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Just more than a year ago, SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son told investors there will be stricter investing criteria moving forward and a more defensive posture after SoftBank’s Vision Fund unit suffered massive losses.
His tune was very different at this week’s shareholders’ annual general meeting, where he said the firm would shift from “defense mode” to “offense mode” and is looking at being the leader in the AI revolution.
“Now, the time has come to shift to offense mode,” Son said.
Son hedged his bets just a month ago, when he said the Japan-based investment giant would play both offense and defense as it sees significant opportunities in the rise of generative AI.
A good cry
Son spoke very emotionally during the shareholders meeting about dealing with an internal struggle covering what he wanted to do in his remaining year. He said he realized he wanted to be an “architect to build the future of humankind.”
He said he has cried for years when thinking about his future and what he wanted to do with the time he has left. However, the recent advances in artificial intelligence has rekindled his desire for investing in technology — and he particularly referenced conversing with generative AI language processing platform ChatGPT to discuss his ideas and thoughts.
He said he was heartened by those conversations and when the platform told him those ideas were feasible.
Now the question is can ChatGPT or any AI help SoftBank with its losses.
In May, SoftBank’s Vision Fund unit — known for its investment in startups including Uber, WeWork and DoorDash — reported losses of $32 billion for its fiscal year ended March 31 as startups continue to see their valuations slashed.
The loss is a significant increase from the more than $19 billion loss the unit suffered last year.
In response to those losses and a shifting market, SoftBank substantially cut back the cash it has deployed. In Q1 of fiscal year 2021, the segment made $15.6 billion in investments, but in the most recent quarter it only deployed $400 million in capital. In the last three quarters it has only invested $1 billion total.
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