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SoftBank Aims To Raise $55M-Plus For AI-Focused Fund

SoftBank Group wants to see more AI startups succeed, particularly those located in its home base of Japan.

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On Monday, the Tokyo-based conglomerate announced that its “early-stage venture capital arm is setting up a second investment fund dedicated to unearthing promising startups in artificial intelligence,” according to Bloomberg. And it’s aiming to raise “more than $55 million” in that fund.

To be clear, this initiative is unrelated to anything the $100 billion SoftBank Vision Fund is doing. Instead, the fund will be formed through SoftBank’s AI-focused incubator, Deepcore, which raised its first fund of about $55 million in 2018.

According to Bloomberg, this new fund will surpass that one in terms of money raised but SoftBank was not more specific. That fund has backed 18 early-stage startups, noted Bloomberg. We wrote about one of those last November when San Francisco-based Engineer.ai raised a $29.5 million Series A that included participation from Deepcore. Also just last week, we covered San Jose-based voice commerce company Kea’s $2.8 million seed round that also included participation from Deepcore.

According to Bloomberg, Deepcore plans to launch the “new AI investment fund in two to three years as it expands its core startup incubation business.”

“The company aims to find promising companies and nurture the next generation of up-and-comers, enroute to addressing Japan’s deficit of global AI firms,” Bloomberg noted.

The publication also reported on May 21 that SoftBank had recently tapped “renowned AI expert and Deepcore-adviser Yutaka Matsuo to its board, enlisting a specialist in the field for the first time.”

Illustration: Li-Anne Dias

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