There aren’t many financial services quite like Softbank Vision support, nor are there many entrepreneurs like Masayoshi Son, the company’s CEO. When Eric Gundersen, CEO of mapping startup Mapbox, met Masayoshi Son in late July, he anticipated that Mr. Son could help make Mapbox even more important.
Son’s almost $100 billion Vision Fund, which SoftBank announced last October with cash from Saudi Arabia and others, drove $164 million into Mapbox. The Japanese billionaire believes robots will change the workforce, and that machines will turn out to be more intelligent than people, an occasion called singularity.
“For Masa, his vision is not just about predictions like the singularity, which has gotten a lot of hype,” Mr. Gundersen said. “He understands that we’ll need a massive amount of data to get us to a future that’s more dependent on machines and robotics.”
The organizations associated with gathering a large amount of data, which is an important part of making brains for the machines that will handle our work, and also for inventing tools that allow people to better coexist. The investments span robotics software like Brain Corp, and everything from startups to public companies have been targeted.
“Location data is central and mission critical to the development of the world’s most exciting technologies,” said Rajeev Misra, who helps oversee SoftBank’s Vision Fund. He added that the investment was part of SoftBank’s plan to put money into “the foundational infrastructure for the next stage of the Information Revolution.”
Son has reliably made over SoftBank with acquisitions and major investments to keep it on the bleeding edge. He has also put resources into e-commerce organizations, including the Alibaba Group of China, Gilt Groupe, video game companies like Supercell, and media outlets like Huffington Post and BuzzFeed
“Every industry that mankind ever defined and created, even agriculture, will be redefined,” Mr. Son said. “Because the tools that we created were inferior to mankind’s brain in the past. Now, the tools have become smarter than mankind ourselves.”