in the Singularity, when machines become smarter than people. The Vision Fund's investments all play towards artificial intelligence."Different fields [and] different factors, but somehow somewhere it's all artificial-intelligence related," he said.
With some investments, such as SoftBank's investment in Nvidia (NVDA) - Get Report , the A.I. applications are clear. Son reportedly made a $4 billion investment in the chipmaker, which develops technology for self-driving cars and machine learning. The fund took part in a $164 million financing for MapBox, building out an automotive unit, including in-car navigation and autonomous driving by expanding Mapbox's deep learning and vision capabilities.
The link to artificial intelligence is not immediately obvious to the human mind. For instance, in September the Vision Fund took part in a $250 million investment in Slack, which makes software so that employees can chat, exchange documents and so forth. The collaboration company has rolled out a feature that can figure out who might be able to answer a specific problem within a given workplace. "Search in Slack now surfaces people likely to know about the topic at hand, along with the channels where you can reach them," Slack's blog says.
Son claims that the return over the first five months is 22%, and that the company has made about a $3 billion profit. "So good start," he said. "Not bad." Son did not specify the source of the profits. Most of the investments are private, though Nvidia is public and Roivant Sciences has public subsidiaries. The average life of the fund's investments will be 7 to 8 years, he suggested. He expects returns to eventually match those of Softbank's prior investments, which Son put at 44%.
Son has reportedly pursued a $10 billion investment in Uber, already valued at $69 billion. Even with Silicon Valley startups valued at astronomical sums, Son said that the prices have not peaked based on the potential for artificial intelligence. "It's going to be a million times more sophisticated," he said of future AI tech. "I would say this is a beginning. What other word do you use?"
For investors to grasp his vision, Son suggested that they drop typical Wall Street metrics and try the techniques of the Jedi Masters in the Star Wars films. "Don't just look at what you can see," he said. "Listen to The Force."
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